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Abuja’s only Arts & Craft Village dilapidates under lock as artists lament losses

NCAC Director General, Olusegun Runsewe

The continued lock up of the only arts and crafts village in Abuja over a protracted legal crises has eroded the economic power of many artists and deprived Nigeria of tourism benefits, a group said in a statement at the weekend.

The African Arts and Culture Heritage Association (AACHA) in the statement decried the continuous locking of Abuja Arts and Craft Village where indigenous arts and craft were being displayed and sold.

The group, in the statement jointly signed by its President Nze Chukwumezie, Secretary, Lawal Mohammed and Chairman, Board of Trustee, Mustapha Kidama said the continued lock up of the facility was unhealthy for the people of Abuja as it has increased unemployment.

The village used to be a center of attraction to foreign nationals and Nigerians before it was locked up by National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) on the allegation that it harboured criminals.

AACHA however, said the allegations were untrue stories why the village was locked, a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report quoted the group.

It said if not for members of AACHA, the village would have gone the way of Yar’Adua Centre, Silverbird Galleria, PTDF and others that were supposed to be cultural arcades in Abuja.

The group alleged that the lands that harboured  those institutions originally belonged to the Arts and Craft Village, Abuja.

“We were reliably informed that there was plan to demolish the African Huts adorning the village to build high rise structures.

“But, the plan was jettisoned. Instead we were forced to pay rent arrears after our shops were locked.

“On Dec. 15, 2017, our shops mysteriously got burnt after over 90 per cent of us paid into a private account we were forced to pay into, instead of the TSA of the Federal Government,”it stated.

According to the group, the village was in the dead of the night of  Feb. 10, 2018 locked and shop owners were denied access till today.

“This is killing the arts and craft industry in Abuja and Nigeria in general.

“Foreigners and other arts and culture enthusiasts normally patronise the village, but since it was locked two years ago, activities there have been paralysed and the foreigners in Abuja are now stranded.

“The village was never a den of criminals; we have collaborated with  security agencies to  ensure there is sanity,” it said.

The group challenged people peddling rumors that guns, ‘weeds’ and stolen vehicles were recovered in the market to show the world their claims.

AACHA said it was regrettable that  instead of  some stakeholders to promote the arts and craft industry, they fabricated untrue stories to destroy it.

“Since the closure of our shops at the village, we have lost five of our member due to their having no means of livelihood any longer,” it said.

Officials of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) led by Otunba Olusegun Runsewe were unavailable for comments.

The market before it was gutted by fire that was suspiciously started by those who wanted the artists to be sacked from the village.

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