PDP has right to suspend, expel erring members lawfully, Court tells Wike

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Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, told former Governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike, that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the right to suspend or expel him if the action is done in accordance with the law.

The judge stated this in a judgment he delivered in a suit filed by Wike, prior to the 2023 general elections, to seek for an order of court stopping the PDP from taking action against him without fair hearing.

In the suit numbered, FHC/ABJ/CS/139/2023, the former governor joined the PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC), the National Chairman of PDP, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, National Secretary of PDP, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as 1st to 6th respondents respectively.

He had prayed the court for an order directing all parties to maintain 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.

The former governor also asked the court to enforce his fundamental right to freedom of association which, he said, was allegedly about to be breached by the respondents.

But the PDP, through its counsel, Johnson Usman (SAN), disagreed with Wike’s submission and 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.

The lawyer said the party had not contemplated suspending or expelling members of the G-5 Governors or the Integrity Group, despite engaging in anti-party activities and that, 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 presidential election.

According to the senior lawyer, a member who voluntarily joined an association, must abide by its rules and further argued that the former governor must have exhausted the internal mechanism of the party first and added that, the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter, which, he said, was only within the realm of conjuncture.

Justice Omotosho had, on February 2, 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 February 14, held that all parties should maintain a status quo pending the hearing and determination of the suit.

Delivering judgement on Wednesday, Justice Omotosho said the court had considered the processes filed by parties and arguments of counsel and 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, this must be done in compliance with its own law and held 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 right 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, explaining that,
“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”.

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. This court is convinced that the applicant is entitled to a fair hearing and that the respondent also has the rights to discipline its members in accordance with the law”, the Judge held and further added 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.

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