A sour dispute between first lady, Patience Jonathan, and her immediate predecessor, Turai Yar’Adua, over a prized plot of land in Abuja, turned out a full-fledge legal tussle lasting months after repeated attempts at settling out of court failed.
A ruling on the right to the contentious property, located at Abuja’s Central Business District, is now expected to follow final presentations to be made by both sides before the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, court handling the case, a lawyer to Mrs. Yar’Adua said.
Related Article: Turai Yar 'Adua's Land Tussle With Patience Jonathan
The final addresses are to be laid on January 24, to set the stage for a judgement.
Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke, who was joined in the case, and has led unsuccessful out-of-court mediation efforts, has given testimonies through witnesses, PREMIUM TIMES was informed.
The two women have laid claims to the plot, first allocated to Mrs. Yar’Adua by the Federal Capital Territory authorities in February 2010, while she held office, and later reallocated to Mrs. Jonathan after she took office.
While Mrs. Yar’Adua obtained the plot for her pet project, Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation, WAYEF, Mrs. Jonathan got the allocation for her initiative, African First Ladies’ Peace Mission, AFLPM.
A lawyer to Mrs. Yar’Adua, Innocent Lagi, said repeated offers made to replace the plot were unacceptable due to size or location, and the matter has remained in court since.
“We did not accept any of the offers and the matter became a full-fledge court case,” Mr. Lagi said.
He said Mrs. Yar’Adua’s team is satisfied no activity was taking place on the disputed plot.
The scandal which broke mid 2012, gave a rare glimpse into the subtle feud between Mrs. Jonathan and her predecessor- a long running rift dating from the turbulent months of former President Umaru Yar’Adua’s death, and the transition of power to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Critics have also highlighted the controversial transfer of ownership titles in the case as characteristic of the abuse and the rot in land administration in Abuja.
The FCT minister who approved the transfer, Bala Mohammed, said the revocation was in public interest.
History of transfer
Mrs. Yar’Adua’s WAYEF sued the FCT minister, the ministry, and the Attorney General of the Federation on November 23, 2011, challenging the reassignment of the plot.
On March 5, 2012, Justice Peter Affen of the Abuja Court at Bwari granted an injunction restraining the minister or any other person from affecting the title or interest of WAYEF over the property pending the determination of the case.
In turn, Mrs. Jonathan approached the court, through the Federal Ministry of Justice, seeking a discharge of the order on the land, or at worst, a stay of execution.
A lawyer to Mrs. Jonathan, Ballah Ali, said in a court affidavit that the president’s wife reached out to Mrs. Yar’Adua and assured her of a replacement.
But matters soon degenerated after the first lady’s attention was subsequently drawn to the injunction obtained by her predecessor after she was made to believe that the matter had been resolved.
Mrs. Yar’Adua’s organisation has maintained its ownership of the land and its lawyers say WAYEF obtained the requisite approvals, including the statutory payment of N184 million to the Abuja Geographic Information System, AGIS, for the right of occupancy.
After preliminary court outings from both sides and the office of the Attorney General, an attempt at an out-of-court resolution was agreed at the counseling of the presiding judge, Mr. Affen.
But the talks broke down after first offers were made in July 2012, with Mrs. Yar’Adua rejecting both.
One offer was for a smaller plot in the same highbrow area of Abuja, while another was for a sizeable plot in an undeveloped part of Abuja, their lawyers said.
A saving grace was expected if Mrs. Jonathan’s team made new acceptable offer ahead of a report of the progress expected to be made to the court on September 24, 2012.
For weeks, or even months, away from the media and public glare, the negotiation continued but failed to provide a resolution as Mrs. Yar’Adua’s team considered all offers unsuitable replacements for the revoked land, Mr. Lagi said.