Battle of the First Ladies: Patience, Turai Land Dispute Deal Collapses

The much-anticipated out-of-court settlement over a disputed parcel of land between the former First Lady, Hajiya Turai Yar‘Adua, and her successor, Dame Patience Jonathan, has collapsed, as both parties failed to shift grounds. National Mirror learnt from inside sources that Mrs. Yar‘Adua rejected the offers of two alternative plots located at the Central Area District, near Akwa Ibom Lodge and another one situated on Airport Road, Wawa District.

The Central Area plots, with N0: 818, measures 5,333 square metres, while the one on Airport Road, marked No: 3,367, measures 2. 1 hectares. The land tussle is between the Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation, WOYEF, a nongovernmental organisation, NGO, being promoted by Turai and the one in which Dame Jonathan is the chairperson, African First Ladies Peace Centre.The centre is planning to erect its secretariat on the land. At the botched meeting, which held at the Ministry of Justice, representatives of WOYEF from the law firm of Adamu, Ahmed, Ibrahim & Co. had offered to waive all the costs incurred in the ongoing litigation if the Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, and other title documents were restored fully.They predicated their rejection of the two plots of land on the basis that the first plot lies within a green area, while the second is an unapproved layout of the city.

The alternative parcel of land was offered Turai’s NGO by the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, a department of the Federal Capital Territory Administration that is responsible for the allocation and revocation of land in the FCT. National Mirror gathered that the warring parties would soon return to court to continue the legal battle in suit number FCT/HC/CV/2591/2010. The Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, had approached an Abuja High Court for an out-ofcourt settlement.

Adoke, who is named as the fourth defendant in the suit, told the court, presided over by Justice Peter Affen, that the Federal Government wanted an amicable settlement of the dispute, saying all parties had promised to explore the option. Other defendants in the suit are the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, the Federal Capital Territory Administration and the Abuja Geographic Information System, AGIS. The suit is in respect of the revocation of Plot No. 1347 located at the Cadastral Zone A00, which measures approximately 1.84 hectares and bounded by beacons numbers PB 48, PB 1596, PB 1599 and PB 6827.

The disputed land is covered by an accepted Offer of Right of Occupancy dated February 19, 2010. It lies in-between NANET Suites and Federal Secretariat, Shehu Shagari Way, Central Area District, Abuja. Already, Mrs. Jonathan has hosted all African First Ladies on the land between July 24 and 27, 2012, even as work has commenced on the development of the edifice. The revocation, which Mohammed said was done “in overriding public interest”, formed the basis of the suit and the subsequent interlocutory order “restraining the defendants whether individually or collectively by themselves, their servants, employees, agents, privies, subsidiaries, departments, agencies, officers or otherwise howsoever from acting on the notice of revocation.”

Moving the motion on behalf of the AGF for settlement, Baba Saidu told the trial judge that: “there are arrangements to settle the matter out of court and we have reached out to counsel on all sides. In the circumstance, we urge your Lordship to grant us convenient adjournment to report back to this honourable court.” He had expressed confidence that fruitful results would be achieved from the proposed dialogue option, against the backdrop of the interest shown by the plaintiff and other defendants, when they were approached.

The plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Innocent Lagi and the counsel to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants, Mr. Felix Ibanga, had expressed their readiness to settle the matter out of court. They told the court that the AGF had actually reached out to them on the need to cooperate to end the rift. Consequent upon the motion, Justice Affen adjourned the matter till September 24 “for report of settlement.”
Justice Affen had earlier turned down an attempt made by Lagi to move an exparte motion for the leave of court to serve defence forms 48 and 49 (contempt charge and committal to prison).

The foiled contempt charge was consequent upon a subsisting order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from acting on the notice of revocation dated November 2, 2011. Adoke had filed a motion on notice brought pursuant to Order 7 Rule 7 (2) of the FCT (Civil Procedure Rules 2004), where he urged the court to discharge the restraining order, saying “the previous allocations were duly revoked and a fresh allocation made out to the African Peace Mission in overriding interest.”

He also contended that “the invitations to the members of the African Union’s First Ladies Peace Mission had already gone out and it would be most humiliating for Nigeria in the diplomatic circle to make an about-turn at this time, given the time constraint to effect any other changes in venue.” Accordingly, the AGF had formulated two issues for determination to wit: “Whether this honourable court may not set aside its injunction where such injunction is against public interest or policy;

“Whether the court is deprived of its jurisdiction to determine a matter where there is a breach of the fundamental principle of fair hearing.”