As expected, the Ministry of Youth and Sports commenced the demolition of illegal structures within the National Stadium from yesterday following the inability of lobbyists to save their properties.
According to Thisday newspaper in Nigeria, over 120 structures mostly food kiosks, food vendor shops and sports shops that are not in the initial master plan of the edifice are been demolished and the ‘short’ exercise will end tomorrow (Friday) which will form phase one of the reformation the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare promised to bring to sports sector.
The National Stadium in Lagos was iconic and tourist attraction when it was opened on 4 December 1972. It had however seen its better days as it became derelict.
Recently, the Nigerian government through the Ministerial Implementation Committee of the Sports Ministry gave all the affected owners 14 days ultimatum before the bulldozers commence final demolition which expired on Monday 1st September, 2020.
It was also gathered that some shop owners have reportedly been putting pressure on the sports ministry to stop officials of the Implementation committee from doing the needful but it yielded no dividend.
“The Sports Minister had secured the permission of President Muhammed Buhari before taken this holistic decision which many before him failed to do,” a top official from Abuja informed Thisday.
Since 2004, the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, has been abandoned with virtually all aspects of the complex, including the seats, tartan tracks, turf and the media centre in bad state.
The state of the edify made some entrepreneurs to transform the ‘Sports City’ as its fondly referred to into business venture when numerous drink bars/joints emerged to give the 4-year old monument a ‘life’ line as it became a meeting point for business meetings during day time and to lovers and corporate men and women a relaxation arena in a bid to avoid rush hour madness on Lagos roads at night.
Interestingly, majority of the occupants (shop owners) have legitimacy to the spaces they occupied because they all have receipts to back up their stay which they have committed annually.
As at yesterday, all the stalls under the ramps leading to the main bowl of the complex have been demolished while offices in same areas harbouring some association affiliated to government were given the boot as well.
However, while most the sports related shops and offices were marked for demolition, the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) and the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Lagos Chapter were spared in the exercise mainly because they are partners in sports development according to the report of the committee.
On assumption of office last year, Sports Minister, Dare had made it clear that the stadium which has been abandoned for long was not constructed for business purpose outside sports.
Dare in a statement through his official twitter handle had announced the inauguration of a Task Force which was to regulate the activities of business activities at sports facilities across the country.
“Today, I inaugurated the task Force on the verification of the businesses in the National Stadium Surulere. This is a first step towards the reopening of the stadium but also meant to restore some sanity to the stadium ahead of the concession.
Dare said the measure was part of the lager plan to concession the stadium via a Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
The Task Force, it was gathered completed its assignment under three weeks during which all the occupants were screened and the aftermath led to the ongoing demolitions.
The stadium was built during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon in December of 1972 towards the hosting of the 2nd African Games the following year. Since then, it has played host to many important events including the African Cup of Nations in 1980 and 2000, FIFA Under-20 finals in 1999, African Athletics Championship and outside sports, it staged the ‘controversial’ FESTAC 77.
It has been a training ground for athletes but in the last 15 years, it was reduced to staging Inter House Sports mainly by private schools and other novelty events.
However, with most of the food vendors out of the premises, it is not clear the adequate provisions that would be made for genuine athletes, crowd and staff of the Sports Ministry in area of feeding considering the fact that the vendors in no small way broke monopolistic tendency of just few or one approved restaurant as the case is likely going to be.