Former National Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and frontline governorship aspirant of Labour Party (LP), for the September 21st gubernatorial election in Edo, Olumide Akpata, on Thursday, denied involvement in the arrest of the party’s National Chairman, Julius Abure and five others in Benin City on Wednesday.

In a statement issued in Benin City, and endorsed by the LP gubernatorial hopeful, Akpata slammed another aspirant of the party for making reckless unfounded comments linking him with Abure’s arrest, describing Imansuangbon’s allegations as false and irresponsible.

“I have been made aware of reckless and unfounded comments made by Mr Kenneth Imasuagbon in the press yesterday, February 21, 2024, where he accused me of being behind the recent arrest and detention of Comrade Julius Abure, National Chairman of the Labour Party, Comrade Kelly Ogbaloi, Edo State Chairman of the Labour Party, and other party officials by the Nigeria Police Force.

“Let me categorically state that these allegations made by Mr Imasuagbon, who claims to be a lawyer and should therefore know better, are completely false and, frankly, very irresponsible. I had absolutely no involvement whatsoever in the arrests he referred to.

“As we have been told by the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police Force Zone 5 Zonal Headquarters, the arrests stemmed from an entirely separate incident that occurred in Benin City on December 29, 2023, where one Comrade Anselm Eragbe, a former National Youth Leader of the Labour Party, was allegedly assaulted.

“Comrade Eragbe thereafter submitted a petition on the attack, accusing the arrested officials of orchestrating the incident. It was this petition that prompted a police investigation and subsequent arrests.

“I must make it clear that I have no connection at all to this unfortunate matter, beyond also being falsely accused on national television on December 29, 2023, of being responsible for the incident involving Comrade Eragbe.

“As someone falsely implicated in this matter, I have a strong interest in the outcome of the police investigation in order to clear my name fully”, Akpata said.

The LP governorship aspirant expressed concern over the arrest of the party’s National Chairman and other party officials barely 48 hours to the party’s governorship primary election in Edo State, just as he expressed worry over the delay of the release of the party’s delegates’ list of the ward congresses conducted last Tuesday.

“Given the timing of the arrests just 48 hours before the Labour Party primaries scheduled for February 23, 2024, the last possible day for political parties intending to field candidates in the September 21, 2024, Edo State Gubernatorial elections to conduct primaries, it raises some very serious concerns. It is imperative that the party be able to conduct free, fair, and smooth primaries as planned on Friday, February 23, 2024.

“I strongly urge the party leadership to explore all lawful options as provided by the party’s constitution to ensure the activities and operations of the Labour Party continue without obstruction. The party must urgently release the final delegate list from the ward congresses of Tuesday, February 20, 2024, which were monitored by INEC.

“It is worrying that we still do not have full delegate information more than 24 hours after the congress. I want to use this opportunity to caution Mr Kenneth Imasuagbon to cease his campaign of falsehoods and calumny against me, which he renewed with vigour on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 and has continued with his latest unwarranted attacks, where he attempted to link me to the party leadership’s arrest. Mr Imasuagbon is clearly intimidated by my aspiration and has resorted to spreading lies in a desperate bid to derail my campaign. I can no longer allow his disgraceful smear tactics to go unanswered.

“He should be ashamed for tarnishing my good name without justification. If Mr. Imasuagbon does not immediately stop his dishonourable attacks against me, I will not hesitate to pursue legal action to protect my reputation against his baseless claims.

“The time has come for him to face consequences for his deceitful conduct.

“In closing, I sincerely hope the detained officials secure and are allowed access to proper legal counsel, as is their constitutional right, and that this unfortunate matter is resolved quickly.

“However, I implore that the internal issues of the party must not hamper our preparations for the crucial primaries, as we have no wiggle room for error. I remain committed to the principles and values of the Labour Party and call for unity behind our shared vision,” Akpata stated.

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