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Renovation of National Stadium needs funds

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By Mercy Kelani

The historic national edifice has been abandoned for 18 years.

Amidst rising concerns that the National Stadium is yet to regain its actual fortitude despite the supposed huge resources allocated to it, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, asserted that fixing the edifice is an enormous task to complete within a short range of time. Construction of the stadium under two years impossible, according to the minister, not only because the stadium is vast but because the project has only received a small fraction of the huge resources needed to fund it.

In an interview with journalists at an inspection of the stadium, Mr. Dare affirmed that the rot in the edifice began 18 years ago — a long time before he became Minister. A journey of redemption began for the purpose of reshaping the National Stadium, in his two and half years of office. However, he affirmed the impossibility of completely fixing the rot within the time frame of two years as it takes certain processes. Even with provision of the exact amount of resources needed for the project, it is necessary that what is to be done is well understood.

Total budget for renovation has increased to N45bn.

The National Stadium Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria, is a multipurpose stadium, inaugurated in December 8, 1972. It has an Olympic size swimming space and multipurpose arena that serves the purpose of athletics, basketball, table tennis, boxing matches, rugby, volleyball, and wrestling. Until 2004, the stadium was mostly used for football matches. It served as a facility for the country’s premier sports, displaying Nigeria’s passion for sports while building athletic excellence. It hosted many cultural and international activities.

According to the Minister’s words, he is focused on playing his role in restoring the National Stadium back in shape. With this, he decided to share some details of his efforts. The total budget for complete renovation of the stadium is N21 billion but only N400 million was generated with a little addition of the ministry’s budget allocations. The strained economy has caused an increase in the amount required for renovating the sports stadium. As a result, the three years’ budget allocation of N21 billion has increased to N45 billion.

Over 108 illegal structures occupied the stadium.

Exchange rate when the renovation began was between 400 and 450 but now, it has risen beyond these rates. The Ministry operates according to the Nigerian economy and exchange rates however difficult it might seem in the sports system. Mr. Dare said he has appealed to sponsors, putting his good will and reputation on the line but they are yet to turn up. Despite the situation, he assured that some things have been put in place and some prospects can still be achieved with ongoing innovations.

At the beginning of Mr. Dare’s administration, he said the stadium was abandoned, with hundreds of people always drinking and partying. It has over 108 illegal structures and was looking more like a marketplace rather than a stadium. The aim of the administration was to return the stadium to its original architectural design. To achieve this, over 98 illegal shops were brought down — this action led to an attack against the minister and protests from the people. After the demolition, the ministry put things in order with the limited resources available.

Efforts are continually being made to improve the stadium’s condition.

There is a strong belief by the ministry that the stadium will be fully revamped soon, with the accurate positioning of the natural grass, electronic board and almost completed laying of the tartan tracks. This belief is on the basis of the ministry’s successful renovation of the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja — financed by Aliko Dangote — and Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, fully bankrolled by the government. The efforts made by the ministry in Lagos National Stadium has moved its condition in the right direction.

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