OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives committee on Culture and Tourism on Thursday suspended the budget defence of National Theatre pending outcome of investigation into a take-over arrangement by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and commercial banks.

The committee wants to verify alleged sale of public properties within the premises of the national edifice which has been taken over by the banks under the aegis of the Bankers Committee of the CBN.

Chairman of the House Committee, Ogbeide Ihama (PDP, Edo), gave the ruling during a budget defence session with the management of the Theatre.

Addressing the management of the National Theatre, Ihama said: “The issue of NT (National Theatre) is of utmost importance. That edifice is our pride and it is strange to all of us that you are not even working there now; that you had to move somewhere within the premises because they are working. Due to allegations of property within the NT being sold, part of the amendment to the motion is an oversight on-the-spot visit to NT in Lagos. Also the documentations we have requested for we have to get it by tomorrow.

“We would put the budget of the NT on hold until we have an in-depth understanding of the purported or supposed MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that was signed according to you on February and have the details in which bankers committee would go into federal government property and begin construction on April and expect that we will appropriate public funds to that agency.

“I think this issue needs to go beyond all of these, including bankers and CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) would need to come and explain to us what is happening to that property and its environs in Ikomu, the popular National Theatre that housed all of Africa during the FESTAC 1977.”

Recall that the committee, had in the past, kicked against the sale of the National Theatre.

On his part, the Director General (DG) of National Theatre, Prof Sunday Ododo, told the Committee that the Theatre had undergone series of renovation work.

“The National Theatre has gone through serious dilapidation and the need to rehabilitate it is why the FG (Federal Government) with the CBN Bankers Committee came to an understanding. FG in this instance is represented by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture”, he said.

Meanwhile, Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Mr. Segun Runsewe, has commended the legislature, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), for their interventions in preventing land grabbers from stealing a piece of land meant for the Abuja National Art and Crafts Village, said to be worth almost N10 billion.

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