By Toyin Akinosho
The Bankers’ Committee presented its thought-plan for the future of the National Theatre at the takeover of the precinct from the Nigerian government last Sunday.
The group, led by the Central Bank of Nigeria, had no masterplan yet, but a back- of- the- envelope idea of what it would cost to revamp the main features of the existing National Theatre Complex and develop its vast, lush wetlands property outside the main building.
That ballpark estimate is the ₦25Billion, split into ₦7Billion for “restoration and upgrade the National Theatre to its glory days” and ₦18Billion “for the development of the fallow land within the premises of the edifice”.
The 18-slide briefing had a prominent banner “SANEF Creatives Limited”, on the top left corner of every slide. The briefing also has, on the lower left of the concluding slide, a logo of Alitheia.
The word SANEF recalls the CBN founded Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities (SANEF), which was incorporated in 2019 with the objective of accelerating financial inclusion in Nigeria.
It seems clear, that this vehicle, created to foster social inclusion in the country, is the means with which the Bankers want to promote investment in restoration of the National Theatre and development of a culture precinct around it.
Alitheia, meanwhile, is a Private Equity Fund, which describes itself “as a pioneering private equity fund that identifies, invests in, and grows SMEs led by gender-diverse teams to achieve solid financial returns and tangible social impact for communities in Africa”.
It says that from its offices in Lagos and Johannesburg, it “invests in six countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.
“We invest in sectors that engage a significant percentage of women, either as entrepreneurs, producers, distributors or consumers. Some of these sectors are: Agribusiness, Consumer Goods, Health, Education, Creative Industries, and Financial and Business services”.
The last of the Bankers Committee’s 18 slides indicates clearly that the feasibility study for what’s to be done is only going to start when the hand over is completed
It talks of:
- Project Steering/Project Technical committees inaugurated and commence function
- Consultants – Completion of detailed evaluation and documentation development.
- SANEF/Consultants – Technical and Financial evaluations, recommendations, negotiations, approvals and engagement
The glitzy presentation was preceded by a short speech by the Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, which provided a general overview of the restoration work, but provided very little in terms of details of tenancy and tenure.
“This iconic National Theatre remains a national heritage”, said Lai Mohammed, the minister. “It will not be ceded to any person or group, as some have chosen to frame what we are doing here today”.
He described the partnership as a Public Private one and the project as The Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre Project.
The first phase of what the Bankers would do is to “restore the National Theatre to its glory days and make it the go-to place for blockbuster shows again”, the government speech explained. This would 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, lifts, acoustics and specialist lightings, air conditioning, lighting, other power and revamp of the plumbing works.
The project’s second phase is the buildup of the so-called fallow lands outside the complex.
It will involve the creation and implementation of a detailed master plan for the site adjoining the National Theatre.
The interpretation: there is not yet a masterplan for the fallow lands.
The following work programme, from the minister’s speech, is then just a thought plan:
- 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”, the minister said.