The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bankers Committee, on Saturday, pledged to use their funds to revive the moribund National Arts Theatre, Lagos.
The bankers promised to use their newly introduced Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI), which has already earmarked N22b as takeoff capital to pursue the revival of the 40-acre national asset that has become a relic.
Using the Agribusiness, Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), through which the banks set aside five per cent of their profit after tax yearly, the goal is to support startups and existing businesses in the creative industry space, as well as the development of creative industry parks across three major cities in Nigeria.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele believes that if the facility is developed, it would be 10 times better than the kind of convention centers seen in many parts of the world and would attract international attention.
CBN Governor noted that Nigeria has almost 200 million people, growing at close to 2.8 per cent yearly, relative to our economy, which grew at close to two per cent in 2018, saying that close to 60 per cent of the population was under the age of 35, indicating that we have a youthful population that needs to be engaged.
He expressed regrets that many educated youths from universities were without employment, while some of them were unleashing their creative talents in creating jobs, not only for themselves, but also for others through the music, movie, fashion and IT skills.
“We will build a hub around this arts edifice to accommodate them so that they can develop their God-given gift. I can imagine what this place will look like in another two years. Every weekend if there will be something happening here, it will boost the tourism potential of Lagos State and Nigeria.
“Nigerians go out of the country for different seminars. I must say this bluntly, there was a time within three months that Nigerian businessmen were going to South Africa to attend almost four seminars, and they were saying that Nigeria does not have a convention centre.
“There is no need for anybody, even unions, to be afraid that they are going to be expelled. We will develop it for them to use and use for the good of their businesses and for their families.
“But the important thing to note is that an asset of this nature going down, posterity will not forgive us and generation unborn will not forgive us. That is the reason we are here today,” he said.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in his remarks said, “Mr. President has given the approval “to turn this dead asset into an income-earning state-of-the art, developed, fashion, IT and entertainment hub.
“We have come to see it to be able to give the approval for works, with all of stakeholders and development partners, led by the Central Bank Governor, who will be putting investments together to deliver this.
The Chairman of the Bankers Committee, Herbert Wigwe, said the move was in line with the Federal Government’s vision of lifting 100 million out of poverty.
“We have been to several countries on the continent, none of them has an edifice like this. Now, ours is a relic, but we believe that in two years, working under the auspices of the CBN Governor, we would be able to raise the requisite private sector funds to support and give this centre a proper facelift,” he said.