Questions, as FG renames National Theatre, now ‘Lagos Creative and Entertainment Center’


Federal Government has announced that the iconic National Theatre in Iganmu, which is currently under renovation, will now be known as the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Center, when completed.

The National Theatre complex, Iganmu, Lagos

The National Theatre, an iconic centre for performing arts, was established to preserve, present and promote arts and culture in Nigeria. It was also to serve as a repository for artifacts showcased during the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) hosted by the country in 1977.

The construction of the edifice was completed in 1976 and commissioned by the Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo regime for use for the FESTAC in 1977.

The National Theatre itself has been the subject of discourse and dispute for years over its status following attempts by previous administrations to conclude decisions on whether to renovate, privatize, or sell outrightly.

However, when the Federal Government last year decided to invite a consortium of banks arranged by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, the understanding was that it was essentially to renovate, operate or perhaps sell to generate revenue for the government.

(From left, front row): Chairman, Body of Bankers and MD/Access Bank, Mr Herbert Wigwe; Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwol-Olu; Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor and Chairman, Bankers Committee, Godwin Emefiele; as well as representatives of Cappa & D’Alberto Limited, Nairda Limited, and VACC Limited, at the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and contract award signing ceremony in Lagos, last year in February, 2021

It would be recalled that last February, 2021, Mr Emefiele, who also doubles as the Bankers’ Committee chairman, had lead other members of the group to the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the handover of the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, for reconstruction.

The ceremony which held in Lagos, was witnessed by the ministers of Youth and Sports and that of Information and Culture, Mr Sunday Dare and Alhaji Lai Mohammed, respectively.

Remarking, Emefiele said revamping the National Arts Theatre will unlock the creative talents of hundreds of thousands of Nigerian youths in the fields of music, movie, fashion and information technology.

According to him, the Bankers’ Committee will provide funding for a prototype cluster labeled “the Signature Cluster” which consists of a building each for Music, Film, Fashion and Information Technology verticals.

“In addition to these, a Welcome/Visitor’s Centre, Police and Fire Stations, and structured parking for up to 500 vehicles will be built,” he disclosed.

The Main contractor for the project is Cappa & D’Alberto Limited, while the Electrical Sub Contractor is Nairda Limited.

The Mechanical Sub Contractor is VACC Limited.

The CBN governor also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for ‘his magnanimous approval for the handover of the National Arts Theatre as well as the pivotal role he continues to play in providing the Nigerian youths with limitless opportunities to reach the summit of their capacities.’

Nothing was mentioned about change of ownership during that MoU signing ceremony.

It is now a shock among the arts and culture community in the country the minister’s announcement concerning a change of name for an edifice whose status is yet to be officially determined by the Nigerian public.

However, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who announced the renaming, this Tuesday, in Madrid, Spain while signing an agreement on Nigeria’s hosting of first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry, did not disclose that the iconic architectural structure has gotten a new owner, in the position of the Lagos State Government.

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

Mohammed disclosed that the global conference, which would hold from November 14 to 17,would be the first event to be staged at the newly refurbished edifice.

“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.

The minister added that in an effort to ensure that the complex is ready for the hosting in November, he recently undertook an inspection tour of ongoing work there with stakeholders.

The stakeholders on the inspection tour, according to the minister, were Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele and the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, and Mr Folorunsho Coker, Director -General, Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).

According to the minister, there was every indication that the venue would be ready early enough to host the global conference.

Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain, Mr Ademola Seriki, who said he is a member of Board of Directors of the company handling the reconstruction project, said the edifice would be completed before the global event.

Seriki, who accompanied the minister to the bilateral agreement signing ceremony, thanked the UNWTO for giving Nigeria the right to host the maiden global conference.

He said the conference would bring a huge reputation to the country and assert Nigeria’s lead in music, theatre and other areas of entertainment in Africa.