On Wednesday, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court told the former governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike, that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the right to suspend or expel him if the action is done under the law.
Justice James Omotosho stated this in a judgment on a suit filed by Mr Wike before the 2023 general elections to seek a court order to stop PDP from taking action against him without a fair hearing.
Mr Omotosho said the court had considered the processes filed by parties and arguments of counsel.
He held that suspending or expelling the applicant without affording him the right to defend himself would breach his fundamental rights as enshrined in the party’s and Nigeria’s constitutions.
He said though the party had the right to suspend or expel its members, it must comply with its law.
The judge said that 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 party had violated the right of a member without recourse to its laws.
“Where this right ought to be enforced, the court will do everything within its reach to ensure this.
“However, as fundamental and sacrosanct these rights are, they are not absolute,” he said.
The judge, therefore, agreed that any member of a political party who appeared before a disciplinary committee should be allowed to defend himself.
“And if not, any decision taken shall be null and void,” he said.
He said, “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 further said Mr 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.
He said the party’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, and his agents were bound to promote constitutional democracy.
The ex-governor had sued the PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC) as first to third respondents.
Mr Wike, in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/139/2023, dated and filed February 2 by his lawyer, Joshua Musa, SAN, also joined Mr Ayu; national secretary of PDP, Samuel Anyanwu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission as fourth to sixth respondents respectively.
He had prayed for an order directing all parties to maintain the status quo and stay all actions relating to the threat to suspend or expel him by the first to fifth respondents, pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion.
He asked the court to enforce his fundamental right to freedom of association which was allegedly about to be breached by the respondents.
But the PDP, through its lawyer, Johnson Usman, SAN, disagreed with Mr Wike’s submission.
He argued that the case was only based on speculation as Mr Wike had failed to provide evidence to substantiate that the respondents intended to suspend or expel him from the party.
He said the party had not contemplated suspending or expelling members of the G5 governors or the Integrity Group, despite engaging in anti-party activities.
He said Mr Wike and four other governors engaged in anti-party activities by forming the Integrity Group and campaigning for another presidential candidate in the February 25 election.