A Federal High Court, Abuja has fixed May 31 for judgment in a suit filed by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, praying for an order restraining the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from suspending or expelling him from the party.
Justice James Omotosho fixed the date on Monday after the counsel to the governor, Dr. Joshua Musa, SAN, and lawyer to the PDP, Johnson Usman, SAN, adopted their processes and presented their arguments for and against the suit.
Wike had sued the PDP, its National Working Committee, and National Executive Committee as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively, NAN reports.
The governor, in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/139/2023, 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 is praying for an order directing all parties 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.
Justice Omotosho had, on Feb. 2, given an interim order against the party and others listed in the face of Wike’s motion dated and filed on February 2.
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.
Upon resuming the hearing on Monday, Musa informed the court that the matter was adjourned for hearing and he was ready to proceed.
He said that the fundamental right of his client to freedom of association was being breached due to the threat by the respondents to suspend and subsequently expel him from the party, hence, the need to approach the court.
But responding, Usman, who appeared for PDP and others, disagreed with Musa’s submission.
He 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.
“We have said that there is no threat to suspend the applicant and the onus is on him to prove this,” he said.
The lawyer, who stressed that the case was within the realm of conjuncture, said the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Besides, he argued that whether the action was brought by a fundamental rights enforcement suit was not enough.
“You must exhaust the internal mechanism of the party.
“And having failed to do this, this court has no jurisdiction to hear the suit and I pray that the matter is struck out,” he said, citing a Supreme Court judgment to back his argument.
He said the issue brought before the court was a family affair, urging the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.
He said the suit was defective and incompetent which constituted an abuse of the court process.
Musa, who disagreed with Usman’s position, urged the court to dismiss the respondent’s preliminary objection.
He said in response, he filed a reply on points of law on February 16.
“We adopt this as our oral argument in urging your lordship to dismiss the preliminary objection,” he said.
The senior lawyer also argued that the theory of exhaustion did not apply to issues of a fundamental right.
Besides, he said the authority cited by Usman did not border on issues of fundamental right actions.
“He has stated that the 2nd and 3rd respondents (NWC and NEC) are not juristic persons in their preliminary objection, but we submit that the constitution recognises the organs of a political party in Section 223
“So it is strange to say that they are not juristic persons,” he said.
Musa argued that though Usman said that there was no attempt to either suspend or expelled Wike, copious allegations were made against the governor in their application in Paragraphs 6, 7, 8, 11, 19, 20, 21, and 22.
“So why are they approbating and reprobating? Therefore, we have a reasonable cause of action to assume that they intend to suspend or expel the applicant,” he said.
NAN report that in a reply on points of law filed by Musa, the lawyer stated that for no justifiable reason and without being afforded a fair hearing, the party had threatened to suspend or expel his client in violation of Section 36(1) and 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Justice Omotosho adjourned the suit until May 31 for judgment.