By Araayo Akande
The planned concession of Nigeria’s major cultural edifice, the National Theatre,
Iganmu, Lagos appears to have been put on hold as the Central Bank of Nigeria
(CBN) and Deposit Money Banks (DMB) have disclosed their intentions to transform
it into a creative industry park.
Presenting the keynote speech at the Creative Nigeria Summit themed ‘Finance for
Growth’ held on Monday, September 30 at Radisson Blu, Ikeja GRA, the CBN
Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed that the apex bank and DMBs would
transform it into a world-class hub as part of efforts to create wealth and jobs for the
country’s teeming youth.
Emefiele who spoke on ‘Achieving National Economic Growth: The Creative Sector’,
said “This was the critical reason behind the CBN and the Bankers Committee
decision, following our annual retreat in December 2018, to set up the Creative
Industries and Financing Initiative.
“Using the AGSMEIES fund through which the banks set aside on an annual basis
five per cent of their profit after tax, our goal is to support start-ups and existing
businesses in the creative industry space, as well as the development of a creative
industry park across three major cities in Nigeria.
“With the kind support of the Federal and Lagos State Governments, the National
Theatre, Iganmu in Lagos is expected to serve as the initial pilot for the Creative
“Our plan is to develop a 40- acre Creative Industry Park around the National
Theatre including giving the Theatre itself tremendous facelift; thereby reopening the
tourism potential the National Theatre offered during FESTAC 77.”
Emefilele added that after the successful deployment of the pilot scheme in Lagos,
the banks would set up similar parks in Kano, Port Harcourt or Enugu.
Also speaking at the event which attracted major bankers and players in the creative
sector, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe,
who will lead the initiative, highlighted the untapped potential of the creative sector
and its importance in job creation.
He said, “With art, we can create direct jobs over the next five years of close to a
million people and of course, there’s a multiplier effect of five, 10 million people. We
would have been able to drag 10 million people out of the poverty line.”
More details about the project would be unveiled on Wednesday by the banks when
they move to the site.
Also present at the summit which featured a panel discussion was Managing
Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, Segun Agbaje and Managing Director of Film
House, Kene Okwuosa.
There had been a raging debate on the planned concession of the edifice
inaugurated in 1976 with players in the culture sector vehemently opposed to its sale
since the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration mooted the idea in 2001.
Successive administrations had not been able to proceed with the planned
concession which artists believed was a disguised land grab as the edifice sits on
about 23,000 square metres of fallow land.