The minister said he did it in public interest.
The Federal Capital Authority sought to underplay a stinging legal defeat it suffered Thursday on land dispute between first lady, Patience Jonathan, and her predecessor, Turai Yar’Adua, accusing Mrs. Yar’Adua of seizing a public land for herself, and insisting it acted right in withdrawing the allocation.
The FCT minister, Bala Mohammed, said he acted in public interest, a claim dismissed by the court in reaching it decision on Thursday.
“The records show that the said plot of land was wrongly redesigned and reallocated to WAYEF, Turai’s NGO in her twilight days as the First Lady in 2010,” Mr. Mohammed said in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Nosike Ogbuenyi.
“The FCTA found the action of reallocating a public land to a private NGO inappropriate and therefore took proper action to revoke the reallocation and restore the land to the original allotee, the AFLPM.”
Thus, the action was taken in the overall public interest and for that reason alone, he said.
An Abuja High Court on Thursday invalidated the purported revocation order on the plot measuring about 1.84 hectares allocated to the former first lady’s organization, Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation, WAYEF.
The court, presided by Peter Affen, said the claim by Mr. Mohammed that he acted in the overriding public interest was not supported by any of evidence before the court, ordering that the initial offer to Mrs. Yar’Adua’s organization remains valid.
“The defendants failed woefully to adduce any shred of evidence before this court to support their claims that the allocation of the land was revoked on overriding public interest. There is no overriding public interest in this issue,” the judge said. “The allocation made to the plaintiff who is a vocational training centre was in public interest and in line with section 28 (1) of Land Use Act.”
After the ruling, the head of legal unit of the FCT, Imaobong Okpongete, said after the decision will be appealed, and defended the minister whom she said exercised the power of his office accordingly in revoking a plot and reallocating same.
But the minister, said in the statement, that the ministry was still studying the court decision and was awaiting the original certified true copy of the ruling.
Mrs. Yar’Adua’s team has however dismissed the threat of an appeal, vowing a repeat victory at appeal.
“Let them bring it on. We will love them to appeal,” a lawyer for Mrs. Yar’Adua, Innocent Lagi, said. “This culture of impunity must stop.”
“The issue of impunity in this country cannot continue. We will like the Supreme Court to deliver judgment on this case,” he said.
History of transfer
The long-drawn legal battle dates back to 2010 after the plot, cornered by Mrs. Yar’Adua in February 2010 while she was the First Lady, was revoked by the FCT minister and re-awarded to Mrs. Jonathan.
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.
The contentious plot is located within the Central Business District, close to the Ministry of Justice in Abuja.
Repeated attempts at negotiated settlement failed ahead of the court ruling on Thursday.
Apparently in response to the media’s gleeful report of how the Mrs. Jonathan was floored in court by Mrs. Yar’Adua, the FCT minister Mr. Mohammed specifically disclaimed that the case involved Mrs. Jonathan. He said it concerned his ministry only.
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