The abandoned National Stadium in Lagos has come under the spotlight again with some stakeholders in Nigerian sports calling for transparency in the manner the complex was concessioned to some faceless individuals.
The edifice built by the General Yakubu Gowon-led Federal Government in 1972 to host the 2nd All Africa Games the following year, played hosts to several continental and global sporting events until two decades ago when it was abandoned.
Several past sports ministers made attempts to lease out the complex to interested parties without success.
The last Sports Minister, Chief Sunday Dare, succeeded in getting billionaire sports betting entrepreneur, Chief Adebutu Kessington, to agree to adopt the facility for renovations. That process only succeeded to refurbish the playing turf and installation of a brand new scoreboard at the main bowl. The decaying seating terraces were left untouched, thereby making it impossible to use the lush-green turf.
Only the indoor sports hall has been used maximally by the basketball federation and a few other federations while skeletal activities hold in the Olympic-sized swimming pool renovated by proprietor of O’Jez Restaurant who was earlier stopped from selling alcohol in the area formerly occupied by Martins Osaile’s CaterBest.
But sources with the complex confided in THISDAY at the weekend that it appears some individuals who were negotiating to concession the facility during the tail end of the Sunday Dare tenure as sports minister may have succeeded with the new helmsman, John Owan Enoh.
“We have started to see some individuals come around the facility to start inspecting the complex. We really don’t know if these people are to continue from where Baba Ijebu (Kessington Adebutu) stopped or are interested in other things,” observed a former national athlete who frequents the complex daily but would not want his name in print.
Another source within the Federal Ministry of Sports Development however insisted that those interested in the concession of the facility are doing so because of the vast empty land behind the main-bowl.
“It is no longer secret that those who are interested in the complex have other motives beyond the resuscitation of the long abandoned edifice. We are aware that developers in real estate want the land for residential purposes because it is situated in the heart of Mainland Lagos,” observed the informed source who also craves anonymity.
He however stressed that stakeholders in the country’s sports are not against the concession of the facility but that such process should be transparent.
“Nobody says the stadium should not be concessioned. It’s in a bad state and we want it renovated but people must be carried along, why are they hiding it? “We have not been told about how they arrived at who they want to give the facility to, which shouldn’t be,” stressed the top official.
Sports Ministry’s Director of Facilities, Abolore Alanamu, however insisted that there was nothing secret about the process to concession the facility.
“The relevant committee is continuing with its work (to concession the facility). So whatever the outcome of their report is, will be made public to the relevant management. The ministry will announce the bid winner at the end of the process,” Alanamu stated as a matter of fact.