The African Artists Foundation in Lagos calls for justice after unlawful occupation by Keystone bank

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The African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), a Lagos-based non-profit dedicated to promoting African art for nearly two decades, has encountered significant obstacles.

Known for the Lagos Photo Festival, West Africa’s first international photography event, the AAF has held 14 successful editions, solidifying its position as a leading force in the African art scene. However, the organization’s work has been disrupted.

Keystone Bank’s takeover of AAF’s office in Lagos, following a dispute with the late landlord’s estate, has prevented the organization from accessing its premises and valuable equipment, including donated artworks.

“Sometime in October 2020, we were evicted by Keystone Bank in the most embarrassing and humiliating manner. Claiming ownership through a court order.

They claimed several properties belonging to the Umanah family, our landlords, claiming they were owed money by the late patriarch of the Umanah family”.

According to AAF’s founder and director, Azu Nwagbogu, the organization secured N600 million through donors to acquire the property but says the bank has neither completed the purchase nor returned the funds.

“The court learnt of an earlier suit on the same subject matter, where the court had determined after due and necessary determination of issues that the Umanah family not only didn’t owe the bank, but were in excess credit with the bank.”

“After careful consideration, the court dismissed the suit and sternly admonished the lawyers of Keystone bank for abuse of the court process.

Based on this, we approached the bank for a refund of the purchase price of N600m, reminding them of the indemnity clause and letter signed by the bank management. The bank instead through its lawyer’s blatantly refused to refund the purchase price.”

In response to this situation, AAF will be shifting its focus to intellectual development and training, particularly for young curators, operating from Cotonou, Benin Republic, for the time being.

AAF has also urged the Nigerian president to intervene and prevent similar incidents from damaging the country’s image and hindering the efforts of dedicated organizations like theirs.

Nasir Ahmed Achile

Philosophy nut. I recommend Albert Camus and Eckhart Tolle to everyone I know.

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