On Thursday, the Court of Appeal in Owerri, the capital of Imo State, invalidated all the off-season governorship primary elections held by Julius Abure, the party’s national chairman, adding a new twist to the crisis roiling the Labour Party over its ongoing leadership dispute.
The court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to immediately recognize and publish the names of all the governorship candidates in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kog state that had been produced by the Lamidi Apapa-led National Working Committee during the court session, which was moved from Owerri to Abuja due to security concerns.
The appellate court further rejected Senator Athan Achonu’s bid for the position of governor of Imo State.
Speaking to reporters in Abuja, Apapa insisted that the court’s decision had confirmed that Abure was not the true party chairman of the organization during the primary process.
Apapa added that Abure’s ban on posing as the LP chairman, which was issued by the Federal High Court, had still not been lifted.
Apapa said, “The Edo State matter more or less has to do with civil matters. The Excos in Edo suspended him and they went to court because of that, and they don’t have the right to suspend him. I’m talking about the ward level.
“But the FCT (court) restraining order has to do with criminal matters and is between the state and Abure and nobody is above the law. That’s the difference between a civil matter and a criminal matter.
“The order of FCT has not been vacated and that is why on the basis of that the Appeal Court reaffirmed that by the time he conducted his primary, the restraining order was in place and up till today the order is still in force. That’s the difference between the two.”
The party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 election, Peter Obi, acted against the court’s ruling during the party’s huge event in Benin City earlier in the week, the factional leader said, adding that he was always open to reconciliation.
He said, “From the look of things, you will also agree with me that the day before yesterday, our principal and Abure went to Owerri despite the court order against them that Honourable Ikenga was the right person for Imo State. He went ahead and raised up somebody’s hands, somebody who had been asked not to go ahead by the judgment of Imo State. Today, it has also been reaffirmed by the Appeal Court. I don’t know what he will do again, whether he will reaffirm that again.”
But Abure, reacting in an exclusive phone chat with The PUNCH, said, “It is nothing but fake news. Let me send you our official reaction to the report. Senator Athan Achonu is our candidate. The lower court said it has no jurisdiction to look at the case ab initio and that the status quo should remain.
“But why we even went on appeal was that after the court had denied jurisdiction, the judge went ahead to make few comments. It was on the basis that we didn’t want anybody to capitalise on it by challenging it. The court today now said the appeal was unnecessary because it has denied jurisdiction. That was what they said. So neither the Federal High Court nor the Appeal Court was in their favour. But we know they are used to carrying propaganda and so on.”
Also, the LP National Secretary, Umar Farouk, disclosed that there was no mention of Abure in the ruling passed by the appellate court.
Farouk said, “That report was wrong. There was where in the ruling where Abure was mentioned. Nothing was in the judgment. Somebody somewhere just twisted the judgment. It is wrong,” Farouk stated.