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Time to revive the National Theatre

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CBN, National Theatre

SINCE the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, in association with the Bankers’ Committee announced plans to revive the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu Lagos, and make it a creative hub for harnessing of the abundant creative talents of our young people, all manners of opposition have been raised against this commendable initiative.

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The latest opposition is coming from two Nigerian companies: Topwide Apeas and Jadeas Trust, said to be part of a consortium comprising a team of international financial institutions and private sector partners.

They are calling 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.

A recent tour of the facility by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo Olu and his Deputy, Olufemi Hamzat, in the company of some CBN officials intensified speculations that government is serious about retrieving and refurbishing the complex.

This consortium is claiming 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.

They also claim that a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, 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.

Before Topwide Apeas and Jadeas Trust appeared on the scene, the Governing Board of the National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria recently started beating the drums of war over news of the possible takeover of the dilapidated national monument.

We cannot understand the series of oppositions to efforts of government to revamp a moribund national edifice like the National Arts Theatre to create jobs for our unemployed youths.

For 43 years, the National Arts Theatre has been mismanaged, ill-maintained and severely underutilised. The inability of Topwide Apeas and Jadeas Trust to refurbish the complex and put it to use after 16 years of signing the purported MOU defeats any further argument for them to hold on to it. The concession effort has clearly failed.

We urge that all forms of oppositions to CBN’s rescue mission should cease henceforth. What Nigerians want is that the National Theatre should be refurbished and put to use.

If the Federal and Lagos State Governments in partnership with the CBN are willing to do this job we welcome it.

However, as a final peace offering, the Federal Government should hand the private companies an ultimatum and time frame to commence the total rehab of the complex failing which it should revoke the MOU and do the job.

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