A Nigeria Federal High Court in Abuja has told former Governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike, that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) maintains the right to suspend or expel him if the action is done in accordance with the law. On Wednesday, Justice James Omotosho delivered the judgment in a suit filed by Wike prior to the 2023 general elections. The former governor sought a court order to stop the PDP from taking action against him without a fair hearing.
Wike had sued the PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC), and its National Executive Committee (NEC) as 1st to 3rd respondents. Wike, in the suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/139/2023) dated and filed Feb. 2 by his lawyer, Joshua Musa, SAN, also joined the National Chairman of PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, National Secretary of PDP, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission as 4th to 6th respondents, respectively.
He prayed that all parties be directed to maintain the status quo and stay all actions in the matter relating to the threat to suspend or expel him by the 1st to 5th respondents pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion. Wike asked the court to enforce his fundamental right to freedom of association, which was allegedly about to be breached by the respondents.
However, PDP, through its lawyer, Johnson Usman, SAN, disagreed with Wike’s submission. Usman argued that the case was based only on speculation, as Wike had failed to provide any evidence to substantiate that the respondents intended to suspend or expel him from the party. He further said the party had not contemplated suspending or expelling members of the G5 Governors or the Integrity Group, despite engaging in anti-party activities.
Usman argued that fundamental human rights are rights enshrined in the Constitution of Nigeria and are sacrosanct. He said that while Wike has the right to associate, the ex-Governor must have exhausted the internal mechanisms of the party first. He contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter, which he said was only within the realm of conjuncture.
On Feb. 2, Justice Omotosho had given an interim order against the party and others listed in the face of Wike’s ex-parte motion. The judge, who extended the restraining order on Feb. 14, held that all parties should maintain a status quo pending the hearing and determination of the suit. Delivering judgment on Wednesday, Justice Omotosho clarified that though the party had the right to suspend or expel its members, this must be done in accordance with its own laws.
The judge stated that fundamental human rights are rights enshrined in the Nigeria Constitution and are sacrosanct. He disclosed that any member of a political party who appears before a disciplinary committee should be given the opportunity to defend himself. “If not, any decision taken shall be null and void,” he said.
He further said that Wike had the right to associate and that the threat to dismiss him without inviting him to defend himself contravened Article 57 (1) (2) of the party. According to the judge, the party’s national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, and his agents were bound to promote constitutional democracy. Judge Omotosho agreed that any member of the political party who appears before a disciplinary committee should be given the opportunity to defend himself.
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He contended: “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 compliance with the rule and the law.” In conclusion, Justice Omotosho determined that even though Section 46(1) of the law vested jurisdiction on the court if one’s rights had been breached, he said the court would not dabble into the internal affairs of any political party except where the rights of a member had been violated by the party without recourse to its own laws.