FG Signifies Intention to Cede National Stadium to Lagos

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*Ambode approves N3.6bn for Onikan stadium

*Okays viewing centre for Russia 2018

Gboyega Akinsanmi

After one year of high politics that undermined its expression of interest in the National Stadium, Surulere, the Lagos State Government on Tuesday disclosed that the Federal Government had finally agreed to cede the facility.

Consequently, the state government said its top functionaries would go to Abuja next week to finalise the process of handing over the National Stadium in line with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC), Mr. Kweku Tandoh made the disclosure yesterday at a ministerial press briefing he addressed at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa. Ikeja.

He addressed the press briefing alongside the Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan; the Director General of LSSC, Mr. Babatunde Bank-Anthony and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Mrs. Kofoworola Awobamise among others.

The state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode had on March 1, 2017 inspected the National Stadium alongside the Minister of Sports & Youth Development, Mr. Solomon Dalung and other state functionaries.

At the inspection of the sports facility, the minister lamented that the edifice “is in a sorry state. The level of dilapidation is very embarrassing. It can never be equated with our civilisation as a people.”

In response to an inquiry on the plan of Lagos State to take over the National Stadium,Tandoh disclosed that President Buhari had already gave verbal approval to release to the facility during his two-day visit to Lagos in March.

He explained that Ambode re-presented the request of Lagos State to take over the National Stadium mentioned in a speech he delivered the presidential dinner the state government organised for the president during the visit.

After the governor re-presented the request, Tandoh said the president verbally gave approval “to release the facility to the Lagos State Government,” noting that the process of handover would commence next week.

Just on Monday, Tandoh disclosed that Ambode gave directive that he should proceed “to Abuja next week to deliver some communication that is necessary and put in place handover of the National Stadium to Lagos State. I hope this time the federal government will hand it over on the terms of the Lagos State Government.”

He gave insight into diverse issues that undermined the state’s interest to take over the sports facility, Tandoh noted that the state government signified interest in taking over the National Stadium completely.

He noted that state government “did not just signify interest to take over the National Stadium completely. The state governor met with the Minister of Sports and Youth Development. They agreed to inspect the facility. And they eventually inspected the facility in 2017.

“Later, they were signs and signals that the federal government was not ready to hand over the facility to Lagos State. It was as if the federal government only wanted concession agreement with Lagos State.

“The arrangement simply required Lagos State to fix the sports facility and use it for an agreed period of time. But the federal government will still be the owner. That is not what Lagos State wants,” he noted.

After explaining that the federal government’s readiness to transfer the National Stadium to Lagos State would boost sports development, the chairman disclosed that N3.6 billion had already been approved for the reconstruction of Onikan Stadium in Lagos Island.

He noted that the Onikan stadium “has been modelled to an all-covered ultra-modern international stadium with the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) certified artificial turf and multipurpose arena for entertainment concerts with capacity to accommodate 10,000 spectators.”

Concerned by the state of the economy ahead the 2018 World Cup holding next month, Tandoh disclosed the governor had approved establishment of three viewing centres for the 2018 World cup in Russia.

He said the three locations selected for the viewing centres “are Ajegunle, Alimosho and Mushin Local Government. The centres will be in place for the duration of world cup and will serve as venues where people in those areas can watch world cup matches free of charge.”

“The viewing centres will operate all through the world Cup for residents not to miss any action from Russia. Preliminary works have already commenced on the construction of Maracana Stadium in Ajegunle.”

He said approval had also been given for the employment of full time coaches as well as contract coaches, while training grants were also paid for a total of 300 state athletes in individual sports, combat sports, team sports, racket sports, traditional sports, para-sports and deaf sports.