About 69 traders of the Abuja Arts and Culture Village, their wives and children are still languishing in cell despite being granted bail by an Abuja magistrate court and meeting their bail conditions. The traders and members of their families who were arrested by the Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS on allegation of illegal occupation of the Arts village, spent two weeks in police cell before their arraignment and subsequent release on bail.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, the managing director, UmmaKhlif Ltd, Mahmoud Mahmoud, who leased the properties to the traders at the village, said the traders were on Monday, February 19, granted bail with two sureties. However, as at press time, none of the 69 traders have been released despite the magistrate court processing the bail of more than ten of them on the first day of their bail.
On why the traders were arrested, he said, “The reason why they were arrested on that property was because those people that took lease of the property from us had to protect their properties after the fire incidence of December 15 in that village. Since the NCAC cannot protect the property for them they had to put those boys there to protect the property for them.
“Everybody that owns a shop there has to be responsible for his or her shop because of that incident of December 15. Those arrested were working under the owners of the shops.” He further noted that the problem of ownership and management of the arts and culture village started from 2013.
In his word, “Well, we have been in court since 2013. We instituted a court case against the FCT, who we signed a lease agreement for the build, operate and transfer arrangement, but in late 2013 decided to transfer the ownership of that place to the Ministry of Culture without taken cognizance of the lease agreement that is biding between us.
“We went to court on Feb. 13, and reported to the court that despite the court order to maintain statusquo, which is to keep the market open while we and the NCAC run our business, the NCAC went ahead on its own to close the market without any cognizance or even consultation with us. We reported to the court, the court sent its officials with our legal team and their legal team, we went to the place and it was confirmed that the place was locked.
“The truth of the matter is that we want the public to understand that we have been in court since 2013 because of that place. The former minister of FCT,Bala Mohammed unilaterally acted against advice from his staff, like the Director of Arts and Craft, Secretary Social Development Secretariat, and the minister of state, not to transfer the ownership of the place, but he went ahead and did it.
That was why we go to court to confirm and affirm that we have an existing lease agreement with them, because we have already invested a lot of money on the property. We developed about 21 out of 35 shops. So, we expect that we should be compensated for what we have done.”
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