By Adebiyi Adedapo
As the Lagos State government explores measures to harness its tourism potential, the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has promised to transform the National Museum in Lagos to a modern cultural edifice of international standard, just as he pledged to partner the federal government to give federal infrastructure in the state a facelift.
A statement by his media aide, Mr. Habib Aruna, said Ambode spoke yesterday at the State House, Ikeja, when the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, paid him a courtesy visit.
Ambode informed his guest that he would collaborate with the federal government on the speedy completion of rehabilitating the museum, which he said would enhance the cultural heritage of Nigeria.
He said considering the strategic importance of culture and tourism to the identity of a people, there is no better time for Lagos and the federal government to collaborate in driving the essence of culture with the view of improving the situation and contributing to the economy.
The governor said Onikan, where the museum is located, is a melting pot for the state’s cultural heritage and by extension for Nigeria, hence serious efforts must be made to start to recreate the monument to adequately situate the history of the country.
“Just the same way we have collaborated with the police, we will collaborate with you and ensure that whatever we can do to help give the federal government’s infrastructure in the state a facelift, we will do it because it will eventually be to the benefit of Lagosians and eventually aid the economic growth of Lagos.
“On the National Museum at Onikan, we will go straight with the commissioners here to see how we can put up a modern museum of international standard and see how that can work towards our Lagos@50 celebration next year.
“We are not only doing it for Nigeria, but also for the future of our cultural heritage. We believe strongly that the axis around Onikan and Marina is actually the melting pot for our cultural heritage and we must start to recreate the monument in that area to be able to say a whole lot about the history of Lagos and more importantly, a whole lot about the history of Nigeria, and so we would see how we can move as quickly as possible on that,” the governor said.
The governor, who lamented that some Nigerian languages were gradually getting extinct due to lack of preservation of cultural values, said with the renewed commitment of the federal and state governments, issues of youth unemployment could be adequately addressed using culture, tourism, arts, sports and entertainment.
“That is why we are committed to the Employment Trust Fund. We are just about to inaugurate it and every year for the next four years, we will be putting N6.25 billion, totalling N25 billion. Using that fund, we will be creating arts and recording studios and business incubators because we don’t longer want our artistes to be recording their works outside Nigeria.
“We can do it and that is where we are going. That will create a lot of energy among our younger ones and before you know it, they will be on track and we too will be on track as a very viable economy,” Ambode said.
Mohammed said he was in Lagos to solicit the support of the governor and the state to collaborate in moving the state and indeed the country forward in areas of culture and tourism.
He said Lagos remains the economic and financial hub of Nigeria, and that it was worthy to underscore the fact that the state is thriving under Ambode, who he said was improving on the achievements of his predecessor.
He said the Blue Line light rail project being built by the state government, when completed in December, would not only be the first in Nigeria, but also greatly boost the economy and tourism potential of the state, as well as the 10-lane Lagos-Badagry expressway.
The minister said: “Governor Ambode is doing very well. Look at his emphasis on security; he met a Security Trust Fund, which was doing very well, and is now doing better. He has almost doubled the kind of equipment and facilities and assistance he is giving the police.
“Only recently, we passed in the Federal Executive Council (FEC), a $200 million loan application for Lagos to complete the Blue Line rail project. This is a project that had been stalled for political reasons and he pushed this through.
“Look at Light Up Lagos Project, it makes it easy for you to move from Point A to Point B without any problems and this ultimately will impact positively on the economy of the state. He’s on the right track.”
He added that his ministry would hold a National Summit on Culture and Tourism next month in order to make the culture and tourism sector a major revenue earner for the country.
The summit will hold in Abuja between April 11 and 12 and would bring all stakeholders together to examine and proffer solutions to the problems mitigating against culture and tourism, given their potential as huge revenue earners for the country.
The minister also sought the support of the state government in the federal government’s efforts to revamp the National Theatre and restore it to its past glory.
“Let me reiterate that the federal government will not sell the National Theatre. Our plan is to develop the fallow land around the edifice, using a public-private partnership arrangement, and then use the proceeds to rehabilitate the theatre. Again, Lagos State is a trailblazer in this respect, having successfully leveraged the PPP model for the Lekki expressway,” he said.