By NBF News

Former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi yesterday failed in his bid to stop the candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed from continuing in the Senate when the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal allowed him (Datti) to file response to Makarfi's petition out of the stipulated time limit.

Justice Olusola Williams, a member of the tribunal, ruling on the application brought by Datti's counsel, Abbas Ibrahim said even though the reasons given by the respondent for not filing their reply on time were not cogent enough, the tribunal would allow the application for an extension of time to file their response. The tribunal, however, dismissed a second application by Datti Ahmed's counsel, urging him to set aside the service of the substantive petition on his client out of jurisdiction by pasting it on the wall of his Abuja residence, ruling that the application lacked merit.

Justice Williams said even though the respondents failed to file their reply to the petition on time and no cogent reason was given for their action other than communication breakdown between the Kaduna and Abuja Headquarters of the CPC, there was the need to hear the substantive petition based on its merit.

She, however, granted the application of the respondent in the case and granted the prayer for an extension of time to file their reply. The tribunal also granted a similar application by the third respondent, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and ordered that the response filed on July 13 by the commission be deemed to have been properly filed and served.

Ruling on the second application seeking to nullify the service of the petition 'outside jurisdiction', Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Daniel Kailo said the provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act', noted that  there was a single election tribunal, even though it was set up in each state of the federation.

He agreed with counsel to Makarfi that out of jurisdiction would therefore mean service outside the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pointing out that the Sheriff and Civil Procedures Act of 2004 could, therefore, not be applicable in the case.

He further noted that by its own nature, election petitions were unique and were assigned a specific number of days within which it should be dispensed off, adding that it would be odd to anticipate that the 30 days provided for in the Sheriff and Civil Procedures Act should be applicable, when the Electoral Act gives the tribunal 180 days to dispose of the petition.

The tribunal chairman further said it was never the intention of the lawmakers, who passed the Electoral Act to make the Sheriff and Civil Procedures Act part of the laws in an electoral matter, adding that by their own admission, the respondents had  already taken steps to respond to the petition and therefore could not turn round to object to the mode of service.