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The Federal Government of Nigeria in a bid to revitalise and restore the National Theatre has formally handed over the 44 year old edifice to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers’ Committee and has promised the process will generate 10,000 jobs.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, during the formal handover ceremony said that the planned restoration and upgrade of the iconic National Theatre in Lagos will generate about 10,000 jobs during and after the restoration.

The Minister stated this 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 on Sunday

Mohammed 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.”

The handover ceremony was witnessed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare; CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele; Chairman of the Committee of Banks’ CEOs, Herbert Wigwe; and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Culture, Deaconess Grace Isu Gekpe, among others.

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Mohammed said the N25 billion project, tagged: “Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre Project,” is a Public-Private Partnership that will 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 the development of the adjoining fallow land at a cost of N18 billion.

He added: “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!”’’

The Minister described the handover of the facility as a “historic day in the annals of the Creative Industry in Nigeria”, saying the project is a win-win for all involved.

Mohammed said: “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.”

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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 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.

National Theatre
National Arts Theatre, Surulere, Lagos.

This was built in 1976 as a focal point for the celebration of Nigerian art.and culture. It is notable as The National (Arts) Theatre is the core location for performing arts in Nigeria. It was completed in 1976, just in time for the FESTAC event of 1977. The building houses the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Nigerian Art.

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The National Arts Theatre was built during the military regime of Olusegun Obasanjo. Its exterior is shaped like a military hat. It has a 5,000-seater Main Hall with a collapsible stage, and two capacity cinema halls.

In 2010, President Olusegun Obasanjo announced plans to privatise the National Arts Theatre. This sparked controversy amongst Nigerian entertainers and playwrights like Wole Soyinka.

Built to promote Nigerian culture and arts, the National Theatre sits somberly, shaped like a military cap, awaiting those who would watch Nigeria’s story, re-enacted on-stage, in the words and gesticulations and voices of its people.

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