L-R: Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele; Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, during the official handover of the National Theatre facilities to the CBN and Bankers Committee for revamping and development on Sunday, July 12, 2020.

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

Mohammed spoke in Lagos 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.

Had said: “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, among others.”

Mohammed said the N25bn project, tagged the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre Project, is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) that would be executed in two phases, with Phase 1 being the restoration and upgrade of the National Theatre to its glory days at a cost of N7 billion, and Phase II development of the adjoining fallow land at a cost of N18 billion.

”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

According to Mohammed, the handover of the facility is 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, 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. The project is expected to be completed in 18 months,” Mohammed said.

Speaking at the event, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said “As the Governor of the State where this national monument is sited, it gives me a great sense of joy to see the National Arts Theatre is being revitalised. When the conversation around setting up the biggest black heritage started in the 1970s, Lagos was the centre of the discussion.

“It feels good to see that the conversation around revitalising the monument turning it around for the generations to come is taking place in Lagos. Everyone of us growing up about 30 to 35 years ago knew what the national theatre stood for. Given that we have had good times in this monument, it would be shame on all of us if we didn’t do what we are doing today and leave this national heritage to die.”

Sanwo-Olu observed that before the move by the Federal Government to revamp the theatre, Lagos Government had deployed resources to modernise the areas around the monument, pointing out that the State built a Light Rail station in the theatre.

The Governor said synergy between the State and Federal Government in equipping the monument with Light Rail station is an asset that would help in mass transportation in and out of the edifice when the revamping is completed.

He said: “There’s no way we can transform Lagos economy and make it 21st Century complaint of this national centrepiece is not re-engineered to develop our creative industry. Therefore, this revitalisation exercise speaks to our vision in the pillars of our development agenda.”

The Governor assured the investors and Federal Government that Lagos would be part of every process required to turn around the heritage.

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the partnership would transform the monument to a world-class arts and entertainment centre.

Emefiele said the handing over of the theatre to private investors was timely, given the challenges facing the economy that earns revenue from single source.

The CBN boss said the nation had the potential to generate annual revenue of $20 billion from creative industry, stressing that such could help cushion the effect of instability on the national economy.

Emefiele thanked the Lagos Government for creating an infrastructure around the monument, pointing out that the rail station would open the theatre up for seamless traffic.

He said: “Upon completion in another 18 months, this entire area would have transformed into a creative centre which will only be comparable to world-class entertainment and convention centres in this part of the world.

“Our goal to revamp this National Arts Theatre is to create an environment where startups and existing businesses can be rewarded for their creativity. When the renovation is completed, this monument will support skill acquisition and creation of jobs for over one million Nigerians over the next five years.”

Minister for Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, said the partnership was another giant step by the Buhari administration to strengthen the youth and invest in their creativity.

“I commend the Bankers’ Committee for this new vision to engender a rebirth of millennial economy. A modernised National Arts Theatre will help our young people to hone their skills and divest their energy to create values for themselves and the country,” Dare said.

The revamping of the monument is being handled by SANEF Creatives Limited. When completely revamped, cinemas of the modernised National Arts Theatre will now have digital screens and modern lighting system.

Its three exhibition centres and banquet halls would be completely regenerated. It will have a multi-storey car park, ICT incubation centre, cultural and entertainment hubs, including apparel factory, film village, and music hub for young musicians to have opportunity to record.