Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reversing the Decay at Abuja National Stadium

There is no gainsaying that Nigerian government and its officials have penchant for waste. The evidence of this abounds in the way we utilize public resources. Public edifices and utilities are often treated with disdain. One of such is our stadia that dot Nigerian landscape. These recreational monuments are built with enormous resources but are hardly maintained after completion. Sport is under the concurrent legislative list hence as there are national stadiums, there are also state owned stadia as well as township sporting arenas. Before the construction of the Abuja National Stadium between 2000 and 2003, there was National Stadium, Lagos which alongside Liberty stadium in Ibadan provided play ground for many international football and other sporting competitions either being hosted by Nigeria or in which the country is participating. Today, these stadia no longer host sporting fiestas but have turned to pepper soup joints where night crawlers now feed their stomachs rather than a place where spectators come to watch beautiful games. The reason for this negative change of fortune for these sporting centers is not far fetch; the facilities there are not being maintained.

I was further grieved on Friday, 16 March 2012 when one of the television stations in Nigeria, African Independent Television (AIT) featured as its ‘Big Story’ the current deplorable situation of our Abuja National Stadium, an architectural masterpiece built at the cost of $360 million in 2003 to enable Nigeria host the 8th All African Games. An internet source, Wikipedia disclose that the state of the art facilities built at the stadium include: 60,000 capacity covered main bowl; Presidential Suite and Viewing Area; 56 Corporate Suites; Modern turnstiles; Box Office; Post offices; Banks; Media Facilities; Two Score Boards and Flood Lights; Shops and Kiosks for Snacks; A standby Power Supply System; Helipad; 3000-capacity Indoor Sports Hall; 2000-capacity Gymnasium; 2000-capacity Swimming Pool; 4000-vehicle capacity public parking lot; One artificial lake; 3000-capacity Hockey Stadium; 400 capacity VIP Car Park. The Abuja Stadium is equipped with emergency service units, closed circuit security cameras as well as crowd control steel fencing. There are also stand-by fire fighting equipments and metal detectors which have been put in place to avoid any misfortunes. A Games Village was also built as an adjunct of the stadium to provide accommodation for the over 6,000 athletes from around the continent who participated at the 2003 Abuja All African Games.

On the AIT ‘Big Story’ the reporter showed footage of a stadium in decay less than 10 years after construction. The stadium has not had light for upward of 6 months! This being the situation, the automated facilities cannot be put to use. The pitches has gone brown because the sprinkler meant to daily wet the stadium grass has no electricity to power it. The toilets are stinking because there is no water to maintain sanitation and hygiene within the stadium complex. With light out, the security of the facilities are compromised as they are susceptible to vandalisation by hoodlums. The facilities are also rusty due to under use as the stadium hardly witness patronage either by athletes or spectators. At a point in time, part of the stadium was being rented out for religious services. All that has stopped. Yet, but for occasional international matches involving Nigerian football teams, the gigantic sporting complex hardly ever see any action all year round.

It is imperative for Nigerian sporting authorities viz. National Sports Commission, Federal Ministry of Sport, Nigeria International Olympic Committee, all the Sporting Associations and Federations to come together to find a lasting solution to the ongoing rot at the Abuja National Stadium and indeed all the stadia in Nigeria. Part of the problem, I learnt, is inadequate subvention to the stadium to enable the managers carry out routine maintenance of the facilities. Something drastic and urgent has to be done to redeem the current appalling situation on ground at the Abuja National Stadium. The stadium can be concessioned out or privatized for better management. It can otherwise be commercialized so that the complex starts to generate resources, at least, to maintain itself. The importance of sport as a unifying factor, money spinner, means of recreation and employment generator cannot be over-emphasized. Sport business is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and Nigeria should tap into that. This architectural masterpiece must not be allowed to go the way of other Nigerian national stadia. A stitch in time saves nine.