Abuja arts and craft artisans seek Buhari’s protection over harassment
President Muhammadu Buhari should restrain the Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) Otunba Segun Runsawe from using policemen to harass and scare tourists from the Abuja Arts and Crafts Village.
This was disclosed by the African Arts and Cultural Heritage Association, an umbrella body for artisans and traders in arts and crafts, in a petition sent to President Buhari over what they called constant harassment by the NCAC leadership.
The petition dated February 5, and signed by the President and Board of Trustees chairman of the association, Nze Kanayo Chukwumeze and, Alhaji Mustapha Kidama respectively; urged the President to restrain Runsawe from using police officers to harass them and scare away tourists from the market.
They artisans and traders said since the December 11, 2017, fire incident that razed down 36 shops and reportedly destroyed N400 million worth of goods in the market under questionable circumstances, the NCAC boss failed to visit this market until last Saturday when he stormed the market with a seven truckload of policemen.
The petitioners said: “On arrival, the DG hastily summoned us and demanded that we should vacate this facility from Monday and that a renovation work on the affected shops would commence immediately and last for about two to three months.”
They traders they believe “this is a hatchet plan to realize a failed long ambitious of taking over our allocated shops; adding that the NCAC leadership had painted the arts village in black before various security agencies all in an effort to have his way.
They lamented that, “Just last week, our president alongside our secretary Shuaibu Lawal were dragged to the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an allegation of extorting money, just because we solicited the assistance of some foreign embassies who happened to be friends of such markets, to aid us in rehabilitating the affected shops, similar to what they have done to the sister of this market along the Abuja Airport road, when a similar incidence happened to them.”
They said the association’s bank account with about N1 million given to them by the chairman of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) has been frozen “after we have been made to spend a night in the EFCC custody while the case is still ongoing.”
They said, in defiance of a subsisting court order, the DG of NCAC had locked their pedestrian gates since last year, thereby chasing away customers and tourists from the market.
They complained that “The DG of NCAC and the Abuja police command have refused to comply with the order of the FCT High Court, presided by Justice A.S. Umar, and dated December 19, 2017.”
Attempts to speak to DG of NCAC over the issue was not successful. His media aide said the DG was occupied with the preparation of the Ladies Open Golf tournament scheduled to start on Friday.