As expected, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports commenced the demolition of illegal structures within the National Stadium complex in Lagos yesterday following the expiration of the quit notice given to the occupants.
THISDAY checks revealed that not less than 120 structures mostly food kiosks, food vendor shops and sports shops that were not in the initial Master Plan of the complex are been demolished.
The clear out exercise is to end tomorrow (Friday) which will form first phase of the process by the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, to restore sanity to the sports sector in the country.
Before this development, Federal Government, through the Ministerial Implementation Committee of the Sports Ministry had given all the affected owners of the illegal structures 14 days ultimatum to dismantle their shops at the stadium. That notice expired on September 1, 2020 before the bulldozers rolled in to start work.
It was also learnt that some shop owners had reportedly been putting pressure on the ministry’s Top officials to stop the Implementation committee from doing the needful but it yielded no dividend.
“The Sports Minister had secured the permission of President Muhammadu Buhari before taking this holistic decision which many before the current minister failed to do,” a top official from Abuja informed THISDAY last night.
Since 2004, the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, has been abandoned with virtually all aspects of the complex, including the main-bowl seats, tartan tracks, the playing turf and the media centre in terrible state of decade.
The state of the edify made some entrepreneurs to transform the ‘Sports-city’ into business venture when numerous drink bars/joints emerged to give the 48-year old monument a lifeline.
It became a meeting point for business meetings during day time and to lovers and corporate men and women, a relaxation arena in the bid to avoid rush hour traffic at night.
Interestingly, majority of the occupants (shop owners) have legitimacy to the spaces they occupied because they all have receipts to back up their stay at the complex.
As at yesterday, all the shops under the ramps leading to the main-bowl of the complex have all been demolished while offices in same areas harbouring some associations affiliated to government were given the boot as well.
However, while most of the sports related shops and offices were marked for demolition, the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) and the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Lagos Chapter buildings not in the original Master Plan were spared in the exercise mainly because they are partners in sports development according to the report of the committee.
On assumption of office last year, Sports Minister, Dare had made it clear that the stadium which has been abandoned for long was not constructed for business purpose outside sports.
Dare in a statement through his official twitter handle had announced the inauguration of a Task Force which was to regulate the activities of business activities inside sports facilities across the country.
“Today, I inaugurated the task Force on the verification of the businesses in the National Stadium Surulere. This is a first step towards the reopening of the stadium but also meant to restore some sanity to the stadium ahead of the concession.
Dare said then that the measure was part of the larger plan to concession the stadium via a Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
The Task Force, it was gathered completed its assignment under three weeks during which all the occupants were screened and the aftermath led to the ongoing demolitions.
The stadium was built during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon in December of 1972 towards the hosting of the 2nd African Games the following year.
Since then, it has played host to many important events including the African Cup of Nations in 1980 and 2000, FIFA Under-20 finals in 1999, African Athletics Championship and outside sports, it staged the FESTAC 77.
It has been a training ground for athletes but in the last 15 years, it was reduced to staging Inter House Sports mainly by private schools and other novelty events. It was also venue for many religious events until they were ban from holding at the main-bowl.