TopWideApeas drags CBN to court over National Theatre Concession

TopWideApeas’ proposed new National Theatre

By Lekan Akitoye

TopWideApears Consortium, the winner of the concession for the development of the surroundings of the National Theatre, has tsken Central Bank of Nigeria to court in a dispute over the concession that the Attorney General of the Federation signed off on 3 May 2017. A longer story has attended the race to the concession.
For over eight years, TopWideApeas’ bid went  through evaluations of its capabilities including the mobilisation of billions of dollars for the construction of a mini-city around the National Theatre.
In a statement TopWideApeas noted that, “In the open bid conducted in strict compliance with the provisions of the ICRC Act the TopWideApeas Consortium won and was duly announced the concessionaire for the development of the fallow lands surrounding the National Theatre Complex”. The planned development was to turn “the fallow lands an eco-friendly grand mini-city housing two five-star hotels, water theme park, arts and entertainments arcades, office complexes shopping malls and a high-rise car par, as well as providing appropriate connections to the Lagos light rail Metro Blue Line station planned for the National Theatre Complex”.
A May 2013 letter of “No Objection” that the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, issued to the Minister of Tourism and Culture for “the development of complementary facilities to the National Theatre via Public Private Partnership (PPP) Procurement”, emboldened TopWideApeas Consortium and its partners to raise more than $2 billion and other resources, the drawings and plans to develop the surroundings of the National Theatre to the standards in its concession proposal.
Senior officials of the National Theatre Complex and other concerned Federal Government agencies insisted that TopWideApeas should also assume responsibility for a comprehensive rehabilitation and upgrading of the National Theatre which was not part of the concession, to synchronise with the planned new structures. TopWideApeas agreed to bear the extra costs from the modifications and that upon completion of the rehabilitation, the upgraded National Theatre would be handed over to the Federal Government for the continued management by the Board of the Complex.
What is the interest of CBN in the cincession? How did it become a party to the concession which is a private business? The matter continues at the Federal High Court, Lagos on 18 March 2021. TopWideApeas Consortium is in court to stop the interference of all concerned Federal Government agencies/agents – the Minister for Information, Tourism and Culture, The National Theatre Management Board, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor and Mr. Wigwe (Chairman of the Bankers Committee) in its concession contract.
How the CBN got into the concession agreement to the exclusion of the rights owner is what TopWideApeas would want the court to resolve. TopWideApeas explained that the delays in realising the project started when, “With all the processes concluded, the Minister for Information, Culture & Tourism insisted on the formal presentation of the contract details to the Federal Executive Council and he had to step it down thrice. By the time we had resolved, under the superintendence of the Vice President (who at the material time was acting for the President) the Information Minister’s contrived and parochial obstacles, eighteen months had elapsed and the formality of public signature and presentation got caught up and suspended by the distraction of the prelude and immediate aftermath of the 2019 general elections”.
It is not clear why CBN is insisting on taking over a project it claims would cost it N25 billions of public money while there is private funding for the project.
A CBN Senior Manager, Mr. Daniel Inyang in court asserted that, “The alleged hand over of the National Theatre Iganmu and/or its adjourning fallow land to the 5th Defendant (CBN) could be as a result of media misinformation and sensationalism as the National Theatre was not handed over to the 5th Defendant”. He was responding to alleged contempt charges that TopWideApeas’ lawyers brought before the court.
The court will decide who owns the concession to develop the National Theatre Complex.