Nigeria’s former First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua on Thursday floored incumbent First Lady Patience Goodluck Jonathan as Justice Peter Affren of the Abuja High Court set aside the purported revocation by the FCT administration of a land measuring about 1.84 hectares allocated to Turai’s non governmental organization, Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation, WAYEF.
The court held that the claims by the FCT Minister that the land was revoked on an overriding public interest was not supported by any shred of evidence before the court. It further held that the initial letter of offer issued Turai’s organization by the Minister remains valid and subsisting.
“The defendants failed woefully to adduce any shred of evidence before this court to support their claims that the allocation of the land was revoked on overriding public interest. There is no overriding public interest in this issue. The allocation made to the plaintiff who is a vocational training centre was in public interest and in line with section 28 (1) of Land Use Act”.
The court faulted the FCT Minister’s exercise of his powers in revoking the plot of land allocated to Turai’s organization, noting that the exercise of that power to revoke allocation of land must come within the confines of the law.
Delivery of the court’s judgment was adjourned by the court several times to enable Mrs. Jonathan and Hajia Turai Yar’Adua reach a negotiated settlement but all to no avail.
The disputed land, plot no. 1347 Cadastral Zone AOO, Central Business District, Abuja, FCT, was initially allocated to Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation, WAYEF, while Mrs. Yar’adua was First Lady, but the FCT Minister, Mr. Bala Mohammed, revoked the allocation for what he described as “overriding public interest” and re-allocated it to Mrs. Jonathan for the building of African First Lady Peace Mission Headquarters on 2nd of November, 2011.
Mrs. Yar’Adua complained that the land allocated to WAYEF on 19 February 2010 was being trespassed upon by Mrs. Jonathan and got a court order dated in 2012 restraining the First Lady from affecting WAYEF title and interest over the land.
Those joined as co-defendants in the suit are the FCT Minister, the Abuja Geographic Information System, AGIS and the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF.
Turai, on behalf of her organisation, WAYEF, is asking for N1.5 billion as general damages, N100 Million as exemplary damages, N100 Million as aggravated damages in addition to N261 Million already paid for Certificate of Occupancy as well as N454 Million paid for building designs.
WAYEF’s lawyer, Mr. Adamu Ahmed Ibrahim, observed that while it appears that the Ministry of Justice may be interested and committed to a settlement, their terms and what they offer says otherwise.
According to the lawyer, the land being offered by the FCTA was a much smaller parcel of land than the one purportedly acquired from WAYEF for Mrs. Jonathan.
As part of the moves to get a negotiated settlement, the Federal Capital Territory Administration had offered WAYEF Plot. 1838 Cadastral Zone AOO Abuja measuring 6119.29 square meters as replacement plot. While another plot 1839 was also proposed to be in favour of the African First Lady Mission, measuring 6100.51 square meters
The said Plot nos 1838 and 1839 are subdivided from plot 700 CBD Cadastral Zone AOO, Abuja.
The court however did not grant Turai’s demand for monetary damages.
Head of the legal unit of the FCT Administration, Mrs. Ima Akpongete, while reacting to the decision of the court indicated that the FCT will appeal the decision and argued that the minister exercised the power of his office accordingly in revoking the allocation and reallocating it to First Lady’s Peace Mission.