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National Stadium Lagos: The Facts, the Fallacies by Toyin Ibitoye



For about two decades, the National Stadium, Lagos was left in ruins by successive administrations but the Adopt-A-Stadium initiative of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is no doubt bringing the needed facelift to the edifice once described as the ‘Mecca of Sports’.

Acutely inadequate budgetary allocations and lack of clear-cut initiative to attract private sector participation in maintaining and running the sporting facilities have been identified as some of the reasons why national sporting monuments are languishingly decrepit.

Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, at least 15 ministers of sports have been appointed with each trying to tackle the knotty issue of sports facilities maintenance without much success leaving Federal Government-owned stadia completely ramshackle.

However, the current minister Sunday Akin Dare decided to take the bull by the horn by daring to adopt a different approach designed to attract private sector investment with a view to bringing the facilities back to life.

The initiative scored an instant success with businessman Aliko Dangote through one of his companies adopting the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja while philanthropist Kessington Adebutu, the owner of Premier Lotto, offered to bankroll a section of the National Stadium, Lagos.

While the Abuja stadium is up and running with the edifice hosting the matches of the national teams including those of the Super Eagles, work is still ongoing at the Lagos stadium.

Interestingly, this writer observed with disgust how fifth columnists have gone to town with narratives that are completely out of tune with reality on the ground regarding the true state of the Lagos Stadium.

From the records available to this writer, at least a whopping N20 billion ( about $43 million) is required to completely revamp the facilities and it is shockingly embarrassing when merchants of perfidy painted a picture that suggested about $ 1 million expended by Chief Adebutu so far would have significantly effected a complete turnaround of the facilities.

It is a verifiable fact that the scope of the renovation agreed to by Adebutu’s Premier Lotto covers only the scoreboard, the overhauling of the football pitch with natural grass and the resurfacing of the tartan tracks.

A visit to the facility shows that the digital scoreboard is already in place; the football pitch has been overhauled and nurtured just as work is ongoing on the tartan tracks.

“The National Stadium, Lagos needs N20 billion naira at the minimum, which is the equivalent of $43 million dollars to be fixed as of 2021 estimation, and we have the documents. Chief Adebutu has expended about N400 million as corporate social responsibility and has been able to restore a new digital scoreboard, the football field, and the tartan track. It is important to note that about 17 sections and facilities within the stadium need repairs and upgrades, and Chief Adebutu’s gestures took care of only four items,” a source within the ministry told this writer.

Dare-led sports ministry is keen on restoring the National Stadium, Lagos to its original masterplan which has been compromised and distorted over a period of 18 years hence the need for the public/private participation initiative but it is understandable why the desired number of corporate bodies are yet to key into the idea given the breakout of coronavirus and its debilitating effect on the economy which necessitated slow progress of work at the place due to the paucity of funds.

The severity of the damage to the stadium could be underscored by the view of the open and covered terraces that have been in a state of continuous disrepair over the past years but efforts are being made by the sports ministry to reverse it, although amid paucity of funds.

“Abandoned for over 18 years,  we moved to secure the stadium and restore normalcy. It will interest you to know that the entire armoured cables have been stolen; several buildings vandalized.  We decided to fix the place in phases. Take, for instance, the tartan track, this time we decided not to renovate but instal a completely new one which requires more time and funds. Despite our budgetary challenge, we have been able to push in some little funds,” the official said.

Sunday Dare-Bola Tinubu

It is not totally unexpected that the minister would come under some form of attack after he approved a clearout at the stadium which led to many unregulated and obstructive economic activities with their attendant security risks, leaving the edifice. Many patrons of these nefarious business activities were unhappy and could have decided not to fold their arms.

However, the ministry and the minister were unfazed as Mr. President gave his presidential approval for the development of an ultra-modern shopping mall to cater to the organized economic activities in the stadium. 

This writer also understands that discussions have reached an advanced stage between the ministry, ICRC, and the developer of the mall project and overall, with time, the stadium could reclaim its old glory.

*Ibitoye is SA to the minister of sports Sunday Dare

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