Fun Seekers, Athletes Denied Access into National Stadium in Lagos

Femi Solaja

The quest of most users of the National Stadium in Lagos to return to their usual activities on the first day of easing the lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, met a brick wall as the sports complex remained locked yesterday.

The Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare was reported to have ordered the Sports-city to remained locked.

The 48-year old complex is witnessing its first major closure in a very long while since it was commissioned in 1972 for the 2nd African Games hosted by Nigeria due to Covid-19 ravaging the human race.

The Federal Government on the 22nd of March 2020 announced the lockdown of major cities including Lagos and the follow up was the directive from the Federal Sports Ministry that all its facilities nationwide be closed till a suitable date to reopen them.

But following the relaxing of the lockdown and subsequent guidelines released by the Governor of Lagos State Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu over the weekend, sports men and women, fun seekers and other regular visitors to the arena were looking forward to free passage to the stadium.

But they were shocked as the gates leading to the complex remained closed even to staff of the Ministry.

THISDAY checks yesterday revealed that the ministry officials are acting on the order of the Sports Minister and same thing applies to other stadiums in all the geo-political zones.

However, THISDAY learnt that the six-week lockdown has worsen the sanitation situation of the abandoned complex.Before the gates were closed, officials of the ministry engaged private firm to help with sanitation and fumigation of the entire complex to avoid epidemic outbreak.

“The stadium for now cannot be opened to visitors and staff of the ministry because of the situation we have at hand now. We are aware that a lot of people visit the complex for different reasons but in a situation that it may be difficult to control most of the activities inside, that is the main reason why it will remain closed for now.

“Last Saturday, we ensured that the entire arena was fumigated so that when normalcy returns, we won’t be challenged by any form of health hazard. We want to plead with those with legitimate reasons to use the stadium to bear with the authority, “ a top official of the ministry explained to THISDAY yesterday.

Aside the staff of the Sports Ministry and National Institute for Sports (NIS), the complex daily play host to individuals from both corporate world and miscreants who flood there to seek means of survival.

While the corporate class usually come in after office hours to unwind and network, the arena also accommodates artisans, area boys, vehicles learners, jogger outfits, petty traders, choreographers and sports men and women for their daily routine.

“If the situation improves after this partial lockdown, the complex could be opened for legitimate users because government also wants to enforce strict usage of the stadium while awaiting total renovation and takeover.

“For now nobody is allowed into the stadium and anyone or group of people found within may be arrested to trial for unlawful entry into the complex,” the official explained.

However, some of the visitors who made frantic efforts to gain access yesterday were those who either abandoned their vehicles due to mechanical faults and hoped that the lockdown will not last much and sportswear store owners whose feared vandals may take advantage of the lockdown to loot their wares if another lockdown is ordered from Abuja.

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