By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – An Abuja High Court sitting at Apo, on Wednesday, voided the expulsion of Senator Buruji Kashamu who is representing Ogun East, from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Valentine Ashi, equally set aside the expulsion of Ogun State Chairman of the party, Engr Adebayo Dayo.
Justice Ashi held that the purported expulsion of the duo was unlawful, saying it was done in flagrant disobedience of a subsisting order the court made on December 7, 2017, and further restated on January 9, 2018.
The said order had directed parties in a suit pending before it, which included the PDP, not to do anything to jeopardise the subject matter of the litigation.
While re-affirming the order, the court specifically warned the PDP not to carry out any disciplinary action against the Defendants without recourse to the pending proceeding before it.
Meantime, in his ruling that nullified the later expulsion of the Plaintiffs, Justice Ashi, equally set aside PDP’s letter dated August 1, conveying the expulsion to Kashamu and Dayo.
The judge ordered the National Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Uche Secondus, to within 48 hours of his receipt of the court order, show cause why the court’s disciplinary measure should not be deployed against him for aiding his party to violate a valid court order.
In the alternative, why he (Secondus) should not be referred to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice for prosecution, before the Magistrates’ Court of the FCT, for obstructing the course of justice.
The ruling followed an application marked: M/8696/2018, which Kashamu and Dayo filed through their lawyer, Mr.Charles Ndukwe.
The PDP had on December 4, 2017, sued Kashamu and four others, seeking among others things, an order restraining Kashamu and the other defendants from preventing it from carrying out its legitimate activities, including its national convention that was slated for December 9 and 10, 2017.
However, the court, on December 7, 2017, granted PDP’s ex-parte motion and ordered parties to maintain the status quo by refraining from doing anything capable of jeopardising the hearing of both the pending interlocutory application and the substantive suit.
Sued with Kashamu were Chief Makanjuola Ogundipe (PDP South West leader), Alhaji Adewale Adeyanju, Engr Adebayo Dayo and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
On January 9 when the case came up for hearing, the court, upon complaint by Kashamu and Dayo, vacated their suspension by the PDP on the premise that it was carried out while the case was still pending.
The court proceeded to restrain the PDP from taking any disciplinary action against the Defendants without first making recourse to the court.
Nevertheless, on July 24, PDP announced the expulsion of Kashamu and Dayo via a letter dated August 1, a copy of which was served on the Defendants.
Dissatisfied with the action, the duo re-approached the court to seek redress.
Ruling on the matter, Justice Ashi agreed with the Applicants (Kashamu and Dayo) that the order made on December 7, 2017 and restated on January 9, 2018 was still binding on the plaintiff (PDP) and all parties despite the fact that PDP subsequently abandoned the case.
Justice Ashi noted that even when the main suit was struck out, the counter-claim filed by Kashamu and other defendants was still pending.
He rejected PDP’s objection to the suit and held that the legal Action Kashamu filed against the party before the Federal High Court in Abuja was different from the one before his court.
“In my view, the Plaintiff/Respondent was in error to have expelled the defendants in utter disregard of the order of the court, including the directive that no disciplinary action should be taken against defendants while this suit subsists.
“The facts before me show that there has been a consistent pattern violation of the orders of this court by the respondent (PDP) with impunity.
“On the strength of the doctrine of lis pendens, it is wrong for the respondent to have acted this way against the applicants.
“It is trite law that where a party carries on an activity which is either out rightly by prohibited by a positive court order or where such party, after having due notice of a pending application brought against him to restrain him from so doing and he nevertheless goes ahead to do those very things that are either expressly prohibited by an order of court or in respect of which notice has been given, this court has the jurisdiction to undo what has been wrongly done and put parties back to the status quo.
“In my view, that is what ought to be the justice of this case. Accordingly, and in consequence, I make the following orders:
“The purported expulsion of the 1st and 4th defendants from the PDP as announced by the respondent in the media and the letter of expulsion addressed to them and two others, which letter is dated the 1st of August 2018, is hereby set aside and nullified as an act done in gross and wilful violation of an express order of court made on the 8th of December 2017 and the 9th of January 2018 directing parties to maintain the status quo and in particular, not to acrry out any disciplinary action against the applicants without first having recourse to this court.
“The said letter of expulsion of the applicants made by the respondent on the 1st of August 2018 is hereby set aside and declared null, void and of no effect, in that it was made in gross violation of the aforesaid subsisting orders of the court.
“The National Chairman of the respondent party herein (PDP) is hereby ordered to show cause by affidavit, within 48 hours of the service of this order on him, explaining while the court’s disciplinary measures should not be meted out on him on the account of the contemptuous and gross violation of this court’s order made on the 9th of January 2018 or explaining why this court should not refer his conduct to the Attorney General of the Federation for prosecution before the Chief Magistrate’s Court of the FCT for the offence of obstruction of the course of justice.
“The case is fixed for the hearing of the cause to be shown, as ordered herein on the 17th of October 2018”, Justice Ashi held.