Benue State Governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, on Friday assured that his administration is working assiduously to ensure quick return of Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) giants, Lobi Stars, to their traditional home Aper Aku stadium in Makurdi.
Rev. Fr. Alia gave the assurance when he played host to the President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau, inside the state government house in Makurdi, Benue State capital.
The governor who expressed delight with the official visit of the NFF President being his first to any state in Nigeria since he assumed office in October 2022, said already plans are on to get the rehabilitation work done on the stadium pitch, which will make Lobi Stars get back to playing their home matches in Makurdi before the end of the current League season.
The Makurdi-based side currently play their home games in Lafia, Nasarawa State. During 2022/23 season, Lobi Stars made Jos, Plateau State capital their home.
“Football is in our genes in Benue State. Football means so much to us and it does so much as a force in unifying the entire nation. For example, for us in Benue when Lobi Stars are playing, everyone in the state is glued to the radio, social media and so on to follow.
“The visit of NFF President being the number one football stakeholder in Nigeria is a great testimony of what is already in our radar.
“Currently our dear club and pride Lobi Stars, the Alia Boys play in Lafia, but fortunately Nasarawa State being our neighbour will soon lose us because our stadium will be ready before the end of this ongoing season. We are working on fixing it. The Commissioner of Youth, Sports and Creativity has been working tirelessly to see that everything is put in place to make it happen,” he said.
Governor Alia then thanked the NFF President for donating trophy for U16 competition and directed that modalities be work out immediately to ensure its smooth kick-off adding, “this initiative will spread like fire all over the state. I want the Commissioner of Youth, Sports and Creativity and all those involved to work out the dynamics on how it happen.”
Earlier, the NFF President, Alhaji Gusau commended the state government for its interest in developing Sports and remarked that Benue State has been notable for producing football stars in the past and present with a number of them who still play at various National teams while harping on the need to initiate more football grassroots development to discover future talents.
Alhaji Gusau thereafter reiterated his readiness to donate trophy for organisation of U16 youth tournament which will involve the entire 23 local government area, saying, “By the time it’s organised, we will come during the final and handover the trophy for the Executive Governor to present to the winners.
“It will be good if his Excellency will ensure work on the stadium so that Lobi Stars which are doing well will return to Makurdi. It will also be very nice if the pitch will be put in place to be of FIFA standard so that the state can host some our National team matches.”
He also urged the support of the governor for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations to enable the country’s senior men National team to succeed in Cote d’ivoire as well as during the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
While welcoming the NFF President and his entourage, the Chairman Benue State Football Association (BSFA), Barr. Paul Edeh, at the courtesy visit said his coming to the state would spark fresh football revolution.
He said, “When I first spoke with the NFF President, I informed him that his Excellency is a football loving governor who has given us safe and enabling environment to operate freely and thrive.
“I want to state that the NFF President’s visit is to see how football will be developed beyond what it is today in line with FIFA standard and it’s worthy of note that his administration so far has galvanised top football development.”
The BSFA Chairman alongside the board members commended the State Commissioner of Youth, Sports and Creativity Rt. Hon. Ikyange Terkimbi for showing leadership capacity since his appointment by the governor.
The NFF President and his entourage including the General-Secretary Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, board members – Rt. Hon. Margaret Icheen Mr Silas Agara, Alhaji Rabiu Inuwa Ahlan, among others were earlier received by the Benue State Deputy Governor Dr. Sam Ode, before proceeding to the palace of Paramount Ruler of Tiv Nation, Prof. James Ortese Ayatse.
They have safely returned to Abuja after the two-day official visit.