Two Years after the demolition of artists village at the National Arts Theatre in Lagos, Minister of Information and Culture is yet to make good on his publicly stated promise to compensate affected Artists for Studios and Performance spaces illegally demolished.
In a statement released in Lagos the Deputy Coordinator, Artists’ Village Network, Kingsley Agubom, said: “Two years ago, on Saturday, 23rd of January, 2016 at about 6:00 am, the then General Manager of the National Theatre of Nigeria Kabiru Yusuf Yar Adua invaded the National Council for Arts and Culture Artiste’ Village which houses Arts Studios, Workshops, Dance studios and some service contractors with a caterpillar from CCECC and two truckloads of Armed Policemen.”
“The padlocks and chains used to lock the gates were broken and Kabiru entered the premises with his Demolition Squad. The noise generated by the forceful entry attracted the attention of the Residents who watched as Kabiru and his team which included ‘thespians’ such as Steph Ogundele and Biodun Abe, ordered the demolition of Arts and Dance Studios, Galleries and restaurants servicing the community. Some of the demolished structures belonged to the NCAC whilst others built by Artists had approval of the NCAC.
“The NCAC is one of the parastatals in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and the NCAC Artists Village is one of her flagship projects. The NCAC policy that established the Artists Village has turned out to be one of the best policies to have come out of the Public
Sector in Nigeria because it clearly demonstrates trickledown of Government Spending in the Arts. This is critical because Research Grants, Travel Grants and Support for New Work and Productions from Government have all but dried up.
“The Resident Arts practitioners who represent some of the best in practice in the Nigerian Culture scene had no prior notice of the exercise and our landlord, the NCAC was not informed. Kabiru carried out his vindictive demolition without allowing the Artistes and Business owners the opportunity to salvage artworks and belongings and as a result caused extensive damage to property and valuables.
“A Visual Artist, Mr. Smart Ovwie a sculptor who arrived the scene later and saw the destruction of his properties lamented to Kabiru asking what he did to be oppressed this way, in response, the policemen harassed him and fired shots which sent bullets that got Mr. Ovwie in the leg.
“It was truly tragic to see Government officials who have statutory responsibility to promote and develop the Arts and Culture brutalizing Artists and destroying Government property with impunity. It was indeed a clear manifestation of the misrule that Nigerians have been subjected to in recent years
“Later that day, the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed came to address and reassure the Resident Artists of the NCAC Artists Village. He promised that the injured would get support for their treatment in hospital and that those who are legitimate residents will be duly compensated for damage done to their structures. The Honourable Minister confirmed that he asked Kabiru to demolish shanties at the back of the Artists’ Village along the canal that has been a route for miscreants and not Arts Studios and structures in the NCAC Artists’ Village. To date, the ‘Honourable’ Minister’s promise of compensation and rebuilding of the Artists’ Village to world class has not materialized.
We wish to use this opportunity to thank Nigerian and International Journalists, Media Organizations, Institutions and Organizations in and beyond the Culture Sector, and the general public for their invaluable support for our struggle to ensure that justice is done and that Public Trust is not abused with impunity by political office holders.
On 13th April 2016, we received letter dated 6th April, from the Minister (attached) in which he promised to pay a sum of N20, 000, 000 as compensation on behalf of President Buhari’s Federal Government. He also made further promises relating to infrastructure and capacity building. We strongly believe that President Muhammadu Buhari is a honourable man who will under no circumstances, allow innocent and hard working Nigerians who promote our Arts and Culture to suffer. We, as members of Nigeria’s Creative Sector find this situation appalling and feel it should be unacceptable to right thinking Nigerians.
It is important to inform at this point that the Executive Committee of NCAC Artists’ Village Network, after due consideration and deliberation and after fruitless efforts to get the Minister to keep to his word, has engaged the services of the law firm of Momson, Solanke & Co Solicitors to represent the Community in the matter. We are resolute in our commitment to the protection of the civil and human rights of our members who have been working in the rain and sun for two years now due to the insensitivity of a Government that has failed to recognize their invaluable contribution to the development of national culture.