The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed and Former First Lady, Hajiya Turai Umaru Yar’Adua, are poised for a bitter struggle over the ownership of a plot of land in the Central Business District, the heart of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Controversy over the land started after the FCT revoked ownership, which had been granted to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) Women And Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYEF), sponsored by Hajiya Turai.
The land was then purportedly re-allocated to another organisation, African First Ladies Peace Centre, to which by the current first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, is believed to be a sponsor.
Although the minister is suspected to be fighting a proxy war for the first lady, LEADERSHIP could not confirm if she is aware of it.
Records of the transaction obtained by LEADERSHIP, showed that the choice plot of land, beside the ThisDay Dome, was allocated to WAYEF on February 19, 2010 only for another document dated August 11, 2008 to surface from the FCT administration, indicating that the same plot had earlier been allocated to the African First Ladies Peace Centre.
In response, WAYEF filed a suit at an Abuja High Court challenging the action of the FCT administration, which has turned a blind eye to the ongoing construction. In a ruling delivered by Justice Peter Affen on March 5, 2012, the court issued an injunction ordering the FCT to restrain all parties from any further activities at the site.
Two weeks after the injunction was issued, however, persons believed to be working for the African First Ladies Peace Centre have resumed work on the disputed land, forcing Turai’s lawyers to file contempt proceedings against the FCT Minister.
Also joined in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke; Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS); and the Federal Capital Territory Administration.
Turai’s lawyers claimed that WAYEF, had not only obtained the requisite approvals, but had also paid N166million of the statutory N184million in September 2011, to the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) for the right of occupancy. A balance of N18million was paid in November 2011.
However, despite the said payments, the FCT revoked WAYEF’s title to the property.
Although the August 2008 C of O issued to the African First Ladies Peace Centre had indicated that the land was to be used only for ‘‘public institution,’’ the centre is not listed in any official document as an agency, department or parastatal of the federal government.
Yet, according to the letter of revocation dated, November 2, 2011 and signed by Mrs Asma’u Mukhtar on behalf of the FCT Minister, the title was revoked “due to an overriding public interest.”
In the same vein, another letter of revocation was also issued to the African First Ladies Peace Centre by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory signed by Mrs Asma’u Mukhtar and also dated November 2, 2011.
Subsequently, the court granted the prayers of the plaintiff and orders thus: ‘‘I will and do hereby record an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants whether individually or collectively from taking any action or step that adversely affects the title, rights and interests over and the said piece of land pending the determination of this suit.”
Despite the subsisting court order, WAYEF said it noticed movement of earth moving machines on the disputed plot. This prompted counsel to the NGO in a letter dated 24th April, 2012 to draw the attention of the FCT authorities to the pending court order and the need to adhere to it.
Also on the 30th March, 2012, counsel to WAYEF wrote the commissioner of police, FCT command complaining of trespass against the construction company working on the disputed property.
In the said letter, the legal practitioner seeks the intervention of the police in order to “halt, immediately, the unlawful action and trespass by Construction Limited or whoever they are acting for.”
Legal search report at the Department of Land Administration in the FCT showed that though the land in dispute belongs to WAYEF, the title was withdrawn due to the ongoing litigation between the FCT authorities and WAYEF.