The Director-General, National Council of Art and Crafts (NCAC), Olusegun Runsewe, on Friday said he is being victimised by some ‘powerful forces’ because of his ‘patriotic desire’ to protect national assets under his watch.
Mr Runsewe said this during a briefing with journalists in Abuja on Friday, following a Federal High court order that he be jailed for contempt of court.
The judge, Jude Okeke, said Mr Runsewe disobeyed a court order made on December 15, 2017 over a filed case on the sealing of the Arts and Crafts village in Abuja.
Mr Okeke ruled on a motion filed by a company, Ummakalif Limited, which cited alleged violation of the contractual agreement to develop a part of the village.
The firm filed the suit against the Minister, Federal Capital Territory; Federal Capital Development Authority; the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture; and the Minister for Culture and Tourism.
The NCAC DG said the Art and Craft Village valued at N9.8 billion was turned into ”a den of hooligans and criminals” who engaged in illicit drug sales and illegal arms activities and poised security threat “not only to Abuja residents but to foreigners”.
“The Art and Craft village (Opposite Abuja Sheraton Hotels) valued at N9.8 billion is the reason why some people wanted me hounded into jail and removed from office because I refused to dance to their tunes,” he said.
”I wonder why some people are bent on converting government property to a haven of inappropriate engagement. Hence, the police have to close down the place.”
He also said, “the Art and Craft village belongs to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; it does not belong to me but to the Nigerian people, so I would be failing in my duties as a public officer and appointee of government If I cannot protect government property to which I was mandated to oversee.”
Mr Runsewe said he wanted to “clear air on this issue to help stem the tide of negative reactions and to reassure Nigerians that all hands must be on deck to protect the interest of any property that belongs to Nigeria and ensure that they are not misapplied or abused.”
The NCAC DG promised his commitment to the protection of national culture within the ambits of the law.
“I will do my best within the ambits of the law to secure and protect Nigerian cultural assets including those outside the shores of Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, Mr Runsewe announced that he had received an order from the police to reopen the arts and culture village.
The village was closed down by the police after it said it received an intelligence report about criminal activities there. Parts of it were gutted by fire in 2017 and it was under renovation despite the shutdown.
The NCAC boss had said if the village opens for business, it would provide over 300 jobs to Nigerians and reduce the city’s crime rate.