A Federal High Court in Abuja told former Governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike, on Wednesday that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the right to suspend or expel him if the action is done in accordance with the law.
Justice James Omotosho stated this in a judgment he delivered on a suit filed by Nyesom Wike prior to the 2023 general elections to seek a court order to stop the PDP from taking action against him without a fair hearing.
It should be recalled that the ex-governor 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.
Wike 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 Wike’s submission.
Usman argued that the case was only based 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 said the party had not contemplated suspending or expelling members of the G5 Governors or the Integrity Group, despite engaging in anti-party activities.
Delivering judgement on Wednesday, Justice Omotosho said the court had considered the processes filed by parties and the 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.
Omotosho said that though the party had the right to suspend or expel its members, this must be done in compliance with its own laws.
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 rights of a member had been violated by the party without recourse to its own laws.
According to him, fundamental human rights are rights enshrined in the Constitution of Nigeria and are sacrosanct.
Justice Omotosho, therefore, agreed that any member of a political party who appeared 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 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.”