The Minister, Arts, Culture and Tourism, Edem Duke, on Sunday denied that the government planned to convert the National Theatre, Lagos, to a five-star hotel.
Mr. Duke told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that there was no way an edifice, such as the National Theatre, could be converted to a hotel because it was not designed for that purpose.
Some newspapers had reported that the government planned to convert the edifice to a hotel.
The monument, located in Iganmu, Lagos State, was constructed in 1976, in preparation for Nigeria’s hosting of the Black Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977.
It has a 6,500-seater main hall with a collapsible stage, two 700 to 800 capacity cinema halls equipped with facilities for simultaneous translation in 13 languages.
The management last year added two halls that could accommodate up to 1,000 people and stages for artistic performances.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s plan to privatise the facility in 2001 sparked controversy among the Nigerian arts community.
Mr. Duke said a committee was set up in September last year to look into the possibility of Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the management of the facility.
“The committee consists of representatives of the Federal Ministry of Housing, Infrastructural Regulations Committee and Surveyor General,” he said.
He said the committee engaged VGL Consultants, a foreign consulting firm, to look into ways of turning around the surroundings of the theatre.
The minister said the theatre ground had empty space with smelly water, which should be rehabilitated and the land turned into a five-star hotel, a shopping mall, offices, leisure spots and car parks.
“This was designed 37 years ago, when the theatre was built but because of lack of funds, the plan did not come up.
“We issued a quit notice to National Gallery of Arts (NGA), National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) so that the plan can be materialised,” Mr. Duke said.
He said the affected offices had their headquarters in Abuja, and that “the offices they occupy here are shanty houses and the land belong to National Theatre.”
He decried the way the media reported the issue without getting the truth of what happened.
Meanwhile, the General Manager of the National Theatre, Kabir Yusuf, said proper evaluation of the theatre would be conducted within three months.
Mr. Yusuf said that adverts would be placed in newspapers for interested firms to bid for the development.
“This will be done within three months, and then, a lot of proposals would follow.
“The main bowl of the National Theatre needs about N4 billion to put it back in shape but there is no fund to make it work.
“So, we have to source for funds, we can’t allow an edifice like that to die just like that. It is a symbol of our culture,” he said.
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