Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The last may not have been heard about a court order by late Justice Jude Okeke of an Abuja High Court on January 10, 2020, to remand the Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, for contempt of court.
Investigation by our correspondent following insinuations that Runsewe spent considerable number of days at the Nigerian Correctional Service Medial Security Custodial Centre, Kuje, revealed that the rumour was far from the truth.
Recall that Okeke had ordered the Inspector Inspector-General of Police to arrest Runsewe and hand him over to the Nigerian Correctional Service in Kuje until he purged himself of contempt of court.
The order given by the late Justice Okeke, followed a motion arising from a suit brought before the court by Ummakalif Limited against Runsewe and three others over the sealing of the Arts and Crafts Village, Abuja. Others joined in the suit were the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) and the Minister of Culture and Tourism.
Runsewe had, while reacting to the order, said he was being persecuted for not allowing some forces to take over the Arts and Craft Village in Abuja. The President of the World Crafts Council also said his tenacity to ensure that the Arts and Craft village was not taken over by people with inordinate ambition was not personal, but to ensure that the village was kept for current and future generations of Nigeria.
Runsewe attributed his travails to his patriotic desire to protect and defend government’s property owned by the NCAC, even as he said it was a known fact that a lot of people were interested in taking over the Arts and Craft Village. The complex, he believed, if in operation, will create over 300 jobs for the country.
He also disclosed that the expanse of land was worth N9.8 billion, recalling that that was how many government properties have been taken over by people. He however vowed that none of that would be recorded during his tenure at the NCAC.
Going down memory lane, Runsewe recalled that upon assumption of office as director-general of NCAC, he was offered money in order to look at the other way and not focus on the atrocities committed at the Arts and Craft Village, but refused the offer.
“The head of drug sellers was in that place. The headquarters of drug in Abuja was in that building. When we took over, we met over 26 stolen cars inside that place. The journalists that went there saw it, not that I am telling you stories. The police met AK-47 guns in that place. Is that good for Abuja Master Plan?
“What is the future of our children if we allow this to be happening? So, it is important to tell Nigerians that what Otunba Runsewe is struggling and fighting for is what others have been afraid to focus on,” he said.
In the face of the crisis, coupled with the court order, Runsewe said he remained unperturbed because he was on the side of history. “That land is for Nigeria. What I am fighting for is Nigeria’s land. It is not my father’s land. And they know. The plan is, if we remove Otunba and blackmail him, we will take over that place with anybody that comes.
“But journalists can hear it from me today that that land remains NCAC property. And the problem, I must tell you is, how can somebody who does not have legal documents for the land be challenging us on the land? I think it is unheard of.
“However, that will not change us. I want all of you to understand today that nothing, nothing, I repeat, can distract the focus of what we are,” Runsewe declared.
However, when contacted the Nigeria Police to inquire if indeed Runsewe was ever arrested based on the court order, the Public Relations Officer of the FCT Police Command, Anjuguri Menzah said: “Who was the court order given to? You must know who was given the responsibility.”
Also contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Austin Chuks Njoku, said he could not ascertain if Runsewe was ever remanded at the Nigerian Correctional Service Medial Security Custodial Centre, Kuje.
Njoku said: “I wasn’t in Nigeria then. I took over this year and the police are in better position to answer that because they are the one to arrest. If they arrest, then it ends up with us but we have no record of it.”