The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Lagos State Government and the Bankers Committee teams on Saturday inspected the National Arts Theatre, Lagos ahead of new investment plan that includes building a Creative Industry Park at the Theatre.
In the assessment team were Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele; Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Land Bureau, Bode Agoro and CBN Director of Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor.
The tour was targeted at assessing the state of the facility meant to benefit from N22 billion Creative Industries and Financing Initiative (CIFI) championed by the CBN and Nigerian banks under the auspices of the Bankers’ Committee.
The project and others planned for Enugu or Port Harcourt and Kano are expected to create millions of direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians.
Speaking during the assessment yesterday in Lagos, Emefiele said there is new plan to build a hub around the theatre to benefit the youths that want to do fashion, movie, information technology, and entertainment industry.
He said: “I can imagine what this place will look like in another two years. Every weekend if there will be something happening, it will boost the tourism potential of Lagos State and Nigeria. Nigerians go out to different seminars. I must say this bluntly, there was a time within three months Nigerian business men were going to South Africa to attend almost four seminars because they are saying Nigeria does not have a convention centre. This place can stand any world class convention centre you can think about”.
Emefiele thanked the federal government, Lagos State Government and Federal Ministry of Information and Culture for giving the CBN and Bankers’ Committee the opportunity to redevelop the facility for the good of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Also speaking, the Governor Sanwo-Olu, said the team had worked around the entire land area of the National Arts Theatre and had appreciated the extent of the asset conceived as a non-earning asset.
He said the President Muhammadu Buhari had given the go ahead to turn the dead asset into an income earning one. The the facility for the entertainment, fashion, music, technology, movies and an all-round creative hub is what the place will be turned to.
“We have gone round to ascertain for ourselves the piece of land measuring in excess of about 30 hectares which currently as you can see, is all swamp,” he said.
He said the essence of the assessment was to also enable the team give a go ahead to the development partners led by Emefiele, who is putting investments together to make the project a success.
He said the site will be made a tourism, technology and entertainment destination for the future where the youth of Nigeria can come and exhibit all their God given skills and talent and even be able to bring up new ones and turn it into a hub where all Nigerians can be truly proud of.
The Chairman of Body of Bankers CEOs, Herbert Wigwe, said the project is in line with the federal government’s vision of lifting 100 million people out of poverty.
He said the creative village will provide employment for at least a million Nigerians, who have skills in music, IT, movies, among others. “We are beginning to think of the multiplier effects – one million direct youths- it may mean that we may have 20 million youths taken out and given proper jobs. Now, begin to imagine as well what this edifice would mean if we happen to develop the National Theatre. We have been to several countries in the continent, none of them have a edifice like this. Now, ours is derelict, but we believe in two years, working under the auspices of the CBN Governor, we would be able to raise the requisite private sector funds to support and give this centre a proper facelift,” he said.
Wigwe, who is also the Group Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank Plc, said the assessment list was to enable the team see what is going on before the actual work begins.
“We are working with a body called Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF), which is an institution that holds the interest of the entire banking sector. So, what we here is the entire banking industry working with the Lagos State Government and the Federal Ministry of Arts and Culture, to ensure that we give grace to our country within the next two years.
Lagos State Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat said: “We all know when this place was built, at least we were young. All sort of musicians, the best of them were here. We are just trying to restore it again. I don’t think any Nigerian will be against it. So it is a win-win for everybody. We want to raise it back to the level it was before and even better so that more Nigerians can be employed.”