The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has explained how the planned restoration and upgrade of the National Arts Theatre will generate about 10,000 jobs during and after the restoration.
He gave the explanation on Sunday in Lagos during the formal handover of the edifice and the adjoining 134-hectare fallow land to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bankers’ Committee.
”The good news is that this project will not lead to a single job loss. Instead, it will create more,” the minister was quoted as saying in a statement by his media aide, Segun Adeyemi.
He added, “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.”
Mohammed faulted the claims of a plot by the government to sell of the facility, saying there was no plan of such.
He clarified that rather, the government has decided to bring life back to the edifice at a cost of N25 billion under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) tagged the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre Project.
A National Heritage
According to the minister, the project will be executed in two phases – with the first being the restoration and upgrade of the National Arts Theatre to its glory days at a cost of N7 billion and the second which entails the development of the adjoining fallow land at a cost of N18 billion.
He said, “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,” Mohammed added.
He described the handover of the facility as a ‘historic day in the annals of the Creative Industry in Nigeria’, saying the project was a win-win for all involved.
The minister stated, “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.”
Recalling the glory days of the facility, the minister 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.
He added that it also hosted stage events like Wole Soyinka’s adaptation of D.O Fagunwa’s Langbodo and even Stevie Wonder, who he said received one of his numerous Grammy Awards at the National Theatre.
The event was attended by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat; the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare; and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele.
Others present included the Chairman of the Committee of Banks’ CEOs, Herbert Wigwe, and the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Information and Culture, Grace Gekpe.
The project is expected to be completed in 18 months.
Highlights of the first phase, according to the statement, 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 fittings.
The second phase would also 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 IT hubs.