Why’s CBN involved In National Theatre, A Private Project?

By Ahmed Musa

Why is the Central Bank of Nigeria interested in a project that a private organisation has undertaken to execute? What would happen to more than $2 billion that has been mobilised for the development of the National Theatre Complex? There is already a court case on the National Theatre project.

The show on the National Theatre is about power, government, private business and how they play out where they come together. The National Theatre project has been concessioned to TopWideApeas since May 2017. The process has been on for more than eight years.

In a statement, TopWideApeas said, “The Attorney-General of the Federation signed off finally on the concession agreement on 3 May 2017. With all the processes concluded, the Minister for Information, Culture & Tourism insisted on the formal presentation of the contract details to the Federal Executive Council and then said he was asked to step it down for now. By the time we had resolved, under the superintendence of the Vice President (who at the material time was acting for the President) the Information Minister’s contrived and parochial obstacles, eighteen months had elapsed and the formality of public signature and presentation got caught up and suspended by the distraction of the prelude and immediate aftermath of the 2019 general elections”.

The initial successes in getting a May 2013 a letter of “No Objection” the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, issued to the Minister of Tourism and Culture for “the development of complementary facilities to the National Theatre via Public Private Partnership (PPP) Procurement” emboldened TopWideApeas Consortium and its partners to raise $2 billion and other resources they need to develop the surroundings of the National Theatre to the standards in its proposal.

With the dispute over TopWideApeas rights in the concession, the developments with the $2 billion has been in abeyance. How do the foreign investors see Nigeria?

TopWideApeas’ statement noted that, “In the subsequent open bid conducted in strict compliance with the provisions of the ICRC Act the TopWideApeas Consortium won and was duly announced the concessionaire for the development of the fallow lands surrounding the National Theatre Complex”. It planned to develop the fallow lands an eco-friendly grand mini-city housing two five-star hotels, water theme park, arts and entertainments arcades, office complexes shopping malls and a high-rise car par, as well as providing appropriate connections to the Lagos light rail Metro Blue Line station planned for the National Theatre Complex.

Senior officials of the National Theatre Complex and other concerned Federal Government agencies were so impressed by the TopWideApeas’ project that they insisted that TopWideApeas should also assume responsibility for a comprehensive rehabilitation and upgrading of the Complex to synchronise with the planned new structures. TopWideApeas agreed to bear the extra costs from the modifications and that upon completion of the rehabilitation, the upgraded National Theatre would be handed over to the Federal Government for the continued management by the Board of the Complex.

TopWideApeas is asking all Federal Government agencies/agents, i.e., the Minister for Information, Tourism & Culture, The National Theatre Management Board, ICRC, CBN Governor and Mr. Wigwe (Chairman of the Bankers Committee) to desist from tampering with its concession contract. The suit comes up at the Federal High Court, Lagos on 18 March 2021.

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