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TODAY a conference of stakeholders in the Arts, Culture and Tourism sectors holds in Banquet Hall, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos Sale/Concession of the National Theatre, Iganmu, is top on the agenda.

The conference is sequel to a meeting of heads of sectoral bodies of Nigeria artists, which met on August 11 on the platform of the Coalition of Nigerian Artists (CONA) - the body that organised the protest last month in the premises of the Theatre to protest the announced concession/sale of the monument.

A Communique of the August 11 CONA Meeting held at CORA Secretariat, 95, Bode Thomas Street , Surulere, Lagos indicates that"the meeting commended the concerted efforts of the Nigerian art and culture community in the protest against the concession of the National Theatre by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) noting, that, the public debate that has been generated by the protest, the overall tone of which suggests that the public opposes the transfer of the National Theatre to any private concern under the guise of concession or howsoever otherwise termed."

The Meeting also approved the cooperation of Nigerian artists under the aegis of CONA. Noting that it will create a united front for artists to, among other things, campaign for some immidiate yearnings of the sector including: "sustaining the opposition to the concession of the National Theatre; and conceptualise, articulate and propose to the Government a feasible action plan for the resuscitation of the National Theatre and its operations under a regime of governance and management that accords with internationally-acceptable standards; and, On the long run, serve as a platform for the articulation of common agenda for the art and culture sector including the adoption of a National Cultural Policy, the establishment of the National Endowment for the Art as well as the establishment of common fora to secure the welfare of arts and culture workers."

The Meeting restated the opposition of the art and culture community to the transfer of the National Theatre to a private concern noting as follows: "The National Theatre is Nigeria 's national cultural centre. All over the world, human communities, including nations, states, cities and other communities set up official cultural centres to: signalize the community's cultural arrival; embody its artistic values; showcase its artifacts; and incubate the progressive development of its creative expressions."

Refering to the governance and operations of The Kennedy Centre for the Performing Art, Smithsonian Institution, The Barbican, Carnegie Hall among others, the forum resolved that because of the importance of the roles of a national cultural centre, such centres are never left in the hands of public bureaucracies without specialized training and hands-on experience in facility management and the business of art and entertainment venues; nor concessioned to private entities to govern and operate; operated with a view to profit.

A release signed by Mufu Onifade, indicated that "the Meeting also acknowledged the need for the resuscitation of the National Theatre for the fulfillment of its mandate as the Nigerian national cultural centre and the centre of arts and performances in the black world, as was conceived during the Festival of African Art and Culture (FESTAC). In this regard, the Meeting proposes the following: "That the Federal Government should review the proposed concession of the National Theatre; a study group of stakeholders and experts should be commissioned to analyse the nature and structure of successful public private participation (PPP) in the operation and funding of National Cultural Centres world-wide and the appropriate legal and other frameworks for such a PPP established before inviting private participation under the framework.

The framework shall define the roles and responsiblity of (1) The State, (2) The Business Community and (3) The Art community in the sustenance of the National Theatre; The adopted PPP model should delineate between the management and governance of the National Theatre by handing the governance of the Theatre over to a publicly sanctioned Trust constituted by reputable artists, art connoisseurs, business men and statesmen under an enabling national legislation," among other resolutions.