• Party threatens legal action

From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

The crisis rocking the Labour Party (LP) took a dramatic turn, yesterday, as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), picketed its national headquarters in Abuja, to express dissatisfaction over the party leadership and its departure from the party’s core principles.

The union demanded the resignation of the national chairman, Julius Abure, who it accused of turning the party into a vehicle for personal gain and abandoning its original mission to advocate for the working class and the betterment of Nigerians.

Prof. Theophilus Ndubuaku, Deputy President of NLC’s Political Commission while addressing newsmen said the Congress had passed a vote of no confidence in Abure.

The NLC Political Commission had alleged that Abure convened a national convention of the party as if he had sole proprietorship over it.Subsequently, the NLC Political Commission called for his immediate resignation.

The protesting workers carried placards with inscriptions; “Bye bye to Abure, Labour Party is our party,” Our party, our hope, “Away with corrupt leaders in the party, among others.

Ndubuaku said the picketing at the headquarters of the party was to express workers’ grievances towards Abure’s administration of the party.

According to him, Nigeria is not the only country that has a political party backed by organised labour.

“Why would our own be different. The essence of registering a Labour Party in this country is not only to become a president or office holders but to create a viable opposition.

“Any country where there is no any viable opposition, then, there would be dictatorship.The reason we set up this party is to have good governance in this country.

“There have been court judgements, declaring Labour party as been owned by the NLC and there has been intervention by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), telling Abure to appoint members of Board of Trustees (BoT).

“They have also told Abure to organise an all inclusive convention but what we now saw, is a notice of a convention that we do not know about.

“We do not know who are the delegates that are  going to be at that convention and even the elected officers in the National Assembly (NASS) are not aware of this, ”he said.

Ndubuakun noted that, a day before Abure issued the notice of the convention, he was with the NLC president, Joe Ajaero and the members of the political commission at the Congress headquarters but he did not informed them.

“All we are saying is that, we do not want Abure, he should resign and go. He cannot be the sole administrator of Labour Party,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr Bello Ismail, Acting General Secretary of NLC said that the commission had been engaging Abure on issues concerning the party, but he failed to inform them on the upcoming convention of the party.

Ismail said Abure did not follow due process as it concerns the plans for the party’s convention.

“We were also thinking that he was going to organise a convention in line with the understanding with organised labour.

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“But Abure knowing that he can never agree to an all inclusive convention wanted to do the convention by himself.

“Those in the NLC Political Commission has put in a lot of efforts in the party and we would insist that all democratic norms are fulfilled. We will insist that workers take back their party. We want a convention where all the stakeholders, the workers, youths, informal workers, among others are involved.

“The party is now in the hands of usurpers, who are looking for N30 million or N40 million for the purchase of forms. excluding the people who founded the party,” he said.

Mr. Chris Uyot, General Secretary of the Commission said it was wrong for Abure to plan a convention without consultation with the stakeholders of the party.

Uyot noted that the NLC Political Commission would not allow the convention to hold.

We are not going to have a dictator in our party, it is not going to be possible. Nigerian workers are democratic, and they support democracy. “Nigerian workers owned this party and would ensure they take hold of their party and will drive out the dictators, ”he said.

Meanwhile, the LP has threatened to take legal action against NLC for what it said appeared to be a personal vendetta against its national chairman.

The party described the breaking in and entry into its national headquarter by the NLC as a criminal act, a misplacement of priority and an action done in bad fate.

LP also said the NLC President, Joe Ajaero’s, greed and inordinate ambition have pushed him into losing every sense of discretion and decency in his recent conducts, be it in his affairs with the workers or even the government.

In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, the LP wondered how Ajaero would lead what it described as a band of lawless persons known to have partisan interests in other major political parties such as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) against a recognised independent political party.

It said: “Ajaero’s continuous claim that NLC owns the Labour Party is not in any way supported by either the Electoral Act or the constitution. For his information, a political party is owned by those who are card-carrying or financial members of the party. We are aware that more than 90 per cent of the members of the NLC have not met this condition and, therefore, cannot claim to be the owners of the party. The constitution also provides that no organisation can own any other organisation. The NLC, as an organisation, can, therefore, not claim the ownership of the Labour Party.

“Today, Nigeria is witnessing the worst economic strangulation ever in the history of Nigeria. Issues such as poor workers’ wages, high inflation and insecurity with Nigeria turning to a  Hobbesian state, yet after a year of his assumption of office, Ajaero has chosen to ignore all these national challenges.

“It would interest you to know that Ajaero’s NLC is yet to successfully picket any Federal Government establishment. His attempt to extend his rascality to Imo State was met with a higher and brutal force. Unfortunately for us in the Labour Party, we do not command any force unlike the NLC that is now encouraging militancy within its ranks.

“By its own constitution, the NLC cannot even call for a picketing of any establishment without a directive of its NEC but what we saw was a political committee acting out an illegal script by Ajaero. The committee has no legal right to call an action in the nature of picketing or breaking and entering into a political party where most of them are not even members.”

The party said the present NLC leadership is politicised as it has left its primary responsibilities of defending Nigerian workers and has delved deeply into partisan politics, stating that is a bad omen for the working community.

“I have earlier advised Ajaero to emulate leadership of Ayuba Waba, Olaleye Quadri and Festus Osifo who had or are currently passing through a similar route and still maintain a working relationship with the party.

“We are, however, reviewing today’s criminal actions and disruption of activities in our national headquarters with our legal department for further actions.

“What we saw today appears to be a personal vendetta against Abure who they called several unprintable names, including labelling him a thief. We are certainly going to take legal action on matters of libel,” LP said.

On Friday, the NLC political commission accused Abure, and the party’s NWC of planning a national convention in Umuahia on March 27 to re-elect Abure as the sole administrator, which was deemed secretive and illegal.