A Federal High Court in Abuja has voided the expulsion of former Enugu State Governor Chimaroke Nnamani from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over alleged anti-party activities.
In a judgment yesterday, Justice James Omotosho held that Nnamani was not given fair hearing in accordance with the constitution of the PDP.
The judgment was on a suit filed by Nnamani, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the PDP National Chairman and the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), as defendants.
Justice Omotosho held that by Article 57 of the constitution of the PDP, it was only the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) that could convene a disciplinary committee as against the NWC, which took the decision.
The judge averred that the constitution of the party stipulates that it is the NEC that is vested with the power to take disciplinary action against any erring member, including a governor, deputy governor, and a serving member of the National Assembly.
He said although the Supreme Court had held that the issue of party membership and related issues are within the internal affairs of the party and a no-go area for the courts, Section 46(2) of the 1999 Constitution vests power on the court to hear cases of alleged breach of members’ rights.
Justice Omotosho added: “This court will not dabble into the internal affairs of party but will restrict itself to whether the fundamental right of the plaintiff has been breached.”
The judge averred that although these rights are not absolute, they are entrenched in Chapter 4 of the nation’s Constitution, adding that the African Charter on Peoples Rights also contains provisions for the protection fundamental rights.
He said a member of a political party must abide by its rules and regulation, having freely submitted himself to its rules.
Justice Omotosho said the court would only interfere where the party had violated its own rules and regulation.
He noted that Articles 4 and 5 of the PDP provide provisions for fair hearing to erring members.
According to him, fair hearing implies giving equal opportunity to parties and where fair hearing has been done, a party cannot complain.
Justice Omotosho said available facts before the court showed that the PDP’s NWC, at its 566th meeting, considered all the allegations against Nnamani and approved his suspension for one month.
The judge also said it was the NWC that expelled him on February 10 through a statement.
He added that the action of the NWC was a gross violation of the party’s constitution, a development which rendered all the actions taken by the NWC null and avoid.