The decision of the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, in September last year to relocate his office to the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja has had two major impacts on the facility built in 2003.
One, it has become the centre of several activities, meetings, trainings and official government engagements. Secondly, the stadium has witnessed a lot of improvements with limited funds available.
According to the Special Adviser on Media to the Sports Minister, John Joshua Akanji, “a number of evidences now exist to confirm these developments. The stadium velodrome, the white shaped architectural piece has been fully restored to a 100 per cent functionality.
“Prior to the Minister’s coming to the Stadium, that velodrome roof had holes while rodents had made the place their abode. Presently, it has been certified to host any continental and international event.
“Recently, the African Cycling Federation held its continental championships there,” observed the ministerial aide.
Akanji also revealed that new barricade had been installed with new markings to make the place ready to host more sporting activities.
“The Rotunda Indoor Sports Hall which had a part of its roof completely blown off was fixed late last year and is now delightful to see children and young gymnasts practice there and also host competitions.
“The multi-purpose indoor sports hall where basketball, badminton and other sports are played is also fully functional.
“Also, about four Tennis courts are functional while the ministry is concluding plans with a private organization that has agreed to restore all the tennis courts at the Moshood Abiola Stadium,” he noted.
Akanji recalled that because of the work the minister has carried out at the stadium, it became convenient for the Nigerian Olympic Committee to receive the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach alongside presidents of Olympic committees from over 25 African countries there.
“Thomas Bach upon completing a tour of the main bowl marveled at the terraces and the design of the stadium and commended the Nigerian government for erecting such a sporting arena.
“Of course, he wanted to see that the football pitch and tracks are quickly restored to the highest standard,” stressed the SA Media.
He further hinted that after the Minister of Youth and Sports and FCT Minister carried out a joint inspection of the entire stadium with their permanent secretaries and their teams to explore areas of collaboration last November, plans are ongoing on how to complete some of the abandoned projects.
“Plans are afoot to jointly restore to full functionality the car pack within the stadium premises and also complete the bridge that connects the stadium to the road in the CBD axis.
“Also, the plan to have a five-star hotel and mall in the stadium ground fully funded by private organizations is being discussed by the FCT.”
The Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja was one of the football pitches to benefit from the “Adopt Initiative” of the Ministry with Dangote Group agreeing to fix the football pitch, the tracts, the flood lights and the score board.
“The water supply is back. Power from the national grid is back. Two of the generators down have been fixed and working. The security lights in the perimeter of the Stadium are now functional since February,” Akanji stressed.
The ministerial aide explained further that the concession of the 250-room Atheletes Hostel in Abuja and the National Stadium Surulere, Lagos were now in advanced stage for private sector to take over them.
It was learnt that the annual maintenance budget of the Abuja Stadium submitted by Julius Berger is N1.2 billion. Government in the last 12 years has not being able to make provision for this. The Ministry has had to manage between N50m to N120m yearly to maintain the huge edifice.
Despite this paucity of funds, the sports minister insisted recently that
gone were the era when national facilities were left to waste away.
“These facilities have been abandoned for years, so no magic can fix them in eight months. However, since we came into office, we have initiated multiple processes both public and private to get the stadiums fixed.
“Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El Rufai, has committed to fixing the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna while the National Stadium in Lagos is to be concessioned. Even the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium in Ibadan will soon be on the path to concession.
“So we want to restore their lost glory for the benefit of our athletes and all Nigerians. The long years of neglect canot be corrrected over night,” Dare had declared.