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"He who comes into equity must come with clean hands"

The principles of equity and justice are universal in the common-law courts of the world. They are principles aimed at achieving justice for both sides in a legal case. A court of equity will therefore not assist a person in extricating himself or herself from the circumstances that he or she has created. Hence the maxim, He who comes into equity must come with clean hands. The maxim of the clean hands doctrine is to protect the integrity of the court and ensure that justice is served fairly to all parties concerned. Another way to define this maxim of the law is that any person, individual or corporate body that wishes to ask or petition a court for judicial action, must be in a position free of fraud or other unfair conduct.

Bearing this doctrine in mind, one can easily reflect on the case of the Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WYEF) Vs the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). The case is premised on a piece of land situated at the Cadastral Zone, Central Business District Area of Abuja, in an area designated for only public institutions. According to the Abuja Master Plan, private buildings or structures of any personal NGOs are not permitted in this area.

The land was first allocated to the African First Lady’s Peace Mission (AFLAM) when Hajia Turai Yar’Adua was the First Lady and President of that Organisation; she therefore held the land in trust for her organization – the AFLPM. When Hajia Turai was handing over the assets of the African First Ladies Peace Mission to her successor, Dame Patience Jonathan, (as membership is only for sitting First Ladies) she failed to hand over the land of the Peace Mission - rather she converted it for her own NGO, for personal use in every contravention of good ethics and integrity.

The FCTA found the action of the former First Lady using her influence to reallocate a piece of public land to a private NGO improper and also an infringement of the aforementioned Abuja Master Plan. The Administration therefore took action to revoke the land and give it back to the original allottee, that is, the institution of the African First Ladies Peace Mission. This action by the FCD Administration did not go down well with Hajia Turai who headed for the law court. Her litigation culminated in the May 2nd 2013 Abuja High Court judgment.

According to media reports, the court, presided over by Peter Affen, invalidated the revocation order by the FCTA on the contentious plot, ordering that the initial offer to Hajia Yar'Adua's organization, the Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation, remains valid.

However, a statement issued the next day, Friday 3rd March, 2013, by Engr. John Chukwu, Permanent Secretary, of the Federal Capital Territory Administration clarified that the judgement delivered pertained to the process followed in the revocation of the said plot of land. By all indications, the FCTA may likely appeal the ruling after a careful study of the Certified True Copy of the judgment. The moral question however remains even more pertinent now than before the judgment; which is: Why would anyone take land belonging to an institution and convert it to a private project?

In a world where we raise our children to distinguish between wrong and right, more so when we have seen the disadvantages of corruption and undue advantage in our system we must be confounded by the actions of the former First Lady.

If we consider that Nigerians are now advocating value re-orientation, integrity and probity, we must feel concerned that those who we look up to give us moral direction and who should be our barometer for ethical standards fall abysmally short of moral rectitude.

As we watch the unfolding legal situation, the common man will draw inspiration from the words, Nulls Commondum capire potest de injuria sua proprio, meaning, Nobody can take benefit of his (or her) own wrong.

Written By Barrister Simbiat Kamson

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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