Controversy over re-naming of National Theatre ‘is just a storm in a tea cup’– Lai Mohammed


Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says the uproar thrown up over his announcement of the renaming of the iconic landmark, the National Theatre, Iganmu, in Lagos, amounts to ‘a storm in a tea cup.’

Lai Mohammed

The minister, who was clarifying on his earlier announcement, last week, that the edifice has been renamed to the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre, said the Federal Government is not re-naming the entire Lagos National Theatre complex, built in 1976 to host the 1977 Festival of Arts, popularly known as FESTAC.

It would  be recalled that Mohammed had, last Tuesday, April 19, in far away Spain, announced the renaming, in Madrid, while signing an agreement on Nigeria’s hosting of first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry.

The bilateral agreement was signed between Nigeria and United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) at the agency’s headquarters.

“Nigeria will be hosting the event at the National Theatre in Lagos, which is currently being renovated at a cost of 100 million dollars under a partnership between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Bankers’ Committee/Central Bank of Nigeria.

“It is the first of such renovation of the iconic edifice in over four decades.

“In addition to the renovation, new hubs are being constructed, within the premises of the National theatre, for fashion, Information, technology, film and music.

“With that, the National Theatre is now known as the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre.

“In addition, the Lagos surface rail system, to serve the National Theatre, will be commissioned ahead of the Global Conference,” he said.

Mohammed said the signing of the bilateral agreement signified Nigeria’s commitment to host the event.

He, therefore, directed that the contractors handling the reconstruction project to ensure its prompt delivery for the global event.

However, following the controversy thrown up by the announcement of the renaming, the minister, Tuesday, clarified that it is merely renaming the complex housing the edifice.

Mohammed said the complex housing the National Theatre would be known as Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre, with four creative hubs and other facilities currently under construction.

Mohammed made the clarification when he featured on “Good Morning Nigeria’’, a live programme on the Nigerian Television Authority, in Abuja on Tuesday.

“The controversy on the re-naming of the National Theatre is just a storm in a tea cup.

“What we said in Spain was that there are lots of developmental projects going on within the National Theatre complex.

“You have the National Theatre fully refurbished and renovated, you also have four hubs each for music, fashion, IT and film. You cannot call all of them National Theatre again.

“The entire complex is what will be known as the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre, comprising the National Theatre and the four hubs.’’

Mohammed said the hubs were being built to provide capacity in the creative sectors.

According to him, the music hub and the film hub will be respectively built and equipped with latest technology for recording and processing music and films.

He said it would forestall Nigerian artists and film makers from going outside the country like South Africa and other places to record, process and package their music or films.

In addition to the national theatre monument and the new four hubs, the minister said a modern police station, fire station and 500-capacity car park were also being constructed in the complex.

The minister expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for providing the enabling environment for investment of 100 million dollars by the Bankers Committee, led by the Central Bank of Nigeria on the project.

“Regrettably, the National Theatre which was built in 1976 has been in a state of disrepair for decades without any form of renovation or proper maintenance.

“I want to express our gratitude to the Bankers Committee because there was no way we would have funded this with our budget allocation

“The donation of the 100 million-dollar investment in renovating the edifice and in developing the creative industry is an achievement of this administration.’’

Mohammed also thanked the Lagos State Government for its invaluable contributions in making the dream possible.

According to him, the Lagos State Government is investing a lot of money in the reclamation and dredging of the surrounding area which is by the lagoon.

He said the Lagos State Government was working with experts and the Federal Ministry of Environment to restore the Ebute-Metta creek so that water within the wetland would be clean for restoration of the flora and fauna in the area.

The minister added that the state was extending the blue rail line to have a terminal at the complex to ease traffic from and into the National Theatre and the hubs.

He expressed his optimism that the National Theatre renovation project, the construction of the hubs and other facilities in the complex would be ready by November for the hosting of the first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry.