A Benue State High Court in Makurdi, Friday 2 June ruled that Iyorchia Ayu could no longer hold office as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) having lost membership of the party in his Igyorov Council Ward of Gboko Local Government Area of the state.
A member of the PDP in Benue State, Conrad Terhide Utaan, dragged Ayu to court following his suspension by his Igyorov ward executive committee after passing a vote of no confidence on him.
In suit No: MHC/85/2023, Utaan sought among other reliefs a declaration that, Ayu is no longer fit and qualified to hold office as the national chairman of the PDP, having lost membership of the party in his Igyorov council ward of Gboko, where he first registered as a member of the party.
He also sought a declaration of court that Ayu cannot hold himself out, function and preside over the affairs of the PDP as its national chairman having seized to enjoy all the rights and privileges of membership by virtue of his suspension by the ward executive committee of the party in his Igyorov council ward.
The plaintiff further sought an order restraining Ayu from parading himself as the National Chairman of the PDP having lost membership of the party in his Igyorov Council Ward, among other reliefs.
Ayu through his counsel J.J Usman, SAN, filed preliminary objections to the suit bothering on the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit, saying it was an internal affair of a political party.
He also challenged the locus standi of the plaintiff, Utaan to institute the action, adding that the plaintiff had not exhausted the internal dispute resolution mechanism of the party, among other objections.
Utaan through his counsel, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, argued against the preliminary objections and urged the court to discountenance the preliminary objections and grant the reliefs sought by the plaintiff.
Delivering his judgement that lasted for 2-hours, the Chief Judge of Benue State, Justice Maurice Ikpambese, resolved all the issues raised in the preliminary objections in favour of the plaintiff and accordingly dismissed same.
Justice Ikpambese held that By virtue of Article 8(9)of the constitution of the PDP, Ayu seized to be a member of the PDP with his failure to pay his subscription and membership fee.
He ruled that Ayu’s membership of the PDP elapsed with his failure to pay his membership subscription fee.
On the claim that the ward executive committee of the party cannot discipline a member of the National Executive Committee, Justice Ikpambese held that going by the provisions of Article 46(1)of the PDP Constitution, the ward executive of the PDP have the powers to discipline a member of the NEC of the party.
The Judge pointed out that Ayu did not show proof that he has paid his membership subscription fee, neither did he challenge his suspension before any organ of the party or before any court, thereby leaving the court with the impression that he has consented to his suspension by his ward executive committee.
He said Ayu had lost his membership of the party even before he was suspended by his ward executive committee.
Justice Ikpambese accordingly resolved all the issues in favour of the plaintiff.
“The plaintiff has proven his case, all the questions for determination have been resolved in favour of the plaintiff, he is entitled to all the reliefs sought. I so order”
Reacting to the judgment, counsel to Utaan, Mike Assoh described the judgement as sound, adding that the court has validated the action of the Igyorov ward executive committee of the party against Ayu, for his (Ayu) failure to pay his membership subscription fee.
The ward exco had also accused Ayu of anti-party activities after which they passed a vote of no confidence on him.
While reading their resolution at the time, the secretary of the party in Igyorov ward, Vanger Dooyum, said Ayu’s anti-party activities – alongside his allies – contributed to PDP’s loss in his ward and local government in the governorship election.
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They also alleged that the PDP chieftain did not vote during the governorship and state assembly elections held on the 18th of March, 2023.
According to them, most of Ayu’s closest allies worked for the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) which resulted in the abysmal performance of the PDP in Igyorov Ward.
Twelve out of the seventeen exco members signed the documents endorsing his suspension.