By Chris Onuoha
Two Nigerian companies, Topwide Apeas and Jadeas Trust, have called on the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE, and the Board of the National Arts Theatre, to prevail on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and Bankers’ Committee to cease all plans for the redevelopment of the National Arts Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos.
The call comes on the heels of recent media reports that the Central Bank and the Bankers’ Committee have been given the go-ahead by the Federal Government to transform the National Arts Theatre Complex and the surrounding fallow ground into a creative industry park. The two companies, who are a part of a consortium comprising a team of international financial institutions and private sector partners, are claiming the rights to develop the structure via a concession granted by the ICRC.
Topwide Apeas’s legal representative, Associated Attorney, in a letter to the ICRC, copying to the CBN and the Bankers’ Committee, stated that they had emerged the preferred bidders to develop the national monument following a series of negotiations that started in 2003 with the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE, and later the ICRC.
The agreement was sealed by a Memorandum of Understanding that mandated both companies to jointly execute the project via a harmonised Master Plan and under the terms of the project endorsed by the BPE and ICRC. The letter further stated that the consortium intends to develop the complex into a creative entrepreneurship zone which would serve as the new tourism and creative industries gateway into the nation.
Speaking on behalf of Consortium, Prince Chris Ogan rhetorically asked, “Is it a crime to follow due process in a Public Private Partnership in Nigeria?’ You conclude concession agreement negotiations with the federal government team and like a magician another entity appears to say we are taking over the subject asset. We and our foreign partners are alarmed to say the least.”
While appealing to the ICRC and the BPE to intervene so that the sanctity of the consortium’s contract is protected and respected in the interest of law and order, the consortium added that neither the CBN nor the Banker’s Committee has the right to interfere in the concession agreement.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has also been advised not to abdicate its core functions, but to focus on its task of ensuring sound monetary and fiscal policies and sound financial regulation.
The consortia went further to say that the involvement of the apex bank in the project does not only come across as a clear infraction of due process but also raises clear-cut questions on the CBN and the Banker’s Committee’s involvement especially with no history or expertise in the development of the creative industries, or any project with such nuance or magnitude as the urban regeneration of National Arts Theatre and its surrounding land mass, an architectural masterpiece widely cherished by Nigerians as a national monument and a cultural landmark.
The consortium is also asking the Central Bank of Nigeria and Bankers’ Committee not to take over the National Arts Theatre, as they are not the project developers, while also seeking the Federal Executive Council’s approval for this transformative project which already has foreign investors and technical partners on board to transform this into a world class development.