By Jibril TAIRU, Abuja
When recently the Minster of Youth and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung invited the Nigeria media to whom he had not hidden his destruct and dislike since assuming office in October last year to a press conference at the Conference Hall of the Federal Ministry of Youth Development, many had thought it was another avenue of pouring out his usual tirades on critics of successive sports administrators.
But alas, what transpired at the conference was not only mind bogging and revealing but a reminder of an age long history of the country’s insensitiveness to our national monuments and the lack of maintenance culture.
On hands were consultants from a firm of Maysun Construction Company to show the media video slides of what have become the rot that has eaten deep into the first Nigeria National Stadium, Lagos which was constructed in 1972.
The 55 thousand capacity stadium which was once the cynosure of all eyes and has hosted major continental and international competitions was a shadow of itself as almost all the facilities in the edifice has not only become dilapidated but near collapse due to lack of maintenance.
On that occasion, Dalung Pointed out the inability of successive administrators to maintain the structures due to lack of continuity and the urge to write their names in gold as architect of new projects instead of maintaining the existing near dilapidated and abandoned ones.
He was of the opinion that in line with the change mantra of the present administration, he will not
Dilapidated state of the Abuja National Stadium
embark on any elephant project while the existing ones continue to suffer neglect pointing out that all the government owned stadia facilities are near collapse and need urgent turn around maintenance and renovation.
Dalung maintained that as a Nigerian and as an athlete who had once competed at the national stadium in Lagos, he felt pained to see what has become the fate of the old national stadium and have decided to pay more attention to bring it and others alike back to their old glory instead of embarking on projects he could not complete due to the short tenure of ministerial appointees and lack of continually that has become the bane of successive governments.
While blaming the rot in our national monuments on the insensitivity of past leaders, Dalung also blamed the commercialization of such venture without a corresponding utilsation of accruing resource to their maintenance.
Another reason for such decay in the system, Dalung pointed out was the lack of public private partnership in the development of sports and sporting facilities.
While promising to engage the private sector in his desire to see the Lagos national stadium regain its old center of attraction, Dalung said government alone cannot continue to fund sports while allowing multi National Corporations in the country not to live up to their social responsibilities to the nation.
The issue of non public/ private partnership in the development of sports therefore brings us to the issue of the edifice called the Abuja National Stadium.
Constructed and handed over to the Nigerian government on yet to be ascertained proper cost by construction giant, Julius Berger ahead of the 2003 All Africa Games held in Nigeria, the Abuja National Stadium boasts of sporting facilities second to only South Africa has hosted many continental and international championships alike but since hosting the 2003 All African Games the issue of maintenance of the stadium has continued to generate serious controversy. First, it was given back to Julius Berger for maintenance but it was wrestled out of their grip by those in authorities for what they perceived as over bearing cost of maintenance being given to the government and the Ministry of Sports by Julius Berger.
Today not much success has being achieved by the Sport Ministry in the areas of maintenance as the facilities continued to suffer neglect despite the fact that billions of naira has gone down the drain as maintenance cost for running the stadium.
A visit to the once lush green grass training pitch at the stadium handed over to the Ministry by Julius Berger has turned into a desert like playing field and other facilities at the stadium are now rusting away due to inactivity or lack of usage and maintenance.
While many are calling on the government to return the edifice to Julius Berger to continue the maintenance agreement, those in authority who are beneficiaries of monthly maintenance cost coming from the government with which they used to line their pockets in order to continue to live their ostentatious lifestyles have continued to pay lip services and if nothing is drastically done as a matter of urgency to redress the situation, the Abuja stadium will soon go the way of National Stadium, Lagos.
But what many in authorities do not know and have failed to find out is that the stadium was not built to their own specifications, but to the specifications of Julius Berger in order to meet the international standards.
Built in that stadium are lock- up shops and suites which can be privatized as a source of revenue for the maintenance of the stadium, but since completion, all the state of the arts facilities are lying waste and fallow as government continued to bear their cost of maintenance which were never carried out.
The ticketing and reservation areas as well as the car parks are beginning to rust away as most of the continental and international matches which could attract tickets sales and car stickers as a source of revenue for the maintenance of facilities at the stadium are taken outside the federal capital as matches involving our national teams are taken to states where the NFF goes cap soliciting.
Recently, in 2014, the main bowl of the National Stadium have began to play host to centenary anniversary celebration and week back, play host to a religious crusade and all those will soon begin to mount pressure on the synthetic grasses and the Tartan tracks and before you know it, they will begin to take their toll on the stadium it is hoped that Dalung with his new vision of paying more attention to renovating existing facilities instead of embarking on a new one will be able to stand his ground and put a stop to the ongoing happenings at the National Stadium in Abuja in order to avoid the decay that has become of the old national stadium in Lagos.
The Minister and his team should as a matter of urgency begin to engage public, private ownership of our government owned stadium to avoid the rots that has become part of our national monuments due to our lack of culture of maintenance so that the impending danger of decay at the Abuja National Stadium can be averted.
By Jibril TAIRU, Abuja