A few months ago, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin “Meffy” Emefiele, announced plans to redesign our naira notes. Although this policy received mixed reactions, the new naira notes became official legal tender on December 15, 2022. However, unknown to many of us, the naira wasn’t the only thing on Emefiele’s upgrade list.
About two years ago, the federal government announced plans to finally renovate the National Theatre. The government handed the project over to the CBN’s Bankers’ Committee, who worked with an initial budget of $100 million. But on December 10, 2022, Meffy said it would take about $200 million —an estimated ₦89 billion — to complete the project.
Judging by how expensive the project is, you may wonder why this national monument is necessary and why the government is willing to spend so much money on it.
The history of the National Theatre
The National Theatre, located in Iganmu, Lagos State, is often referred to as the home of entertainment and performing arts. It’s to Nigeria what the Sydney Opera House is to Australia and also, it’s to many of our parents what malls and cinemas are to us now.
The construction of this military hat-shaped landmark started in 1973 and was completed during the regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976. It was the centre for preserving and promoting black arts and culture and housed banquet halls, two cinema halls and a world-class 5000-seater amphitheatre. It also hosted many historical events, people, and shows like the Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977 (FESTAC ‘77), Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Stevie Wonder.
Unfortunately, as with most things in this country, the theatre fell into poor management, and it wasn’t long before it entered a state of deterioration and left at the mercy of hoodlums.
The renovation of this national monument wouldn’t only fix the damaged parts of the theatre but also restore over 70 historical artworks and sculptures.
Why’s this renovation necessary?
Unlike the naira redesign, which is creating some new problems, the restoration of the National Theatre is projected to create over 1,000 jobs. This would be a big relief considering Nigeria’s unemployment rate is at 33%. It’s not a lot, but it’s something.
It would diversify the economy
A significant problem Nigeria has is the government’s obsession with oil money, so it more often than not seems like they’ve turned a blind eye to many other sources of revenue. According to Meffy, India makes about $240 billion from exporting movies, music, fashion and technology. With this renovation, we’d finally be able to earn billions with the creative industry and compete internationally.
The renovations include plans to create hubs and centres to showcase our fashion, music, film and technology. This should encourage foreign investors and open up a way for the monument to serve fully as a tourist site.
The renovation of the National Theatre is expected to be completed in May 2023. Hopefully, with the funds injected into this project, this national monument will be restored to its former glory.