National Theatre restoration to generate 10,000 jobs – Information Minister

Solomon Chung, Abuja and Taiwo Ojedele, Lagos

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Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said the planned restoration and upgrade of the iconic National Theatre will generate about 10,000 jobs during and after the restoration.

The Minister 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

”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 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.

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.

Phase 1 is the restoration and upgrade of the National Theatre to its glory
days at a cost of 7 billion Naira, and Phase II 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.

Gigantic Cultural Edifice

Constructed over forty years ago, the National Arts Theater is a gigantic cultural edifice housing cinemas and art studios and has played host to many reknowned world artistes and stage plays for many years.
But a lack of funding and neglect over the years had seen it lost its glory and cultural significance.

At the handing over ceremony to the Central Bank of Nigeria led  initiative which also includes committee of Bankers and the Lagos State government, Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed noted that the restoration and regeneration of the National Arts Theater was long overdue.
The Minister said that contrary to insinuations in some quarters that the government was selling of the national monument, efforts were only been channelled to ensure that the huge economic potentials of the National Arts Theater and its adjoining lands were explored to the fullest.
“National Arts Theater remains a national heritage, the handing over is only for its restoration and regeneration,the Ministry of Information and Culture will continue to hold the keys to the monument”.
In his remarks, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, said that the restoration of the National Arts Theater will help to unleash the abundant talents in the country whilst also creating about six thousand jobs during the reconstruction process.
The CBN Governor said further that the uplift of the Arts Theatre will include a fashion hub which will house an apparel factory, a music hub for recording, marketing of the country’s rich blend of music, an IT hub for young creative people and a film hub with a string of studios.
In all, Mr. Emefiele noted that the regeneration of the National Theater is capable of generating about twenty billion dollars for Nigeria upon completion.
Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwoolu who handed over about 130 acres of land around the Arts Theater to the CBN applauded the initiative.
He said that the the tripartite partnership between the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the Lagos State Government and the CBN was an indication of the synergy amongst the different tiers and agencies of government needed to drive development and growth of the nation’s economy.

The project is expected to be completed in 18 months

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