Jul 23, 2012

War of the First Ladies: Patience Jonathan Vs Turai Yar’dua





Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan, will this week host wives of other African leaders in Abuja during which a foundation laying ceremony would be performed on a land in central Abuja that has become a subject of deep acrimony between her and her predecessor.

The contentious land, allocated to Mrs. Yar’Adua’s Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYEF) in February 2010, was revoked by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, in November 2011 and immediately reallocated to Mrs. Jonathan-led African First Ladies’ Peace Mission after President Umaru Yar'Adua died and his wife slipped into political irrelevance.

Mr Mohammed said he revoked the allocation in overriding public interest with Mrs Jonathan saying she wants to build the secretariat of the First Ladies Peace Mission on the land.

On November 23, 2011, Mrs. Yar’Adua’s WAYEF sued the FCT minister, his ministry and the Attorney General of the Federation challenging the revoking of the allocation.

On March 5, 2012 , Justice Peter Affen of the Abuja High Court granted an injunction restraining the Minister or any other person from affecting the title or interest of WAYEF over the plot of land pending the determination of the case.

But in spite of the ongoing litigation and petitions to the police by Mrs. Yar’dua, Mrs Jonathan is now set to effectively take possession of the land.

To that effect, Mrs Jonathan has approached the court, through the Federal Ministry of Justice, asking it to discharge the restraining order on the land or make an order of stay of execution of the interlocutory injunction it earlier granted Mrs. Yar’Adua’s NGO.

In an affidavit in support of the motion, Mrs Jonathan, through Ballah Ali, a litigation officer in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, informed the court that she would be hosting African first ladies from 24th to 27th July and that a foundation laying ceremony would be performed on the land during the period.

“The image of Nigeria may be adversely affected in the community of Nations if this injunction is not vacated and the foundation ceremony is truncated,” the affidavit said.

Mr. Ali said the land in question was first allocated to First Ladies Peace Initiative when Mrs. Yar’Adua was its president but that she converted it to the use of her personal NGO.

He said on learning of the previous allocation, Mrs Jonathan reached out to Mrs Yar’Adua “who conceded to a revocation as the Minister of the FCT was prepared to give her another allocation.

“Subsequently, the first lady’s attention was drawn to the injunction obtained by the plaintiff after she was made to believe that the matter had been resolved.”

But Mrs Yar’Adua’s NGO is insisting that it remains the current and bonafide owner of the land and that the minister has no power to retrospectively revoke a right of occupancy.

Its lawyers claimed that WAYEF obtained the requisite approvals, and paid the statutory N184million to the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) for the right of occupancy.

It is also contending that “a purported notice of revoke of a right of occupancy on alleged public interest must disclose the fact and nature of the alleged overriding public interest in order to be valid.” The court will rule on the Attorney General’s application for a vacation of the restraining order on Tuesday.