The Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) has again led a consortium of the Bankers’ Committee who have taken over the iconic National Arts Theatre in Lagos State on Sunday in a bid by the government to enlist the private sector to redevelop the monument.
In a ceremony, which held at the banquet hall of the theatre, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, officially transferred the monument to the consortium to be chaired by the Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele for the redevelopment and upgrade.
The CBN governor had in December last year announced plans by the bankers’ committee in conjunction with the regulatory bank to invest about N25 billion to revive the National Theater. With the handover of the structure to the consortium on Sunday, the government expected the project is expected to be delivered in the next 18 months.
While handing over the monument to the consortium, Mohammed described the handover ceremony as “historic” in the annals of the creative sector, noting that President Mohammadu Buhari has achieved what his predecessors feared to do.
Mohammed said the revamping project was is a win-win endeavour for the Government and the private partners that took up the project. He added that the Federal Government would continue to own the monument as public asset, assuring that the regeneration exercise would not lead to employees’ retrenchment.
“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.”
Emefiele in his remark said the partnership would transform the monument to a world-class arts and entertainment centre. He said the handing over of the theatre to private investors was timely, given the challenges facing the economy that earns revenue from single source. According to the CBN governor, the nation had the potential to generate annual revenue of $20 billion from creative industry, stressing that such could help cushion the effect of instability on the national economy.
“Upon completion in another 18 months, 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.”
Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the effort to revamp the monument 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. Sanwo-Olu said harnessing the potential of creative industry remained vital to diversifying the national economy and transforming the Lagos economy to be 21st century compliant, adding that a modernised National Arts Theatre would empower innovative youth across the country to develop creative skills in fashion, performing arts, music and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
“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. Every one 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.”