PDP has right to suspend, expel you – Court tells Wike
A Federal High Court in Abuja informed the former governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike, on Wednesday that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the legal authority to suspend or expel him.
This was stated by Justice James Omotosho in a ruling regarding a lawsuit filed by Wike prior to the 2023 general elections to prevent the PDP from taking action against him without a fair hearing.
The ex-governor filed a lawsuit against the PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC), and its National Executive Committee (NEC) as first through third respondents.
Wike joined the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, the National Secretary of the PDP, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission in the suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/139/2023) filed on February 2 by his attorney Joshua Musa, SAN.
He had requested an order directing all parties to maintain the status quo and stay all actions in the matter related to the 1st through 5th respondents’ threat to suspend or expel him pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion.
Wike asked the court to enforce his fundamental right to freedom of association, which the respondents were allegedly about to violate.
But the PDP, through its attorney Johnson Usman, SAN, opposed Wike’s argument.
Usman argued that the case was based solely on conjecture, as Wike had failed to provide proof that the respondents intended to suspend or expel him from the party.
He stated that the party had not considered suspending or expelling G5 Governors or Integrity Group members despite their anti-party activities.
Wike and four other governors, according to Usman, engaged in anti-party activities by forming the Integrity Group and campaigning for another presidential candidate in the February 25 election.
The senior attorney argued that a member who joined an organization voluntarily must abide by its rules.
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Usman, who argued that the ex-governor must have exhausted the party’s internal mechanisms first, stated that the court lacked the authority to hear the case, which, according to him, fell solely within the realm of conjuncture.
Further, he argued that it was insufficient for Wike to initiate the lawsuit on the basis of fundamental rights enforcement.
On February 2, Justice Omotosho issued an interim order against the party and others named in Wike’s ex parte motion.
The judge, who extended the restraining order on February 14, ruled that all parties must maintain the status quo until the suit is heard and decided.
Justice Omotosho stated in his Wednesday ruling that the court had considered the parties’ filings and counsel’s arguments.
He argued that suspending or expelling the applicant without affording him the opportunity to defend himself would violate his fundamental rights as guaranteed by the party’s and Nigeria’s constitutions.
Omotosho stated that although the party had the authority to suspend or expel its members, it must do so in accordance with its own statutes.
The judge stated that although Section 46(1) of the law gave the court jurisdiction if one’s rights were violated, the court would not intervene in the internal affairs of any political party unless the rights of a member were violated by the party without recourse to its own laws.
According to him, fundamental human rights are sacrosanct rights enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
“Wherever this right should be enforced, the court will do everything in its power to ensure that it is. “As fundamental and sacred as these rights are, they are not absolute,” he stated.
Therefore, Justice Omotosho agreed that any political party member who appeared before a disciplinary committee should be given the opportunity to present a defence.
“If not, any decisions made will be void,” he stated.
He added, “This court is convinced that the applicant is entitled to a fair hearing and that the respondent also has the right to discipline its members in accordance with the law.”
The judge added that Wike had the right to associate and that the threat to dismiss him without giving him an opportunity to defend himself violated the party’s Article 57 (1) (2).
He stated that the national chairman of the party, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, and his agents are obligated to promote constitutional democracy.