Following the controversy surrounding the handing over of National Theatre to some developers, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has summoned the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, and five others to appear before it on Friday, July 24.
The Federal Government officially handed over the National Arts Theatre Complex at Iganmu Lagos to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Banks under the aegis of the Bankers’ Committee in order to commence the renovation of the facility on July 12, 2020.
Justice Ayokunle Faji who gave the summon stated that they are to explain why the structure has become a subject of a pending lawsuit after the handing over.
The other five persons to appear before the court are Access Bank of Nigeria Plc and its Managing Director, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, the Minister, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and National Orientation, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), the National Theatre and the National Troupe of Nigeria Board.
They are to appear before the court as defendant/respondents in a suit before it by a company, Topwideapeas Limited.
Topwideapeas Limited is reportedly designated as the concessionaire of the fallow land adjoining the National Theatre.
Through its lawyer, Chijioke Okoli (SAN), the company brought an exparte application before the court asking it to reverse the handover in order to protect its interest in the property.
The senior lawyer contended that if not reversed, the handover of the structure would render the eventual decision of the court in the suit null and void.
Okoli also complained that despite pending litigation on the structure, the National Theatre was handed over to the CBN, Access Bank of Nigeria Plc, and Herbert Wigwe on July 12.
The handover was said to have been purportedly done by the National Theatre and the National Troupe of Nigeria Board, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), and the Minister, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture & National Orientation who are listed as the 1st to 3rd defendant in the suit.
Okoli, therefore, is seeking an order “suspending or staying the purported handover on or about July 12, 2020, by the 1st and 3rd defendant/respondents to the 5th-7th defendant/respondents of the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos and the adjoining lands, pending the hearing and determination of the applicant’s motion for an interlocutory injunction (by notice filed on December 31, 2019).”
It would be recalled that last year, the CBN in conjunction with the Bankers’ Committee unveiled the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI), which was to enable businesses to obtain loans up to the tune of N500 million.
During the event which was attended by the Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the bankers were targeting 1 million jobs from this project in the next 5 years.