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Turai Owns Abuja Land Not Patience Jonathan- Court

Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua


First Lady Patience Jonathan yesterday lost a long-running land dispute with Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua when an Abuja High Court nullified the revocation of the plot which is at the heart of the tussle.

The disputed land, a choice plot at the Central Area District of Abuja, was allocated to Turai’s non-governmental organisation in 2010 when she was the first lady, but it was revoked by the FCT Administration in November 2011 and re-allocated to Mrs Jonathan’s African First Ladies Peace Mission.

Hajiya Turai went to court challenging the revocation which was done by Federal Capital Territory Minister Bala Mohammed, who gave ‘overriding public interest’ as the reason.

In the court judgement yesterday, Justice Peter Affen said the revocation “was invalid, null and void,” and affirmed that the land legally belongs to Turai’s Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYEF).

He said Turai’s right of occupancy over the 1.84 hectares of land remained valid and subsisting, there is no regular and proper overriding public interest to warrant the purported revocation and  its a dispute between Turai and Mrs Jonathan that led to the purported revocation.

“The plot belongs to WAYEF, a site for the building of the head office of the plaintiff’s pet project and so the dispute does not amount to overriding public interest,” he said.

Justice Affen said that the claim by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) that the plot had earlier been allocated for the building of the African First Ladies Peace Mission was wrong.

“There is no evidence in all of the materials before me that the land had been initially granted. The minister did not rely on the alleged error while revoking the land but rather relied on evidence of overriding public interest,” he said.

“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.

“The Minister of the FCT Bala Mohammed revoked the allocation for what he described as ‘overriding public interest.’ He then re-allocated the same land to Mrs Jonathan for the building of African First Ladies Peace Mission Headquarters on the 2nd of November, 2011.

“The action of the FCT administration is not tenable in law as it was done contrary to the rules and law, and therefore will not stand.”

Hajiya Turai had told the court the plot was being trespassed upon by Mrs Jonathan, and got a restraining court order dated March 5, 2012. The wife of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua said the land was allocated to WAYEF on February 19, 2010.
Before the judgement yesterday, the court had given the parties several chances to settle out of court but this failed.

Those joined as co-defendants in the suit are the Minister of FCT, Federal Capital Administration, the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) and the AGF.

The court however refused to grant the monetary reliefs of about N1.9 billion to Turai, saying there was no need to grant the alternative reliefs since the main relief was granted.   

The Presidency yesterday reacted to the court ruling, saying the First Lady never tried to take over the disputed land from Turai.

A spokesman for Mrs Jonathan, Mr. Ayo Osinlu, said in a statement the “matter had been taken out of context in the public domain to create an impression that Patience tried to take over the land previously allocated to Hajia Turai.

“The land, as clarified by former FCT Minister Aliyu Moddibo Umar, in the Daily Trust edition of Thursday, August 2, 2012, was originally allocated to the African First Ladies Peace Mission during the tenure of Hajia Turai Yar’Adua, as president of the mission in 2008.

“By some curious circumstances which have been explained by the FCT Administration, the piece of land was re-allocated to Hajia Turai Yar’Adua’s NGO (WAYEF), under another plot number. It is this anomaly, considered an administrative error, which the FCT had tried to rectify.”

Osinlu said the FCT took what it considered a legitimate course of action to rectify the error, which Turai challenged in court, “having turned down several efforts to get her NGO another piece of land.”

He said the litigation was between the FCT Administration and Turai’s WAYEF, and that Mrs Jonathan and the African First Ladies Peace Mission were not joined in the suit.

Osinlu added that “the land in question was first allocated to the African First Ladies Peace Mission, according to records available to us, during the tenure of Hajia Turai Yar’Adua as president of the mission. If in leaving office she had decided to depart with the land, the FCT has taken appropriate logical action to retrieve the said plot for the original allotee and purpose.

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