Segun Runsewe, Director-General of the National Council for Art and Culture (NCAC), has revealed the reason for his current ordeal, saying some persons want him out of his position and sent to prison for closing the Art and Craft Village, Abuja.
Runsewe disclosed this in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday in reaction to an order by Justice Jude Okeke of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, which ordered that he should be sent to prison for alleged contempt and disobedience of court.
Justice Okeke had on 15 December ordered Runsewe to appear before the court at its next sitting to explain the NCAC’s defence in a case instituted against the council by Ummakalif Limited, for the closure of the Art and Crafts Village in Maitama, Abuja.
The plaintiff in the suit claimed that the closure of the village allegedly violated the contractual agreement to develop a part of the area.
However, Runsewe failed to appear before the court on Thursday, prompting Justice Okeke to sentence him to prison for contempt.
But the NCAC boss explained that he closed the art village because it had turned to become a dwelling place for armed robbers and illicit drug users.
He stated that property had become a “security threat not only to Abuja residents but also to foreigners who engage in early hours exercises”.
The statement read: “The Art and Craft village (Opposite Abuja Sheraton Hotels) valued at N9.8 billion is the reason behind why some people wanted me hounded into jail and removed from office because I refused to dance to their tune.
“The Art and Craft village was turned into a drug den, a holdbay and rented house for hooligans and criminals. The area had been turned to a depot for illegal arms and sundry criminal activities.
“It is a security threat not only to Abuja residents but also to foreigners who engage in early hours exercises through the street in the morning. They were molested by criminals from this location.
“So I wonder why some people are bent on converting government property to a haven of inappropriate engagement. Hence, the police has to close down the place.”
Runsewe maintained that he will continue to defend and protect Nigeria’s cultural assets and values as a public officer.
“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. If the area opens for business, it will provide over 300 jobs to Nigerians and reduce crime rate.
“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,” the statement read.
While thanking all those who have shown interest about his welfare through phone calls, messages and visits, Runsewe stressed that his life “is in the hand of God”.