We need N40b to fix National Stadium, Lagos, says Dare
Minister for Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, has revealed that fixing the National Stadium, Lagos would cost about N40 billion.
The national edifice, which was constructed in 1972 ahead of the 1973 All Africa Games hosted by Nigeria, has been in bad shape since the Federal Government abandoned it after the construction of the Abuja National Stadium.
Successive ministers since the return of democracy in 1999 had promised to rehabilitate the arena during their tenures, only to serve out their terms without fulfilling that promise.
On assumption of duty as the country’s second sports minister under the Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2019, Dare promised to ensure that the stadium returned to life before his tenure expires.
He got the buy-in of prominent businessman and philanthropist, Chief Kessington Adebutu, to help rehabilitate the stadium through the adopt-a-facility programme. But with barely two months to expiration of Dare’s tenure as sports minister, the stadium is still in a sorry state.
Following The Guardian’s report two days ago that revealed the current state of the stadium, Dare came to Lagos on Friday to inspect the facility.
He reaffirmed his commitment to return Stadium to its original architectural design, which, he said, is different from actually fixing it.
“We got just about N400 million from Chief Kessington Adebutu and the ministry, through the Federal Government, has in the last two years, spent over N200 million on this stadium.
“My budget to fix this stadium in a year is about N120 million. Yes, timelines were not met on the renovation, but those were issues beyond my control.
“As at three years ago, the estimate to fix this place was N21 billion, but as at today, that amount has risen to N40 to N45 billion. However, give me N21 billion and I will fix this stadium immediately.
“Anyone in a hurry to fix it should bring the money. Before I came along, what was the state of this stadium, the one in Abuja, Obafemi Awolowo and the others?” he queried.
The minister said the stadium was left to rot for almost two decades before he assumed office, adding, “we have tried our best in the last three years. There are 21 things that need to be fixed here and when we showed our sponsor the list, he picked the pitch, track and digital scoreboard to fix and I tell you, 80 per cent of the job is done.”
He said that almost everything of value was stolen from the stadium, including 90 per cent of the armoured cables (worth N6.9b), which, according to him, were carted away by thieves, as well as the pipes for the water system.
“The control room was also stripped and we need money to get it up and running again,” he said.
On the stands, Dare said just 60 per cent of the terrace was still in good shape and the rest had to be taken down.
“As at three years ago, we needed N5.9 billion to rebuild the seats; but now, if we have to knock down the faulty terraces, what impact would it have on the rest of the stadium?
“If we can get the VIP section ready, we can start to have some activities in the mainbowl. We started the Adopt-a-Pitch initiative with the hope of getting sponsors, but COVID-19 affected our plans,” he stated.
Blaming the slow pace of work on paucity of funds, Dare said: “Take Kaduna State, as an example, if the Kaduna State government had not taken over the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, it would have gone bad as well, because we don’t have the funds to fix or maintain it. The Oyo State government has written to us that they wish to take over the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium and it may happen very soon. If the Federal Government has the funds, we wouldn’t turn it over to state governments.”
The minister revealed that after his meeting with the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Fund Authority (NSIA) last year, the Fund added 10 sporting facilities as critical infrastructures.
“The NSIA has agreed to take on five sporting facilities across the country, fund their renovation, upgrade and bring in facility managers, so we are turning it over to them. They will generate revenue and after getting their money back in 20 years, they will return them to the Federal Government.
“Also, for the first time in history, sports got a spot in the national development plan, this has never happened before and N80 billion was approved for sports, while N60 billion was approved for youth development. This will be funded jointly by the public and private sector,” he enthused.
He agreed that the stadium was indeed owing electrical bills, as reported by The Guardian, adding that it owed N600m before it was cut off in 2018, while it owed N150 million to Lagos State Water Corporation before it was also cut off by the organisation.
“The debt profile is huge and I had a choice to either settle them or fix what needed to be fixed. I need just N350m to fix the roof, how much is N350m? Insufficient funds is why we have been struggling with maintenance and we need more private sector support,” he said.
Dare urged the media to report sports in a more positive light, saying that doing otherwise would drive away potential sponsors.
“If the media continues to report our sport and facilities in a bad light, you’ll drive away sponsors. I appreciate what the media is doing, but we also have to state our side of the story. We are trying to get private sponsors to come in and I hope we won’t lose the steam,” he said.