Nigeria Hands National Arts Theatre to Bankers’ Committee for restoration


…as Minister expects  move to generate 10,000 jobs


 The Nigeria government on Sunday handed over the National Arts Theatre to the Bankers’ Committee for rehabilitation and development into a creative industries center, a move that the government expects to generate 10,000 jobs during and after the renovation.


Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this during the formal handover of the edifice and the adjoining 134-hectare fallow land to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers' Committee in Lagos on Sunday, his Special Assistant on Media, Segun Adeyemi, said in an emailed statement.


''Please permit me to start off by making a clarification: this iconic National Theatre remains a national heritage and will not be ceded to any person or group, as some have chosen to frame what we are doing here today. What we are here to do is to hand over the National Theatre for restoration and upgrade and the fallow land within the premises to the Central Bank and the Bankers' Committee for development, the minister said.


''The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture holds the keys to the National Theatre on behalf of all Nigerians,'' he said at the handover ceremony, which was witnessed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare; the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele; the Chairman of the Committee of Banks' CEOs, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Culture, Deaconess Grace Isu Gekpe, among others.


Alhaji Mohammed said the 25-billion-Naira project, tagged the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre Project, is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) that will be executed in two phases, with Phase 1 being the restoration and upgrade of the National Theatre to its glory days at a cost of 7 billion Naira, while the Phase II is the development of the adjoining fallow land at a cost of 18 billion Naira.


''The good news is that this project will not lead to a single job loss. Instead, it will create more. Some 6,000 jobs will be created during the construction phase, while the completed project could generate up to an additional 600 permanent and 2000 to 3000 call-on/call-off jobs. This is as good as it gets!'' he said


The Minister described the handover of the facility as a 'historic day in the annals of the Creative Industry in Nigeria', saying the project is a win-win for all involved


''For over 40 years, no major renovation work has been done on the National Theatre, while the adjoining land has been lying fallow. Many attempts to restore the National Theatre have failed. And the Government has no money to restore the complex.


''As you know, this is the hub of the Creative Industry in Nigeria. The National Theatre was established to encourage the advancement of the performing arts throughout the country; to create opportunities for performing artists of the country as well as to aid the promotion of social development and the improvement of the quality of life. In its present state, it is not living to its billing,'' he said.


Recalling the glory days of the National Theatre, Alhaji Mohammed said the edifice once hosted all Nigerian State Government functions and musical extravaganzas such as the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Roy Ayers, Skyy, Shalamar, Whispers, Third World and Dynasty; stage events like Wole Soyinka’s adaptation of D.O Fagunwa’s Langbodo and even Stevie Wonder, who received one of his numerous Grammy Awards at the National Theatre.


Highlights of the first phase include the upgrade of the theatres (the main halls and cinema halls, conference and banquet halls, press hall and the bar); installation of new seats, upgrade of the sanitary facilities, installation of lifts, acoustics and specialist lightings, as well as replacement of the air conditioning, lighting and plumbing.


Phase II will involve the development of purpose-built clusters to provide world class facilities for Nigeria's Creative Industry, with the clusters having four hubs: Fashion, Music, Film and Information and Technology (IT) hubs.


The creative clusters will be supported by other facilities, including multi-storey parking to accommodate 1,000 cars, a Visitors' Welcome Centre which will house commercial and retail facilities, as well as administration and management offices.


The creative industries, and idea that was mooted in 2018, will create at least a million jobs over the next five years, while earning $20b yearly for the country, Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said at the event.


The bankers’ committee, which groups the chief executives of Nigerian banks, plans to turn the Theatre, into an incubation hub for creative works through a scheme known as Creative Industry Financing Initiative(CIFI).


“Our goal for the National Theatre, is to create an environment where startups and existing businesses are rewarded for their creativity,” Emefiele said.


He said that Nigerians who will operate within the centre will be empowered with funds at a single-digit interest rate, high-level training using state-of-the-art tools, and networks, that will enable them to turn their ideas into a reality.


The Arts Theatre, one of Nigeria’s national symbols, was built in 1976 for   Nigeria’s hosting of the first Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977 in Lagos. Over the years, the fortunes of the edifice that measures 23 square meters have been dwindling  due in part to poor patronage and its dilapidated state.