The handover of the National Theatre, Lagos to the Central Bank of Nigeria and Bankers Committee is causing ripples as the Federal High Court Lagos on Friday ordered the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, and five others to appear before it on July 24.
They are to come to explain why the edifice was handed over to developers while it is the subject of a pending lawsuit marked FHC/L/CS/2392/2019.
The Presiding Justice Ayokunle Faji ruled that Malami, Emiefele and the others should appear to convince him why the handover should not be reversed.
The court made the order in favour of Topwide Apeas Limited, whose lawyer, Chijioke Okoli (SAN), argued an ex pate application.
The senior lawyer had argued that despite the pendency of the matter, the Federal Government proceeded to hand the theatre to the CBN, Access Bank of Nigeria Plc and Herbert Wigwe.
Okoli argued that if not reversed, the handover of the structure would render the eventual decision of the court in the suit useless.
He prayed for an order “suspending/staying the purported handover on or about July 12, 2020, by the 1st and 3rd defendant/respondents to the 5th-7th defendant/respondents of the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos and the adjoining lands thereto, pending the hearing and determination of the applicant’s motion for an interlocutory injunction (by notice filed on December 31, 2019).”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, gave out the edifice and its fallow land to the CBN/Bankers for restoration and development of creative industries park on Sunday, July 12.
He disclosed at the occasion that the redevelopment will be in two phases and will provide over 6,000 jobs for Nigerians.
Mohammed had said, “The Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre Project, a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), has two phases. Phase 1 is to restore and upgrade the National Theatre to its glory days at the cost of 7 billion Naira. Phase II will be the development of the fallow land within the premises of the edifice, at the cost of 18 billion Naira. Altogether, the project is estimated to cost 25 billion Naira.
“Another good news is that this project will not lead to a single job loss. Instead, it will create more. Some 6,000 jobs will be created during the construction phase, while the completed project could generate up to an additional 600 permanent and 2000 to 3000 call-on/call-off jobs.”
The handing over ceremony had proceeded despite the pendency of the suit filed by Topwide Apeas in December 2019. The company had emerged preferred bidders during the concession exercise of the National Theatre by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
It had warned against the government’s move to hand the edifice to developers other than itself.