Coalition Alleges Plot To Kill Arts In Nigeria

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ABUJA, August 21, (THEWILL) - A Coalition of Artistes for Nigeria, Arts for Human Empowerment and Development based in Umuahia, Abia State has alleged plans by some senior officials of the National Gallery of Arts and their media collaborators to kill Arts in the country by putting up unsubstantiated facts and figures in the ongoing trial of the erstwhile Director General of the National Gallery of Arts, Chief Joe Musa.

Musa and others being prosecuted are alleged to have misappropriated N2.2 Billion naira belonging to the gallery.

President of the Coalition, Dan Nwokoji-Aku on behalf of stakeholders in a signed position paper made available to THEWILL said that the budget performance in the year 2008 which was the basis of the allegation against Joe Musa should be read and understood in its context so as to put records straight.

Giving a breakdown of 2008 budget, Nwokoji-Aku said the actual amount budgeted was N2, 163,229, 278-00 (Two billion, one hundred and sixty-three million, two hundred and twenty-nine thousand, two hundred and seventy-eight Naira only). He said out of this amount, only N1, 178,362,054 (One Billion, one hundred and seventy-eight million, three hundred and sixty-two thousand and fifty-four Naira only) was released to the agency leaving a balance of N984, 867,224 (Nine hundred and eighty-four million, eight hundred and sixty-seven thousand, two hundred and twenty-four Naira only) withheld.

The Coalition said that from the figures so far, it beats their imagination where the alleged N2.2 Billion could have emerged for Chief Joe Musa to embezzle within the period under review stating that spoilers, and those who do not mean well for National Gallery of Arts have teamed up to fabricate lies just to gain position.

Speaking specifically on the current Acting Director General of the agency, Alhaji Abdulahi Muku, who was the substantive Head of Administration during the period under investigation, the Coalition expressed dismay that Alhaji Duku was exonerated from any wrong doing while Mrs. Elizabeth Oparugo who became Acting Head of Admin from June 2009 – July 20th 2009 (only two months, to the date of arraignment) was arraigned with the other Directors.

They further alleged that it was out of place to conveniently omit Alhaji Duku from charges of connivance, reasoning that "it was part of the ploy to pave way for him to replace the DG being the next most senior officer at the time since his superior officers have all been charged to court.

"Alhaji Abdulahi Muku cannot deny complicity in the unfolding tragic-comedy. He was part of the committee that investigated and recommended disciplinary measures but went behind to instigate affected officers to come up with spurious allegations", the Coalition said.

"The irony of this fallacy is in the fact that the written testimony of a particular witness actually exonerates the DG of any wrong doing. His name is Achugbu Henry Uche the Deputy Director in the Department of Finance and Accounts and his statement in the charge sheets is there for everyone to see", noting that allegations of salary inflation in 2008 by Joe Musa from N15.5 million monthly to N19.27 million in the petition for the purposes of embezzlement was debunked by a witness from the salaries Department within the period of investigation.

The Coalition accused the media of gross misrepresentation of facts, stressing that professional investigative journalism entails that reports should be well investigated before going to press.

It further said that the least anybody expects is diligent investigation especially when a man’s reputation and life is involved, adding that the development is unfair to the ethics of the 4th estate of the realm and bastion of hope for the common man.

The Coalition of Nigerian Artists further noted with disbelief a situation where persons without a background and a profound knowledge in the arts are appointed, whether acting or substantive, to manage gateways to the Arts in the country, stating that the present acting DG who is not an artist is setting a precedent which is dangerous and would not mean well for the Arts sector in Nigeria.