National Arts Theatre: Consortia want CBN To Stop Action On PurportedTakeover
Two Nigerian companies, Topwide Apeas and Jadeas Trust, have called onthe Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, the Bureau ofPublic Enterprise, BPE, and the Board of the National Arts Theatre, toprevail on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and Bankers’ Committee tocease all plans for the redevelopment of the National Arts TheatreComplex, Iganmu, Lagos.The call comes on the heels of recent media reports that the CentralBank and the Bankers’ Committee have been given the go-ahead by theFederal Government to transform the National Arts Theatre Complex andthe surrounding fallow ground into a creative industry park.Topwide Apeas and Jadeas Trust, who are a part of a consortium comprising a team of international financial institutions and privatesector partners, are claiming the rights to develop the structure via a concession granted by the ICRC. Topwide Apeas Limited, through a letter written by its law firm, Associated Attorney, and addressed to the ICRC, copying the CBN and the Bankers’ Committee, stated that they had emerged the preferred bidders to develop the national monument following a series of negotiations that started in 2003 with the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE, and later the ICRC.According to the letter, whereas Topwide Apeas Consortium was declaredwinner of the concession bid for the National Arts Theatre that wasconcluded in 2015 under the auspices of the Infrastructure RegulatoryCommission Act 2005 and sanctioned by the Bureau for Public Procurement,BPP, the company thereafter entered into partnership agreement withJadeas Trust, who had sued the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE over thesame issue.The agreement was sealed by a Memorandum of Understanding that mandatedboth companies to jointly execute the project under the terms of theproject endorsed by the BPE and ICRC.The letter further stated that the consortium intends to develop thecomplex into a creative hub which would serve as the new tourism andcreative gateway into the nation. The letter, which was signed by asenior associate, Abraham Jande, also added that the project is expectedto gulp over $2b and will create employment opportunities, buildcapacity as well as generally beautify the landscape of Lagos and serveas creative industry’s gateway into the country.Speaking on behalf of Consortium, Prince Chris Ogan rhetorically asked,“Is it a crime to follow due process in a Public Private Partnership inNigeria?’ You conclude concession agreement negotiations with thefederal government team and like a magician another entity appears tosay we are taking over the subject asset. We and our foreign partnersare alarmed to say the least.”While appealing to the ICRC to intervene so that the sanctity of theconsortium’s contract is protected and respected in the interest of lawand order, the consortium added that neither the CBN nor the Banker’sCommittee has the right to interfere in the concession agreement.The Central Bank of Nigeria has also been advised not to abdicate itscore functions, but to focus on its task of ensuring sound monetary andfiscal policies and sound financial regulation.The consortia went further to say that the involvement of the apex bankin the project does not only come across as a clear infraction of dueprocess but also raises clear-cut questions on the CBN and the Banker’sCommittee’s involvement especially with no history or expertise in thedevelopment of the creative industries, or any project with such nuanceor magnitude as the National Arts Theatre, an architectural masterpiecewidely cherished by Nigerians as a national monument and a culturallandmark.The consortium is also asking the Central Bank of Nigeria and Bankers’Committee not to take over the National Arts Theatre, as they are notthe project developers, while also seeking the Federal ExecutiveCouncil’s approval for the project as an attraction of foreigninvestment that will lead to employment generation in the country.