By NBF News
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The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi has granted the state Governor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), 1st and 2nd respondents, an order extending time within which they can regularise their replies to the petition of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate, Prof. Steven Ugbah.

In his ruling, member of the tribunal, Justice I. B. Garba stated that the tribunal was  granting the application of the respondents on extension of time to regularise their replies in the interest of justice.

While citing Paragraph 45(1) of the first schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, Justice Garba said it gave the tribunal powers to enlarge time for the respondents to take their proceedings.

Justice Garba who identified two issues in his ruling said while the petitioner filed his petition on May 26 and served same on the 1st and 2nd respondents on May 27, both of them filed on 20th and 19th respectively, a development which he said raised query by the petitioner that they did not file within 21 days as stipulated by law.

Looking at Paragraphs 10 (2) and Paragraph 12(1) of the Electoral Act, Justice Garba observed that the former grants of the respondents who filed out of time to defend the petition though 12(1) imposes 21 days on the respondents to file reply to the petition without taking into consideration their memoranda of appearance.

He maintained that the panacea for cure in Paragraph 12(1), as amended, had been removed and provided the respondents to file their replies within 21 days upon entering of memoranda of appearance.

On the determination of the first issue, the tribunal held that it was not within its power to find cure to Paragraph 12 (1), as amended, as doing so would mean going outside its limit.

But on the second issue which borders on time extension, it maintained that the petition and the combined effect of paragraph 45 (1) grant the governor and PDP in the interest of justice, an extension of time to regularize their replies.

Chairman of the tribunal adjourned sitting till Tuesday 26th July 2011 for further hearing of the issues.

In his comment on the ruling, counsel to Governor Suswam, Damian Dodo (SAN), commended the tribunal for granting them an extension of time to defend the petition.