By Obinna Chima
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and banks under the aegis of the Bankers’ Committee yesterday unveiled plans to spend about N25 billion as initial funding on the development of Nigeria Creative Centre at the National Theatre, Lagos and three other major cities in Nigeria.
The other cities are Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu.
The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, spoke on the initiative in Lagos yesterday, during the official handing over of the National Theatre in Lagos to the Bankers’ Committee for renovation and upgrade.
Others in attendance at the event were the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; the CEO, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe; Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and other top officials of the Lagos State government.
Emefiele thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the handing over of the edifice and its adjoining land to the Bankers’ Committee.
According to him, by his action, the president has demonstrated that he recognises that a renovated National Theatre and the complementary facilities that will be built along with it will help in unleashing the creative talents of Nigeria’s youths across multiple sectors and in supporting Buhari’s objective of creating new employment opportunities for Nigerians.
The CBN governor said the handover was timely considering the external headwinds facing the economy presently.
He noted that the impact of the COVID-19 on the global economy and the containment measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus had led to a slowdown in global growth which has also affected the Nigerian economy.
“Given our dependence on crude oil as a major source of government revenue, as well as for our foreign exchange earnings, these challenges have served to reinforce the need for stakeholders to promote policies and programmes that will enable greater diversification of the Nigerian economy.
“A diversified economy that supports increased productivity in agriculture and manufacturing sectors, while harnessing the talents of our youths in the creative industries will lead to the build-up of a more resilient economy, which is better able to withstand external shocks, while creating wealth and jobs for our growing population,” he said.
Emefiele, who is also the Chairman of the Bankers’ Committee, said upon completion in another 18 months, the facility would have transformed into Nigeria’s Creative Industrial Centre, which would be comparable to other world-class entertainment and convention centres in any part of the world.
“The creative centre, which comprises music, movies, fashion and ICT, can be a key source of growth for our economy creating up to one million jobs for the country’s teeming youths,” he said, adding that it would also aid the objective of reducing the country’s dependence on revenue from crude oil.
Emefiele explained: “India for example in 2018 generated over $240 billion from exports of IT, movies, music and fashion related goods and services. This amount is over five times our annual earnings from the sale of crude oil. With our human capital resources and an enabling environment that will help harness the creative talents of our youths, Nigeria has the potential to earn over $20 billion annually from the creative industry.
“With the growing demand for Nigerian music, movies and fashion, across Africa and in various parts of the globe, our creative industries are spurring innovation, creating jobs, and helping to shape perceptions of Nigeria, as a nation with a strong spirit of creativity and ingenuity.
“We must do more to encourage the innovative works of these young talented Nigerians as they can make significant contributions to the growth and development of our country.
“Second, given our growing population of close to 200 million people, out of which 60 per cent are under the age of 35, it is imperative that we strive to create opportunities that will keep our youths engaged, as it would portend great dangers for the progress of our nation if we allow these talents go to waste.”
Mohammed said the agreement was for the Bankers’ Committee to transform and upgrade the facility.
According to him, “The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture will continue to hold the key to the national theatre on behalf of all Nigerians.
“This iconic National Theatre remains a national heritage and will not be ceded to anybody or group as some have chosen to call what we are doing here today.
“This is a public-private partnership, which has two phases. Phase one is to restore and upgrade the National Theatre to its glory days. Phase two will be the development of the fallow land within the premises. This project will not lead to a single job loss, instead, it will create more.
“Some 6,000 jobs would be created during the construction phase and the completed project would generate up to an additional 600 permanent and 2,000 jobs. The project which has been approved by the president is a win-win for everybody. Attempts in the past to restore the national theatre to its glory days had failed.”
Sanwo-Olu commended the president, the CBN governor and the banks for the initiative.
He said: “We have agreed and said in the next 18 months maximum, there is no contract delay. Maximum, in the next 22 months, we would bring Mr. President here and walk him around the new refurbished National Theatre and all its adjoining wings.
“Lagos is a cynosure, Lagos is a centerpiece. I think it would be a shame on us if we are not doing what we are doing today – if people can think 40 or 45 years ago and put this edifice here. The least we are doing is what we are doing today – to turn it around and make it happen so that people who are coming behind us can be proud of it.”
In his remarks, Dare noted that on completion, the National Theatre would bring about massive job creation for youths, talent discovery and development, revenue generation and innovation and technology hub. With the pandemic still biting hard globally and even in our nation, he said the project was desirable.
“It is the much-needed shot in the arm to vaccinate our youths against the multi-headed challenge of unemployment. The creative city project is important for the Nigerian youth. I commend the Bankers’ Committee for pioneering the vision and being the first to take a risk and a bet on the youths of this country.
“The Nigerian youth represents a critical component to propel the world towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals that we are all focused upon. The coast has never been bigger and the urgency of the moment has been more pertinent. The moment is now for our youths. We must hand over to our youths, a far better future than was handed to us,” he stated.