By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
Government, in this part of our world, has never been good managers of anything. Government businesses and properties are regarded as nobody’s business or property and therefore allowed to fall and waste, or even run aground by citizens who are employed to manage those businesses and properties.
Interestingly, and it has been the trend; whenever any failing government business or property is offered for sale or concessioned to private individuals, sometimes to those same individuals previously employed to manage it for government, the business or property experiences a surge of life and turnaround for good.
The National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, unfortunately fell casualty to that destructive national scourge. For more than three decades, the institution of the National Arts Theatre which is supposed to be a monument, a symbol and an embodiment of our creative wealth and cultural heritage, has been mismanaged and on the verge of collapse, both physically in terms of capacity utilization.
Therefore, the plan of CBN and Bankers Committee to revive the dying national edifice to create jobs for our teeming unemployed youths is a highly commendable one.
The CBN projects that apart from the 25,000 employees that will be engaged in different sections of the monument when the ‘Signature Cluster’ of the building is completed, construction work during the upgrade of the theatre will create a minimum of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. The Signature Cluster of the building is planned to consist of a building each for music, film, fashion and information technology verticals.
According to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, “the revamp of the National Theatre to a world-class creative hub would position it to attract local hospitality and international tourism prospects, and thereby, boost the sector’s GDP contribution. A growing revenue from the arts, entertainment and recreation sector might also relax the government’s over-dependence on the oil and gas sector.”
There is no doubt about the possibility of that projection, because even without any government aid or intervention, the Nigerian Creative Industry has managed to trudge on the path of profit and shouldered a significant part of the people that would have otherwise joined the ever-expanding Nigeria’s unemployed population.
Emiefele recognizes that fact when he said: “The building’s renovation would attract investment in the already booming sector. The country can earn over $20 billion yearly from the creative industry and over one million jobs is expected to be created in five years.”
And why not? If smaller private art theatres and similar outfits in the country such as Terra Kulture, FilmOne House, Silverbird Galleria, Genesis, MUSON Centre, etc., have been effectively managed and the box office returns from them in the last four years have been encouraging, nothing should prevent the National Arts Theatre from reaching and even exceeding that height of profitability and boosting of thousands of other value chains – when given some private attention.
There is the exhibition hall, two cinema halls, the banquet hall, the VIP hall, and the 5,000-seater main bowl. No other venue in Nigeria has this capacity. The main bowl also has a revolving stage, which is rare to come by in most event centres, and this stage has not been used in the past 30 years. It was estimated that for most part of that 30 years when the National Theatre was grossly underutilized, government lost over N300 billion. The 5,000-capacity main bowl has not been put to use since 1992 due to structural errors. The other halls run skeletal services at best, with most of them as non-cultural or artistic events.
The CBN/Bankers Committee is expected to provide about N21.89 billion for the revamping. The committee is also expected to manage the facility for a few years before handing it over to the Federal Government.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lao Mohammed, said the renovation would be in two phases. The first phase is the revamp of the deplorable state of the infrastructure, while the second phase will consist of the expansion of the theatre.
According to reports, “as part of the MoU, the committee will provide funding for a prototype cluster labelled, ‘The Signature Cluster’ which consists of a building each for music, film, fashion and information technology verticals. The prototype cluster is also expected to include a welcome/visitor’s centre, police and fire stations, and structured parking for up to 500 vehicles.
“The first phase of the renovation is expected to be completed in 15 months. The work in the first phase includes an upgrade of 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; and air conditioning, lighting, other power-related and plumbing work to international standards.
“The second phase of the project will involve the creation and implementation of a detailed master plan for the 134 hectares of adjoining land to the Theatre. The works include the development of purpose-built clusters to provide world-class facilities for Nigeria’s Creative Industry. All these growth channels have already been factored into the Creative Industry Funding Initiative.”
The CBN reveals that the main project contractor is Cappa & D’Alberto Limited, while Nairda Limited and VACC Limited are the electrical and mechanical Sub-Contractors, respectively.