The African First Ladies Peace Mission, an organisation for which purpose Dame Patience Jonathan and her predecessor, Hajiya Turai Yar'adua, have dragged themselves to court over a parcel of land in Abuja, is not a legal entity in the eyes of the Nigerian law, Sunday Trust can reveal.
Checks at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in Abuja revealed that the African First Ladies Peace Mission is not registered, either as a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) or a commercial entity, hence it should not have been allocated any parcel of land in Abuja or in any other part of Nigeria.
A letter dated August 3, 2012 with Reference No.RG0/9/VOL.XXXI/0952 and signed by Aisha Tijjani Tumsah on behalf of the CAC's Registrar-General, in reaction to our reporter's enquiries says, "We were unable to find evidence of registration for the above named company in our records, but to enable us investigate further, we shall require a photocopy of the Certificate of Registration number of the company."
It was not clear if the organisation was registered in any other name as at press time.
The First Ladies Peace Mission, established in 1997, is an association made up of the wives of presidents of Africa with the objective of facilitating "the flow of authentic conversations and ideas that will create powerful new paradigm for the African Woman."
Ahead of its summit in Abuja, which held last month, there was a tussle between Dame Patience and Hajiya Turai over a parcel of land said to have been allocated to the mission in 2008, but was later handed over to Turai's NGO - The Registered Trustee of Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation, WYEF. But it was revoked by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, and re-awarded to Patience Jonathan for the construction of a secretariat of the "African First Ladies Peace Mission." The piece of land is located on Plot 1347 at the Cadastral Zone A00, Abuja.
Two senior lawyers, Mallam Yahaya Mahmoud, SAN, and Barrister Festus Okoye, told Sunday Trust at the weekend that if the African First Ladies Peace Mission was not registered in Nigerian as a legal entity, then it was illegal to allocate land to it.
Mahmoud, said, "Certificates and Rights of Occupancy are issued persons or organisations duly registered. If your search at Corporate Affairs shows that an NGO by whatever name or affiliation is not registered, such a body cannot be given a valid title or right of occupancy."
Okoye said, "The reason why you register organisations as legal entities is that they can sue or be sued in courts of law. But if an organisation is not registered, it cannot be sued in case of a dispute. If it is registered in any other part of the world, you can only take it to court in that part of the world, but you can't sue it over a property in Nigeria, if it is not registered in Nigeria."
When Sunday Trust contacted the Office of the First Lady to find out in what name it was registered with the CAC, Dame Patience's spokesman, Mr Ayo Osinlo said, the First Lady inherited the organisation from her predecessor and there may not have been need to register it in Nigeria.
According to him, "The African First Ladies Peace Mission is a voluntary continental organisation, which was inherited from former First Lady Turai Yar'adua. The organisation meets from one African country to another, but in 2008 it decided to have a secretariat in Nigeria. The land in question was allocated to it. We need to ask lawyers if it should be registered in Nigeria, but the First Lady only inherited the land from her predecessors. If it was not registered, you can't blame the First Lady."
Issues relating to the transfer of the ownership of the land from the AFLPM and Turai's NGO is in court at the moment.