At the aftermath of the commencement of the first phase of the reconstruction of the National Theatre, management of the parastatal has sold its property worth millions of naira and leased portion of land within the premises to a private business owner.
In his speech at the official handing over ceremony of the edifice to the CBN Bankers’ Committee, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had warned against ceding out any portion of the national heritage to any person or group.
He said: “Please permit me to start off by making a clarification: this iconic National Theatre remains a national heritage and will not be ceded to any person or group, as some have chosen to frame what we are doing here today.
“What we are here to do is to hand over the National Theatre for restoration and upgrade and the fallow land within the premises to the Central Bank and the Bankers’ Committee for development. The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture holds the keys to the National Theatre on behalf of all Nigerians,”
In what many of the members of staff of the parastatal described as an affront to the Minister’s directive, General Manager/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Theatre, Lagos, Prof. Sunday Ododo led management, as contained in a Memorandum of Understanding dated 15th of January, conceded 8, 004 square meters of land on lease to Adewaxs Global Ventures for three years and also sold off other valuable items of the parastatal.
Speaking on the development, one of the staff who pleaded anonymity lamented about the gloomy state of affairs since the last six months.
According to him, there is hardly no week the management would not lead trucks load of valuable items and appliances out of the premises.
He stated further, “Since the expiration of the two weeks’ notice given to us by the contractor to move our property out of the main bowl, we have been seeing different sizes of truck loading air-conditional, electricity transformers, cables and other valuable moving out of the premises. They have looted the store and sold the cable in it to buyers brought in by the General Manager.
If the government decides to sell any of these items, there are procedures to be followed but this is not the case. They drive in trucks, load the items and then drive off.
Within the premises of the national theatre, one of our major challenges is insecurity. We know how hoodlums harass passersby, traders and visitors. The management has leased the Ijora end of the theatre to a private company to be used as truck parking bay. Many of us believe that this act will further expose workers, visitors and traders to more danger and attack by hoodlums and miscreants.
Rather than address the insecurity challenges, the General Manager and his team are busy making money out of the dire situation by leasing out the land and selling government property. There was a Prado Jeep that was used by the former General Manager which had an accident. They didn’t even spare the accidented Jeep. They sold it too. This left many of us in disbelief because it shows the level of the desperation of the management. The situation calls for the attention of the Ministry of Information and Culture before it gets out of hand.”
The items allegedly sold by the management, according to him, include newly installed 1500kva transformer, galvanized Air Handling Units (AHU) ducts of more than 97 units, 11 air condensing units, 800 tons centrifugal chillers, 20 tons truck of armored cables, truck load of galvanized pipes, accidented Prado Jeep, 2000 black imported plastic chairs and 400 black imported tables.
Reacting to the allegations of lease of space and sales of property, Prof Sunday Ododo in a recent interview said his mandate is to run the National Theatre as a business enterprise.
“I don’t know where the allegation of sales of property is coming from. When the facelift was to commence, we were given two weeks to move our property out of the Main bowl. And in the process of doing, unexpected could happen.
On the land lease arrangement, I don’t just do things. I had the board approval to look into how they can develop the land which was why we ceded it to Adewaxs Global Ventures. It is a huge achievement for me.
I did not spend one kobo and they still paid up N30 million for the three years lease into the government coffers. All our transactions were paid into the TSA. Nothing untoward is happening here.”