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N3.5bn scandal: Labour Party crisis deepens, as NWC suspends Treasurer

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…Accuse Treasurer of being used by an agent of disintegration

The crisis rocking the Labour Party (LP) continues to deepen as the party has suspended National Treasurer, Ms Oluchi Okpara.

The Party on Tuesday disclosed that the National Working Committee of the Labour Party (LP) ordered the immediate suspension of the party’s National Treasurer for her allegation of financial impropriety against the National Chairman, Comrade Julius Abure.

The party had earlier announced the constitution of a disciplinary panel to investigate her demand that Abure be made to account for N3.5 billion being proceeds of the sale of forms and revenue generated from other sources during the 2023 general elections.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obiora Ifoh, who announced the decision of the NWC at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, accused the Treasurer of playing out the script of disgruntled former party members.

He said, “At the meeting held Tuesday evening, February 13, 2024, in Abuja, in the exercise of its powers as contained in the Party’s Constitution with the intention of a fair hearing, the NWC extended an invitation to the National Treasurer to appear before it on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, by 10 a.m. (12 hours) to discuss the recent development.

“The party regrets that the National Treasurer shunned the invitation by the disciplinary committee to clear herself and her actions.

“We see this as an affront to the party leadership and millions of our members who are watching  how their party’s image, which they have laboured hard to build, is trolled by one ingrate.

“The disciplinary committee has, however, recommended to the National Executive Council of the party through the National Working Committee that Ms Oluchi Opara be suspended from the Labour Party for a minimum of 6 months. This suspension is with immediate effect.

“It is no longer news that a few months ago, five members of the National Working Committee of the party chose to be agents of disintegration, and the whole nation stood by us as we flushed them out.

“Smarting from that euphoria, little did we know that the fumigation was far from complete until late last year, when signs emanated that our National Treasurer, Ms Oluchi Opara, a key member of the executive, turned out to be a mole in the house and has continued networking with the expelled members of the party leadership.

“It may surprise you to know that the text of the press conference by Ms Opara was actually written for her since November 2023 by the camp of the dissident former members, a copy she tendered in one of our December NWC meetings.

“The leadership of the party made a series of efforts to dissuade her from not pulling down the roof of the home she has lived in for 10 years as the longest-serving treasurer in the history of political parties in Nigeria.

“Before I address her trumped-up allegations, point by point, it would be important to let the world know that when someone is compromised, albeit pecuniary, and when you can’t match the stake, nothing on earth can stop the inevitable.

“Because the party was smarting out of a crisis and afraid of further crisis, it pleaded with Ms Opara to toe the path of honour not to conflagrate the party and even made her some promises.

“But her insistence on a brand new car, a duplex in the highbrow area of Abuja, and a huge sum as her price eventually truncated whatever pacification efforts.

“Now, to some of her ridiculous allegations bordering on abuse of office and misappropriation of party funds, Julius Abure took over the reins of the party in 2021 after the death of the former Chairman, Alhaji A. Abdulsalam, in December of 2020.

“A former Deputy National Chairman, Mrs Maria Lebeke, emerged as the acting National Chairman, with, of course, Abure as the National Secretary. Ms Opara alleged that Abure forged the signature of the late chairman two months after his death to withdraw huge sums of money, but her memory was too short to remember that Abure only emerged as chairman about four months after the demise of the former chairman. She also forgot in a hurry that she and the late chairman exclusively operated the accounts of the party.”

He further said, “When Abure assumed office, it dawned on him as the Chief Accounting Officer of the party to build a proper accounting method, which never existed throughout the eight years (as of 2022) of Ms Opara’s service as the Treasurer of the party.

“The real reason she was made a treasurer is a discussion for another day, but we dare her to present a single document of the party’s financial records from 2014 to 2021.

“The problem this NWC has with her was the insistence that a proper financial record be kept. The party has grown from a portfolio party to a dinosaur party in the last year, and there arose a need to do the proper thing.

“She also alleged that the party amassed a whopping N3.5 billion from the sale of forms from the 2023 election.

“We wished that was true, but the truth is that the party realised only N1.2 billion from not just sale of forms but also from other sources, including membership cards, donations, amongst others.

“The party, through the campaign bodies and support groups, realised another N800.000.000, a fund solely managed by the campaign organisation, not the party.

“The party accounts have been properly audited up until June 2023 and have since been submitted and received by INEC. It may surprise you to know that not many political parties have submitted their 2022 audited accounts.

“The allegation that the audited account was doctored is a matter of libel, which we have taken note.

“She will be made to give further clarification as to how banks’ transactions are falsified, as auditors only work with evidence of transactions emanating from statements from the banks.

“The NWC, as one its mandate to resolve any crisis in the party through its internal mechanisms procedure, met on Friday (09-02-2024) last week and raised a five-man investigation committee to take a critical look at the allegations that emanated from the National Treasurer, with the mandate to within one month resolve the impasse and make recommendations to the whole committee.

“The National Treasurer and, indeed, all members of the NWC were present at the meeting and endorsed the committee.

“It was indeed a rude shock that, in total disregard to the NWC position and troubleshooting efforts, the National Treasurer, three days later, reneged on the understanding that all attacks and diatribes cease for peace to reign.

“The National Treasurer, on Monday, February 12th, also disregarded the constituted authority of the party by addressing a world press conference where she disparaged the person of our national chairman and also brought the party to opprobrium.

“Not satisfied with the public humiliation, the National Treasurer on the following day appeared in ARISE television programme to further disrepute the party and misinform millions of viewers on the internal affairs of the party against the rules and regulations of the party.”

The party spokesman reiterated that the party leadership was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the National Treasurer is on a mission to stifle life out of the party; hence, it summoned Tuesday’s emergency meeting, where the disciplinary committee was set up to address her issue.

He assured teeming members and supporters of the party that the party is being repositioned to strengthen it and provide a credible alternative political platform for Nigeria’s progress.

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Kwara Assembly passed 9 bills, 20 motions in one year — Speaker

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Speaker of Kwara House of Assembly, Yakubu Danladi-Salihu, on Thursday said nine bills and 20 motions were passed by the Assembly in the last one year of its 10th legislature.

The Speaker, during the first anniversary of the 10th legislature under his leadership, said eight other bills were also undergoing legislative processes.

“They are at various stages of scaling passage in the House,” he said.

The 10th legislature of the state House was inaugurated early June 2023 after a proclamation.

The bills passed in the last one year include the Kwara State Education Trust Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Revised Appropriation (2023) Bill, 2023.

Others are the Kwara State Environmental Protection Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2023; Kwara State Local Government Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2023; and Kwara State Rural Access Roads Agency Bill, 2023.

The remaining bills passed include the Kwara State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (Amendment); and State Roads Fund and Administration Bill, 2023.

The rest are the Kwara State University Teaching Hospital (Establishment) Bill, 2024 and Kwara State University of Education (Establishment) Bill, 2024.

The Speaker however said the House has been enjoying a harmonious working relationship with the other arms of government in the past one year.

He added that Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq deserves appreciation for the prompt attention accorded the resolutions of the House when transmitted to him.

Danladi-Salihu noted that the governor has allowed the independence of the three arms of government to be firmly rooted in the state.

“The cordial relationship that exists among the arms of government is paying off in the state, and we the lawmakers envisage the same hand of fellowship from Gov. AbdulRazaq in subsequent legislative years,” the Speaker said.

He stated that the House also introduced new ideas into the conduct of legislative business without sacrificing the norms for innovation.

“For the record, in the first session, the 10th Assembly has as of date at the committee of the whole house considered a total number of nine landmark reports which emanated from different standing and ad-hoc committees of the House.

“These reports which generated robust debates on the floor, and on which resolutions were made in line with transparency, equity and accountability, have significantly assisted in reshaping governance in the state,” Danladi-Salihu noted.

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Senate passes 25 bills in 1 year

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The Senate has passed 25 out of the 447 bills introduced on its floor  since the  inauguration of the 10th Senate in 2023.

Senate Leader, Mr Opeyemi Bamidele, who disclosed this in Abuja on Thursday, also said that the upper chamber adopted 115 resolutions .

He said  the 25 bills fully passed into law, comparatively, accounted for 5.24 per cent of the entire bills introduced within the timeframe.

According to him, aside from the 25 fully enacted pieces of legislation, no fewer than 275 bills (57.65 per cent) were read for the  first time within the timeframe.

“About 135 (28.32 per cent) awaiting first reading; 45 (9.43 per cent) awaiting the second reading; 43 (9.02 per cent) currently at the committee stage and three bills (0.63 per cent) were refused on different grounds.

He added that while only 13 (2.73 per cent) of the total bills originated from the executive arm, 464 (97.27 per cent) were private member bills.

“Apart from the bills, the Senate arrived at 115 resolutions, which are far-reaching in consequence; profound in their significance to our economic development and strategic to the cohesion, growth and stability of our nation.

“Each of these resolutions arose from motions of national importance, which different distinguished senators sponsored after due diligence was conducted.” he said.

According to him, the Senate also received and treated petitions from members of the public on diverse matters of grave concern within the timeframe.

“In spite of time constraint, 50 of the public petitions were successfully and satisfactorily resolved.

“The Senate equally screened and confirmed 215 nominees for different political offices at the request of President Bola Tinubu and in accordance with Section 147 (2-6) of the 1999 Constitution and other Acts of the National Assembly.

“Among others, the confirmations include key appointments into the Federal Executive Council, Board of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the leadership of the Nigeria Armed Forces, Nigeria Police Force.

“Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission,” he said .

He explained that the confirmations were key to national development and speeded up the process of forming or constituting the national government at a very critical time when the economy was struggling to stay afloat.

“National security under threat and internal cohesion was seriously gasping for fresh breath.

“Already, the first year has passed by and we have decisively addressed issues of strategic national interest with utmost priority,” he said.

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Pensioners name Gov. Yusuf as Outstanding Governor of the Year

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The leadership of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) has named the Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abba Kabir Yusuf, the title of the most pensioner-friendly Governor of the year.

Presenting the award  to the Governor, the National chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Mazi Godwin Ikechuku Abumisi, expressed that it was incumbent upon the union to acknowledge the Governor due to his steadfast dedication to the welfare of pensioners in the state.

“Your Excellency, you shine brightly as a beacon of support to our members. Over the past year, you have authorised and disbursed eleven billion naira to clear the backlog of pension gratuity payments.

“This milestone is unparalleled; no other governor has accomplished such a feat within a single year since the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.”

In their messages of goodwill earlier, the state chairmen of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) in Kano expressed gratitude to the Governor for his unwavering commitment to addressing the pension liabilities amounting to N43 billion left by the previous administration.

Responding to the honour, Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf reiterated his unwavering dedication to supporting pensioners by the settlement of their gratuities and the timely disbursement of monthly pension allowances.

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