The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says the various court cases on the concessioning of the National Theatre complex located in Iganmu, Lagos State, were depriving the government from taking a definite action on it.
The minister said that the present administration aside from meeting the nation’s iconic edifice in a state of disrepair, also inherited various court cases which made it difficult to take a definite action on it.
“We inherited the National Theatre complex in a state of disrepair; but more than that, we inherited court cases which have made us handicapped on what to do about it.
“We have made attempts to put the National Theatre complex back to life. When I became the minister, I studied the files where I read that the place had been advertised for concessioning in the past.
“The real story is that the previous government had in 2006 attempted to privatise the National Theatre complex and bidders were invited. But along the line, the whole project was abandoned without concluding it.
“When it was re-advertised in 2014, the winners of 2006 bid went to court and that is what has been delaying government’s action on it.’’
Mohammed said that the Federal Government was making progress in addressing the problem.
“We are making a lot of progress on the National Theatre complex and I know that very soon we will forge ahead on the next line of action.
“Like I said, what we inherited from the past administration is not something we are happy about, but we will see to its conclusion.
The National Theatre, an architectural masterpiece located at Iganmu, Lagos covers an area of about 23,000 square meters and stands over 31 meters tall.
In 1973, the Federal Government appointed a 29-Member theatre consultative committee to advise on the concept and organizational structure of a theatre.
The committee proposed the construction of a national theatre which is also the home of a national troupe.
The design for the existing National Theatre was adapted from the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna, Bulgeria.
The contract for the construction of the complex was signed on April 24, 1973, with the Bulgarian Company called Technoexportsroy.
The vision went beyond the provision of a befitting venue for the second world black African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77) which Nigeria successfully hosted in January/February 1977 and for which the National Theatre provided more than adequate venues.
The complex is also meant to be a rallying point for artistes in Nigeria and for international artistes wishing to share their experience with their Nigerian counterparts.
The minister also assured Nigerians that “The four directors from the National Theatre arrested on allegation of corruption will face the law. Their arrest will not be swept under the carpet.
“If they are found culpable after investigations, they will be prosecuted and if they are found guilty, they will be punished.
“That is the government’s position’’, he said.
The four directors, including a woman, were picked up at their Iganmu office for allegedly diverting “huge sums” of revenue and statutory allocation into private use.