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Minister’s Speech of July 12, 2020

Alhaji Lai Mohammed

  • Hon. Minister of Information and Culture
  • Federal Republic of Nigeria

REMARKS BY THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, AT THE HANDOVER OF THE NATIONAL THEATRE AND THE SURROUNDING FALLOW LAND TO THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA/BANKERS COMMITTEE IN LAGOS ON SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2020

PROTOCOL

Today is a historic day in the annals of the Creative Industry in Nigeria, and I want to start by commending everyone involved in making the day a reality. My gratitude goes to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR; His Excellency Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare; the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele; the Bankers’ Committee and the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Deaconess Grace Isu Gekpe.

  1. May I also commend the entire staff, management and union of the National Theatre, without whose cooperation we would not have been here.
  1. 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.
  1.   The Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre Project, a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), has two phases. Phase 1 is to restore and upgrade the National Theatre to its glory days at a cost of 7 billion Naira, while Phase II will be the development of the fallow land within the premises of the edifice, at a cost of 18 billion Naira. Altogether, the project is estimated to cost 25 billion Naira.
  1.  Another 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!
  1. Before I go into the details of the two phases, let me say here that the project, which has been approved by Mr. President, is a win-win for everyone 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.
  1. 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.
  1.  But that has not always been the case. Many here will remember that in its heydays, the National Theatre hosted all Nigerian State Government functions and performances, including popular musical extravaganzas such as the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Roy Ayers, Skyy, Shalamar, Whispers, Third world and Dynasty, as well as major stage events like Wole Soyinka’s adaptation of D.O Fagunwa’s Langbodo. Someone even reminded me the other day that Stevie Wonder once performed at the National Theatre, where he was bestowed with one of his numerous Grammy Awards.
  1.  Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, Phase I of this project will restore the National Theatre to its glory days and make it the go-to place for blockbuster shows again. Highlights of the first phase include:

– 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 .

– The air conditioning, lighting, other power and plumbing will also be replaced/upgraded to international standards

  1. Phase 2 of the project will involve the creation and implementation of a detailed master plan for the site adjoining the National Theatre, or the fallow land if you like. The highlights include:

– Development of purpose-built clusters to provide world class facilities for Nigeria’s Creative Industry. The new centre will comprise hubs for: Fashion, Music, Film and Information and Technology (IT) hub.

– These creative clusters will be supported by other facilities, including multi-storey parking to accommodate an additional 1,000

cars, a Visitors’ Welcome Centre which will house commercial and retail facilities, as well as administration and management offices, among others.

– Both phases will be connected by carefully curated soft and hard landscape areas as well as waterways, providing an excellent semi and outdoors spaces for community use and entertainment, including an amphi-theatre.

– Installation of new infrastructure (roads and services mains) and upgrade of the existing ones.

  1. Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, this – in short – is why we are here today. Contrary to what naysayers are spinning. no one is hijacking the National Theatre. It remains our national heritage. This Public-Private Partnership is a win-win for all. It restores this iconic edifice to its glory days and develops the land that has been lying fallow for over four decades, creating massive jobs for our teeming youths and providing a go-to spot for our teeming population.
  1. I therefore enjoin all of us to give our maximum support to this project so we can bequeath a befitting national heritage to the coming generations.
  1. I thank you all for your kind attention. It is now my honour and pleasure to hand over this edifice to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers’ Committee for necessary restoration and upgrade, and the 134 hectares of fallow land within the premises for development.