SEE SOLDIER? He knows about guns not art! To sell National Theatre is an artistic crime.


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Nigeria: Artistes Battle BPE Over National Theatre

Daily Champion (Lagos)

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Victor Nze
Lagos

STAKEHOLDERS in the arts and culture sector are gearing up for a major showdown with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) over its planned privatization of the National Theatre complex.

Already, they plan a protest march for today (Tuesday).


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The artistes comprising members of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Actors’ Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTAP), Dance Guild of Nigeria (GOND) and the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP).

Spokesman for the coalition and NANTAP member, Shuaib Husseini told Daily Champion that the stakeholders were aggrieved by moves by the BPE to privatize the national monument, despite assurances by government and well-meaning individuals against the plan.

Husseini said that apart from the much favoured partial funding option recommended by the government white paper in 2004, government was also required to constitute a management board with a commercial orientation to augment revenue to the complex.

“We also hear that the BPE is planning to hold a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja this week. But who are these stakeholders when the leaders of the concerned associations are here in Lagos?

“We are the real stakeholders and we are in Lagos”, said the spokesman.

The coalition said that the protest planned for today would see members march on selected sports in Iganmu area of Lagos.

Artistes said they could not accept the selling off of the remaining symbol of national unity and Nigeria’s culture “which the edifice represents”.

It would be recalled that last week, Mrs Hannatu Ibrahim resigned her position as chairman, Governing Board of the National Theatre/National Troupe of Nigeria (NT/NTN) in protest over the decision of government to auction the National Theatre in a concession deal.

Mrs Ibrahim had, in her letter of resignation, made reference to page 55 of the federal government white paper in harmonization and rationalization of government agencies and parastatals, dated November 2004, which recommended that the complex be partially-funded which the president in council had upheld.s

Today’s planned march is therefore, the first major organized protest by the arts and culture community against the May 24, 2007 listing of the National Theatre for auction.

A relatively unknown firm, infrastructica had at that official auction emerged as the preferred bidder with the sum of N35.84 billion staked for a concession period spanning 35 years in a deal the protesting stakeholders, have tagged a rip-off.

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