Still on decaying sports facilities, wasted talents

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Last week I dwelt mainly on the role of Nigerian Lawmakers (Senate and House of Representatives) in reviving or rescuing ‘fast’ crumbling of various sporting facilities located in parts of Nigeria.

Reactions have continued to pour in since then and I have kept observing with keen interest how events had unfolded with regards to the usual end of the year increased activities by various sports federations in Nigeria.

Right inside over 60, 000 capacity Abuja National stadium (football arena), the re-grassing has continued with a little portion (within one side of the goalpost) of the pitch, the only area where the grass looks green. Every other part of the playing field is far from wearing a greenish look.

To let you understand exactly what I mean, the length of a pitch is usually between 100 yards (90metres) and 130 yards (120metres) and the width not less than 50 yards (45metres) and not more than 100 yards (90metres). At moment, less than 5metres part of the pitch is only side that seems good.

Like many that visit the stadium edifice would attest, no single match, whether competitive or friendly has been played inside for over a year now.

I further enquired to know why the playing turf appears to have grown from bad to worse, sources around the ministry of Youth and Sports muttered that the contractor handling the re-grassing job has kept experimenting to know which grass would match the kind of soil earlier used when the structure for the sports ground was erected about 14 years ago.

It’s in the public domain that after 2003, Nigeria has never hosted any major international competition like All Africa games in this same arena which has continuously decayed without any meaningful maintenance.

From time to time, equipment such as operational vehicle, motor parts, Air Condition, Computer systems, television sets and other valuables are being stolen in a dark-laden stadium especially at nights. You may ask, are there no security men within? Yes, there are a good number of them that carry out their duties (day and night) in empty stomach. Authorities concerned owe them paltry N20, 000 to N25,000 monthly salaries for as much as three to four months.

At long last! Power supply from public source has been restored to the whole stadium (both package A and B) after years of darkness all over the place on account that backlog of unpaid bills piled up.

Restoration of power supply to the place brought back water supply which on its own exposed unmaintained water pipes where water gush out and have water-logged the whole place. I just hope that those in charge of watching over the stadium would quickly swing into action before the reinstatement of power will turn to a curse on the once revered construction which cost federal government nothing less than $360 million as at year 2000 when the project plan was approved by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Barely two months ago, an athlete was said to have been electrocuted and died afterwards following the recklessness of stadium attendants/workers that refused to fix back a naked wire from either the pole or any other electrical source.
These government workers barely two weeks ago set some part of the stadium, around package B on fire in an effort to reduce bushes in some portion where deadly reptiles have been dwelling.

Up till the time I was putting down this write-up, no fewer than eight fire-fighting vehicles belonging to the Federal and FCT fire service have been abandoned for over a decade now in the stadium.

Also, the only two indoor halls made available for use for all sports that require indoor programmes or trainings have become inadequate for athletes and sports federations, some of them find it difficult to train for any upcoming national or international competitions. For those that can afford, they go as far as paying to use a private space for their trainings.

The situation is not different at National Stadium around surulere in Lagos, the most populous and industrialized city in the country which was built for the 1973 All-Africa Games. Though it initially was considered state-of-the-art, today is considered below any standard facility-wise and environmental-wise.

From year to year, federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development put together a sports summit where stakeholders including members of the National Assembly gather to brainstorm on varying issues relating to Nigerian sports. However, the resultant effect of such gathering wholly organised by the Civil Servants which again took place some two weeks ago in Abuja is yet to be felt.

Perhaps, it’s time government hand off from either supporting or funding all sports including football in Nigeria. As a Public Servant, erstwhile Director General of the defunct National Sports Commission (NSC), Dr Patrick Ekeji who at some points featured as active athlete while growing up may be foresaw the extent of dilapidation currently plaguing Nigeria Sports, and then suggested that government should handoff on managing sporting facilities but unfortunately, his advice fell on deaf ears. Now, everyone can see what has become of Nigerian Sports, many years after.

For me, the best gift which the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari would give to Sports in Nigeria will be to implement this recommendation irrespective of numerous policies concerning this sector which has been dumped in the archive of history. Let’s have a bit of fresh air for Nigerian athletes.

Thousands of these discovered athletes or would-be athletes like the trapped Libya slaves have been frustrated out of the country. While some still continued on their sporting career path, many others have completely dropped by the way side.

Yet, sports administrators mostly prefer to scout for already made Nigerian athletes that were perhaps not born in Nigeria not to talk of benefit from any domestic-systemic developmental approach. They go after them for the sole purpose of representing the country in international outings. For how long will my fatherland (dubbed most populous African Nation) continue to wallow as one without direction?

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