By Christiana Ekpa and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate yesterday tasked the federal government to as a matter urgency stop the planned sale of the Tafawa Balewa Square, TBS and the National Theater, Iganmu both in Lagos.
It equally declared that both establishments as well as the President’s House at Marina; the Prime Minister’s Lodge, Onikan, and the National Assembly Complex, Lagos as national monuments.
The Upper Chamber directed the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to immediately develop monuments into a viable tourist attraction for the country.
The resolutions of the senate followed a motion, on the “Proposed sale of the National Theatre and the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos by the Federal Government of Nigeria” sponsored by Senator Fatimat Raji-Rasaki (PDP Ekiti Central).
Presenting the lead debate, Senator Raji-Rasaki said the media was recently awash about the sale of assets belonging to the federal government, including the National Theatre and the TBS in Lagos to raise more funds to finance the 2018 budget.
The TBS “represents the landmark on which Nigeria got the instrument of nationhood at a ceremony on the morning 1st of October, 1960 when the Union Jack was lowered down and the green-white-green national flag was raised and hosted”.
She said the National Theatre was specifically built to host the 2nd Black African Art Festival Named the Festival of Art and Culture, FESTAC in January/February 1977, where all black people across the globe gathered to celebrate the uniqueness of the black race.
Rasaki said that these institutions and structures occupied a historical landmark, monument and serve as a symbol of our nationhood, desires and attainment, adding that She recalled that the Senate had approved a loan facility for the federal government to finance the 2018 budget and therefore declared that there was no need for it to sell the edifices to fund the proposals.
In his contribution, Senator Shehu Sani (APC Kaduna Central) opposed the proposed sale of the national monuments, describing them as “relics of our history which should be preserved as tourist attractions and source of income generation”.
Also contributing, Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) described the proposed sale of the National Theatre and TBS as “pathetic”, stressing that the plan, if carried out would mean re-writing the nation’s history.
According to him, “it is ok to sell our power plants, NITEL, national careers and others that have been privatized by the government, but it is wicked to plan to sell our cultural and historical edifices”.
In his remarks, the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki urged the government to shelve the plan and recognize the edifices as national monuments.