The Labour Party (LP) has expressed its concerns over the persecution and harassment of key party leaders following the Supreme Court judgment on the Presidential Election.
Speaking via a recent press statement published on its website, the party alleges that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has initiated a campaign against them, aimed at vilifying and suppressing their leaders and members.
The Labour Party had previously issued a press statement on October 26, 2023, warning of the looming persecution of its leadership and members after the Supreme Court’s decision.
They anticipate that security agencies and state institutions would be used by the ruling party to intimidate and harass its members.
According to them, their concerns have seemingly been validated with the submission of a petition by Senator Ajibola Basiru, the National Secretary of the APC, to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, a division of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The claims that the petition targets the Labour Party’s National Chairman, Barrister Julius Abure, and Barrister Kenneth Okonkwo, the spokesperson of the Obi Datti Presidential Council and that the APC alleges that these leaders made negative and unacceptable comments regarding the Supreme Court judgment.
The Labour Party further maintained that every court judgment, especially in political matters, is subject to criticism and administrative review, whilst stressing that all authorities in Nigeria, including the Constitution, derive their authority from the people, and therefore, all forms of authority in Nigeria are subject to public opinion and oversight.
It argued that the statements in question were made during public and press interactions in their political capacities and should not be taken as personal or professional comments as they were purely political statements delivered as part of their roles as the National Chairman of the Labour Party and the spokesperson of the Obi Datti Presidential Council.
See the full statement below:
PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM THE LABOUR PARTY
RE: Supreme Court Judgment: Persecution of Our Leaders commences with Petition by the APC, to the Nigerian Bar Association, against our Chairman Julius Abure and Presidential Campaign Spokesperson, Kenneth Okonkwo
Nigerians will recall that, in our Press Statement of Thursday, the 26th of October 2023, the Labour Party alerted the nation, that some key leaders of the Labour Party have been earmarked for vilification and persecution, in the aftermath of the judgement of the Supreme Court, on the Presidential Election.
In that same statement, we drew attention, that the planned persecution, intimidation, suppression and harassment of our party, leaders and members, will likely be enforced, using security agencies and other institutions of the State.
Today, the Labour Party was confronted by a petition submitted by the National Secretary of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Senator Ajibola Basiru, to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, a unit under the Nigerian Bar Association, against our National Chairman, Barrister Julius Abure, and spokesperson of the Obi Datti Presidential Council, Barrister Kenneth Okonkwo.
In a statement, the APC secretary, revealed that they have submitted a petition to the NBA, for the purpose of requesting disciplinary action against Julius Abure and Kenneth Okonkwo, supposedly, for comments against the Supreme Court judgment, which he said were negative and unacceptable.
The Labour Party views this action by the APC, less than three days after the Supreme Court judgment, as a confirmation of our suspicion and information of a campaign of persecution, harassment, intimidation and incarceration against the Labour Party and its overwhelming supporters, nationally and globally.
We hold firmly and with no fear of contradiction, that every court judgment, especially on political matters, are subject to criticism and administrative review.
That all authorities in Nigeria including the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria derive their strength and authority from the people. Therefore, all authority in Nigeria is subject to public opinion and oversight.
Again, we emphatically state, that all those statements were made in the course of Public and press interaction, respective to their political offices and responsibilities, and were not delivered on their personal capacities, or in their professional duties, as legal practitioners.
They were purely political statements, delivered in their capacities as the National Chairman of the Labour Party, as well as the spokesperson of the Obi Datti Presidential Council.
Probably, the APC leadership are not duly enlightened, that once a judgement is delivered, comments coming afterwards, are no longer considered sub Judice.
Rather, such judgements are discussed and critiqued for public comprehension, and subjected to research, for further academic purposes.
Several other Nigerians, including notable legal luminaries, including a retiring Justice of the Supreme court, have also freely expressed their opinions on the procedure, and outcome of the Supreme Court Judgement.
Therefore, for the APC to isolate our leaders for vilification, by exaggerated and misguided inferences, our fears of persecution have begun to materialize.
We are also quite aware, that several other trumped-up allegations have been concluded against our leadership, members and supporters, from where this petition emerged.
However, standing firm and resolute, we use this forum to alert our members and Nigerians in general, to brace up for some of these anti- democratic actions, that are beginning to surface quite very early, under this government.
If the administration succeeds in this dictatorial path, in hounding and vilifying opposition political parties, leaders, members and supporters, it stands to destroy a democracy, still battered and trying to recover, from the unprecedented chain of events, witnessed as a result of this overwhelming election season.
We call on all democratic fronts in Nigeria, and people of goodwill, to rise up to this ugly and unfortunate development, and to work in joint purpose, towards protecting public opinion, and upholding human rights, in Nigeria, as guaranteed by the Constitution, and international statutes, before they are totally and entirely compromised.
The Labour Party remains conscious of its patriotic responsibility and legal position, and will remain steadfast in its commitment to democracy, and the rule of law, without any fear of intimidation, whatsoever.
Finally, we appeal to the NBA to not allow itself to be dragged into APC’s murky political ways through which it has shamelessly compromised key institutions.
National Publicity Secretary