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Concession: Bidders emerge for National Theatre

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Government is going ahead with plans to concession the fallow land around the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos despite opposition from artists and other players in the culture sector

The General Manager of the National Theatre, Malam Kabir Yusuf has disclosed that preferred and reserved bidders have emerged for the development of the fallow land around the theatre complex.

Yusuf told reporters at a news conference last week that Topwide Apeas/Chris Michael Ltd is the preferred bidder while Calzada Nigeria Limited is the reserved bidder.

It will be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had at its inception resolved to develop the National Theatre according to its original master plan which include having some facilities on the fallow land around the complex.

These include a five star hotel, shopping mall, offices, land and water parks, leisure and entertainment centre and a multi-level car park to be built under a public private partnership.

The Federal Executive Council of the last administration had subsequently ratified a draft Outline Business Case (OBC) prepared by a consultant, BGL Capital Plc and the National Theatre on August 14, 2013.

President Jonathan approved same, which had earlier been accepted by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Committee (ICRC), on July 2, 2014 in spite of opposition from artists and other players in the culture sector.

The Ministry of Culture and the National Theatre subsequently organised investor road shows in Lagos, London, Dubai and Johannesburg in 2014. Eleven consortiums thereafter indicated interest and submitted tender bids. Seven of the companies were pre-qualified for request for proposal but only three submitted their technical and financial bids.

According to Yusuf, the technical bids were opened and analysed from April 28 to 30 while the financial bids were analysed from May 12 to 14. Following the exercise, Topwide Apeas/Chris Michael Ltd and Calzada Nigeria Limited emerged as preferred and reserved bidder respectively.

“This result has been certified by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Committee, the regulator of the project. The two companies have been communicated to accordingly,” stated Yusuf, who reiterated that the concession arrangement relates to only the fallow land of the theatre.

Yusuf explained that money generated from leasing the fallow land for 33 years would be used to renovate the National Theatre’s main bowl and other halls. It would also be used to renovate offices that parastatals including the National Troupe of Nigeria, News Agency of Nigeria and Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria among others have been asked to relocate to.

He said, “What is going to be realised from the concession will be ploughed back into the renovation of the main bowl of the National Theatre. It’s going to be renovated and run fully by the Federal Government in the interest of the culture industry. It is not going to be handed over to any concessionaire. The lawns around the National Theatre have not been affected by this arrangement; it’s only the fallow land. All the money realised will go to the national treasury and it’s from there that the main bowl and halls will be renovated.

“Also, we have made arrangement for those that are to move into the former Ministry of Information at Awolowo Road and the Glass House in TBS. We will renovate the buildings for them from what is realised. So, it is our duty to clear the land for the concessionaire to take over and build the hotel.”

On if he is not afraid that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration might drop the plan since it did not initiate it, Yusuf said dumping it would be out of character for a government whose mantra is change, more so that successive governments have been unable to fully develop the theatre.

He said, “Why would you dump it when you don’t have resources to execute the project that has been 40 years on the ground? The National Theatre was not designed alone; it was designed with the hotel and everything like its counterpart in Bulgaria but they could only do the first phase. If the Federal Government had built a hotel, by now it would have been sold.

“Look at Durbar Hotel and Ikoyi Hotel, they belonged to the Federal Government but were sold because they could not be maintained. So, if we can have people who will come and build it, retain if for 33 years and are generating revenue, government has no business running a hotel. Besides, the hotel and shopping mall will bring more impact on the theatre. The amusement park will bring more impact on the theatre. Presently, the fallow land is grass and we are not meant to be cutting grasses.”

He also assured that having a hotel in the complex will not affect the fortunes of the cinema halls in the National Theatre. “Part of the agreement is that we will only allow the hotel to have a conference hall, [there will be] no cinema hall in other places. It is part of the agreement because if we allow you, it will take away our value,” he said.

Reminded that some artists are still opposed to plans to concession the complex, Yusuf said: “Before I came here, armed robberies took place, dead bodies littered here but I stopped it. I know what it took me to do that in the six years that I have been here. Is that what artists want this place to be? The stakeholders have been told in clear terms what we want to do but they are full of mischief.”