Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Buhari Approved The Release Of National Stadium, Surulere To Lagos State

Image result for National Stadium, Lagos.
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has approved the release of National Stadium, Surulere to Lagos State Government for retrofitting and upgrading to host international sporting tournaments, the State Government said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the ongoing annual Ministerial Press Briefing at Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre in Alausa, Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Mr Kweku Tandoh, said it was gratifying to report that after series of back and forth, action would commence next week on paperwork for the formal handover of the facility to the State Government.

Responding to a question on the delay in handover of the stadium to the State Government for upgrade from its present state of decay, Tandoh said the approval for the release was given verbally by the President during his visit to Lagos a few weeks ago, while terms of the agreement would now be based not on concession but complete release to the State Government.

Giving details, Tandoh said: “You would recall that the Lagos State Government signified interest in taking over completely the National Stadium and the Governor did not just say it, he actually met with the Minister of Sports and a tour of the facility was carried out.

“One thing later developed and there were signs and signals that the Governor received that they were not actually ready to hand over the Stadium to us rather it seems as if they just wanted a concession agreement where the State Government would spend the money, get it fixed while the Federal Government would still be in place but that is not what Lagos State Government wants.

“So, during the visit of the President to Lagos State few weeks ago, the Governor at the State Dinner was able to grouch the intention again and he mentioned it in his speech to the President and the President verbally gave approval that that was going to be in place. Just yesterday, the Governor directed that I proceed to Abuja next week to deliver some communications that are necessary to put in place a formal handover of the National Stadium to Lagos State Government. We are grateful that this time they will give it to us on the terms that the Lagos State Government has requested for,” he explained.

On activities of the Commission in the last one year, Tandoh said in line with the commitment of the present administration towards provision of world-class sporting facilities, approval had already been given for comprehensive renovation of Campos Mini Stadium in Lagos Island, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere; Mobolaji Johnson Sports Centre, Rowe Park, Yaba; Isheri Football Field/Swimming Pool, and Ijede Mini Stadium, Ikorodu.

He said both the Teslim Balogun Stadium and Campos Mini Stadium would have their artificial turf replaced with natural grass, while the remaining seats of Agege Stadium would be covered in addition to the upgrade already done in preparation of the facility for Confederation of African Football (CAF) matches.

He said within the period under review, the State Government awarded contracts for transformation of Onikan Stadium to an all-covered ultra-modern international stadium with FIFA certified artificial turf and multipurpose arena for entertainment concerts with capacity to accommodate 10,000 people, while preliminary works had already commenced on the construction of Maracana Stadium in Ajegunle.

He said it was also significant to report that the State Government has concluded plans to establish three viewing centres across the State for fans to watch world cup matches free of charge.

“Just yesterday, Governor Ambode approved that we should establish three viewing centres in Mushin, Alimosho and Ajegunle. The centres will be in place for the duration of the world cup and will serve as venues where people in those areas can watch world cup matches free of charge,” Tandoh said.

He said approval had also been given for the employment of full-time coaches as well as contract coaches, while training

Built in 1972, the Sportscity is an integrated complex. Though renowned for football, it also has facilities for athletics, swimming, basketball and taekwondo. Notably, it hosted the 1973 All-Africa Games, continental club competitions, FA Cup finals, World Cup qualifiers and the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championships. It holds a special place in national sports folklore after Nigeria hosted and won the 1980 African Nations Cup there. The 2000 Nations Cup final between Nigeria and Cameroon was staged in the main-bowl, which now sits 45,000 spectators, down from the original 55,000 capacity, after renovation for Nigeria ’99. Table tennis, volleyball, wrestling, boxing and other sporting disciplines flourished there up till the 1990s. That was as good as it got.

The Sportscity began its disgraceful descent shortly after the Nigerian capital moved out of Lagos in 1991. The policy that all agencies should move their operations to Abuja irretrievably damaged the stadium. Refuse and miscreants cohabit there. At night, it is usually cloaked in darkness because of electricity disconnection over unpaid bills. Reptiles have converted the swimming pool to their den; the football pitch and the athletics tracks reversed into disrepair. Basketball, table tennis and tennis struggled to survive. This is sheer thoughtlessness on the government’s part.

From 2003, when the National Stadium, Abuja, opened for the eighth AAG, Sportscity has suffered a near-total abandonment. No international match involving the Super Eagles has been staged there this decade. The folly of our sports administrators could be seen in the fact that the national team has no standard venue to play its Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers, despite the fact that the Sportscity and Abuja are owned by the Federal Government. In contrast, Germany’s national football team has been playing at the Allianz Arena in Munich since it opened in 2005 and England at Wembley, which was rebuilt in 2007. Scotland plays at Hampden Park, Glasgow; Brazil at the MaracanĂ£, Rio de Janeiro and France at the Stade de France, Paris.

It is worrisome, therefore, that the NFF often distracts the Super Eagles by begging state governments to host them when they have international engagements. Successive Ministers of Sports claim the government has no funds to revamp the Sportscity. That is indefensible. Like the Sportscity, the National Stadium in Abuja is similarly in ruins. But the government ought to provide social infrastructure for the development of youths and generation of employment, business and entertainment.

The deliberate mismanagement of national monuments is an affront to the country. The National Arts Theatre, the Tafawa Balewa Square and the Federal Secretariat, all national landmarks based in Lagos, are in a squalid state. Abuja has been dithering unnecessarily on whether to privatise the National Theatre or not; the situation of the TBS, which hosted Nigeria’s independence celebration, is similar; while the Federal Secretariat, which Lagos State lost controversially during an opaque sale, has been grounded.

In the light of the above, it is obvious that the Sportscity needs a fresh operational model for it to regain its stock. Fortunately, the offer from Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is capable of halting the longstanding decay. “What we ask for in Lagos is … that we need to stand up for leadership here and take over the National Stadium,” Ambode explained. So, Solomon Dalung, the Minister of Youth and Sports, should translate his excitement of “seeing that the Super Eagles will soon play again” at Sportscity after a long hiatus into reality by talking through with Lagos State.

For instance, the Brazilian authorities privatised the MaracanĂ£ in 2013, allowing a consortium to manage the hallowed ground for 35 years. In July 2016, Ghana’s sports ministry unveiled a proposal to privatise the country’s two biggest stadia in Accra and Kumasi. In November, Saudi Arabia, despite its oil wealth and statist bent, launched a three-year plan to privatise the assets of its clubs, according to an approval granted by the Council of Ministers headed by King Salman Abdulaziz. The Sportscity has wasted away for too long, a period that it could have contributed to Nigeria’s sports development. To reverse the rot, we impress it on Dalung to eschew politics in his recommendation to government.

Among its peers, Lagos has demonstrated beyond doubt that it is accomplished. With its financial muscle, it is obvious that it can turn around the Sportscity into a world-class stadium. It is auspicious then that nothing – including the subtle anti-Lagos lobby – should hold back the deal from coming to fruition. But we advocate that some clauses, including the one that will guarantee that the national teams play their international games there without fuss, be inserted in the agreement.

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