The Nigerian senate has asked the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to immediately develop the National Theatre, and the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) as monuments of viable tourist attraction for the country.
It also urged the federal government to, as a matter urgency to stop any planned sale of the Tafawa Balewa Square, TBS and the National Theatre, which are both located in the Iganmu area of Lagos state, south west Nigeria.
These resolutions followed a motion on the, “Proposed sale of the National Theatre and the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos by the Federal Government of Nigeria” sponsored by Senator Fatimat Raji-Rasaki.
Senate also declared that both establishments as well as the President’s House at Marina, the Prime Minister’s Lodge, Onikan, and the National Assembly Complex, all located in Lagos should be preserved as national monuments.
Leading debate on the motion, Senator Raji-Rasaki said the media was recently saturated with the sale of assets belonging to the federal government, including the National Theatre and the TBS in Lagos to raise more funds to finance the 2018 budget.
According to her, the TBS “represents the landmark on which Nigeria got the instrument of nationhood at a ceremony on the morning 1st of October, 1960 when the Union Jack was lowered down and the green-white-green national flag was raised and hosted”.
She observed that the National Theatre was specifically built to host the 2nd Black African Art Festival named the Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC in 1977, where all black people across the globe gathered to celebrate the uniqueness of the black race.
Senator Raji-Rasaki said that these institutions and structures occupied a historical landmark, monument and serve as a symbol of our nationhood, desires and attainment, adding that “these economic and culture values are immeasurable to our cultural pride and symbols nationhood that can be readily developed as tourist attraction and also for the teaching of history and civic studies”.
She advised that “instead of disposing these edifices to private use, the federal government can look for other alternative source of developing the Tafawa Balewa Square into an attractive profit making tourist centre,” insisting that the Senate had approved a loan facility for the federal government to finance the 2018 budget and therefore declared that there was no need for it to sell the edifices to fund the proposals.
In his contribution, Senator Shehu Sani opposed the proposed sale of the national monuments, describing them as “relics of our history which should be preserved as tourist attractions and source of income generation.
“These relics are important aspect of our history. If they are well maintained, they will not only serve as tourist attraction, but source of income generation.”
Also contributing, Senator Dino Melaye described the proposed sale of the National Theatre and TBS as“pathetic”, stressing that the plan, if carried out would mean re-writing the nation’s history. “It is ok to sell our power plants, NITEL, national careers and others that have been privatized by the government, but it is wicked to plan to sell our cultural and historical edifices”.
Senator Melaye, who hinted that the National Theatre in Ghana generates the fourth largest income for the country, appealed to the senate to stop the sale of the edifices and also ensure that they are being put into proper use.
In his remarks, the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki urged the government to shelve the plan and recognize the edifices as national monuments.