The first phase of the rehabilitation of the National Theatre, Lagos, constructed for the hosting of FESTAC 1977 and sponsored by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has been completed and it is ready to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Conference.
The UNWTO and the Federal Government conference with the theme, “Linking tourism, culture and the creative industries: Pathways to recovery and inclusive development’’, holds from November 14 to November 16, 2022.
Persecondnews reports that the national monument sitting at Iganmu within the precincts of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and also harbouring the Lagos State Government Blue Line train station en route to Marina on the island, is overlooking the Eko Bridge and Costain Roundabout.
It was constructed by the administration of the then Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo about 45 years ago to host the first-ever Festival of Arts and Culture known as FESTAC ’77.
The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers Committee had in 2020, collectively agreed to invest over N65 billion to rehabilitate the National Theatre and return it to its former glory, working closely with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the Lagos State Government.
Over the last 18 months, a complex rehabilitation project has painstakingly rebuilt the heart of the National Theatre. More than 70 historic sculptures, mosaics, resin, brass and wood friezes and stained glass artworks form part of the original design, with each needing to be protected during renovation, or in some cases, removed and restored before being replaced.
With the second phase of the rehabilitation work due for completion in March 2023, the national monument which has been abandoned for several decades will be restored to its original glory.
The facility has a 5,000-seater main amphitheatre of international standard with adjoining two world-class cinema halls, banquet halls and a library.
A statement in Lagos said the project is not just about restoring a building, but about creating an ecosystem of support for the creative sector, as part of what is called the Lagos Creative & Entertainment Centre (LC&EC).
“The theatre itself will be at the heart of a larger development of hubs focused on supporting emerging talent in the music, film, fashion and IT sectors. The creative hubs are built on portions of land within the 44Ha site.
“The first phase known as the “Signature Cluster” consists of a building each for Fashion, Music, Film, and IT and support facilities including a 250-car park block, a police station, a fire station, and a visitors’ Welcome Centre which will house commercial and retail facilities, administration & management offices.’’
The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, while commenting on the completion of the first Phase, said: “The National Theatre is one of the symbols of Nigeria’s culture and heritage and must be at the heart of our work to enhance and celebrate the creative industries. The completion of phase 1 is a demonstration of the outcomes we can achieve when we work together as the public and private sector.
“The Central Bank has been able to bring together the diverse set of stakeholders required to ensure that this project is delivered, from the Bankers Committee to the Ministries of Information and Culture, and Youth and Sports Development and the Lagos State Government.
“We thank Mr. President for his overwhelming support that has made the restoration of this national iconic symbol of arts and culture a reality. Together, we are not just restoring the National Theatre to its former glory, but we are establishing the wider foundations on which we can build a truly world class creative sector, at home.”