The Federal Government, on Sunday, handed over the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos to the Bankers’ Committee (comprising the executive management of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and chief executives of banks and allied financial institutions in the country), for Renovation and transformation in Lagos today, Sunday, July 12, 2020.
The handover for a complete revamp and modernisation, which is coming 44 years after its establishment, was performed by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, on behalf of the Federal Government. Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele received the documents on behalf of the Bankers’ Committee, joined by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare; and the Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The project is expected to be delivered in the next 18 months, spanning two phases to restore the lost glory of the monument and implement the theatre’s detailed master plan. It is expected to significantly help in the nation’s bid to potentially generate $20bn in annual revenue from creative industry, and cushion the effect of instability on the national economy.
Handing over the theatre to private investors, Emefiele said, was timely, given the challenges facing the economy that earns revenue from a single source.
Describing the ceremony as “historic” in the annals of the nation’s creative industry, even as it would enhance the nation’s culture for which it was established, while generating revenue through creativity in performing arts.
For Mohammed, revamping project is a win-win endeavour for the government and the private partners that took up the project, adding that the Federal Government would continue to own the monument as public asset, assuring that the regeneration exercise would not lead to employees’ retrenchment.
Instead, he assured, the move will lead to creation of about 6,000 jobs “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: “Contrary to what naysayers are peddling, no one is hijacking the National Arts Theatre. It remains our national heritage. This public private partnership is a win-win for us. It will turn this iconic edifice into a modern masterpiece through which we will retain existing employment and create massive jobs for our youths. I urge all citizens to support the regeneration project so that we can bequeath a functioning national arts theatre to the coming generations.”
The CBN noted in a series of tweets via its official handle, will “support skills acquisition and job creation for over one million Nigerians over the next five years.”
Emefiele assured that that the efforts at boosting the nation’s entertainment industry will result in empowerment of Nigerians “with funds at single digits interest rate, (in addition to) high level training using state-of-the-art tools, and networks, that will enable them to turn their ideas into a reality.”
The National Theatre renovation, he stressed, will “serve as the initial pilot for the Nigeria Creative Industries Centre, (even as) centres in Kano, Port Harcourt or Enugu (are) to follow.”
The national heritage became an eyesore, following years of facility deterioration occasioned by mismanagement and non-maintenance, following which President Muhammadu Buhari recently approved its regeneration through a Public-Private Initiative, in a bid to restore its glory and turn around its capacity to develop creative industry.
With the transferring of the theatre for revamping, Governor Sanwo-Olu said the effort had given the country an opportunity to harness its creative industry, which he described as a gold mine for revenue generation. He said Lagos, as centre for innovation, would benefit hugely from the monument’s revitalisation.
Harnessing the potential of creative industry, he noted, remained vital to diversifying the national economy and transforming the Lagos economy to be 21st century compliant. A modernised National Arts Theatre, he explained further, would empower innovative youth across the country to develop creative skills in fashion, performing arts, music and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
He recalled that “as the governor of the State where this national monument is sited, it gives me a great sense of joy to see the National Arts Theatre is being revitalised. When the conversation around setting up the biggest black heritage started in the 1970s, Lagos was the centre of the discussion.
“It feels good to see that the conversation around revitalising the monument turning it around for the generations to come is taking place in Lagos. Everyone of us growing up about 30 to 35 years ago knew what the national theatre stood for. Given that we have had good times in this monument, it would be shame on all of us if we didn’t do what we are doing today and leave this national heritage to die.”
Sanwo-Olu observed that before the move by the Federal Government to revamp the theatre, Lagos Government had deployed resources to modernise the areas around the monument, pointing out that the State built a Light Rail station in the theatre.
The governor said synergy between the State and Federal Government in equipping the monument with Light Rail station is an asset that would help in mass transportation in and out of the edifice when the revamping is completed.
He said: “There’s no way we can transform Lagos economy and make it 21st Century compliant of this national centrepiece is not re-engineered to develop our creative industry. Therefore, this revitalisation exercise speaks to our vision in the pillars of our development agenda.”
The governor assured the investors and Federal Government that Lagos would be part of every process required to turn around the heritage.
Emefiele thanked the Lagos Government for creating an infrastructure around the monument, pointing out that the rail station would open the theatre up for seamless traffic.
Upon completion, he continued, “this entire area would have transformed into a creative centre which will only be comparable to world-class entertainment and convention centres in this part of the world.
“Our goal to revamp this National Arts Theatre is to create an environment where startups and existing businesses can be rewarded for their creativity. When the renovation is completed, this monument will support skill acquisition and creation of jobs for over one million Nigerians over the next five years.”
Minister for Sports and Youth Development, said the partnership was another giant step by the Buhari administration to strengthen the youth and invest in their creativity, commending “the Bankers’ Committee for this new vision to engender a rebirth of millennial economy. A modernised National Arts Theatre will help our young people to hone their skills and divest their energy to create values for themselves and the country.”
The revamping of the monument being handled by SANEF Creatives Limited, when completed will have modernised cinemas with digital screens and modern lighting system.
Its three exhibition centres and banquet halls would be completely regenerated, together with a multi-storey car park, ICT incubation centre, cultural and entertainment hubs, including apparel factory, film village, and music hub for young musicians to have opportunity to record.
From left to right: Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed; Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele and the Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the formal handing over of the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos to the Bankers’ Committee for Renovation and transformation in Lagos today, Sunday, July 12, 2020