Victim of a Neglect Culture

The national stadium in Surulere, Lagos, is now a shadow of itself following several years of neglect of its infrastructural facilities

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Oct. 14, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

LIKE most national monuments in Nigeria, the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, is in a state of ruin. The 45,000-seater sports complex has become a source of national embarrassment. For instance, the state of infrastructure inside the stadium is a reflection of the level of decay that has taken place as a result of long-time neglect by successive sports administrations. Some parts of the stadium have been taken over by tall grasses, while some other parts now harbour rodents and other elements that make the sports arena an eyesore.

Those who saw the stadium in 1973 when it was commissioned by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, will not believe their eyes when they see what one of the best stadia in Africa, at the time, has turned into. The Lagos Stadium had all the sporting facilities, such as an imposing main bowl, an Olympics-size swimming pool, a multipurpose indoor sports hall, tennis courts, squash courts, practice pitches, association building and a games village, which is located about a kilometre away.

Main Bowl of the National Stadium Lagos
Main Bowl of the National Stadium Lagos

The stadium could be compared with the Abuja National Stadium in terms of its beauty and world-class facilities. The edifice hosted the 1973 All Africa Games, the 1980 African Nations Cup finals, which was won by Nigeria, the 2000 African Nations Cup, which Nigeria co-hosted with Ghana, the FIFA U-20 World Youths Championship in 1999, and several other competitions.

The National Stadium has been left to dilapidate since 2002 for unknown reasons. It last hosted a national team game in 2004. And it is now occasionally used for religious gatherings and has been taken over by area boys and squatters. The facility needed an urgent attention especially the Main bowl, which comprises the pitch, tartan track, seats, broken roof, floodlights, scoreboard, among others.

The level of neglect and decay in the stadium made Godfrey Gaiya, chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Sports, to call for an immediate presidential intervention to bring back the edifice to its former position. He said during his committee’s visit to the stadium on oversight function on September 30, that government should declare a state of emergency on the National Stadium, Lagos.

“The federal government should look at this sector with the view to declare a state of emergency particularly on our National Stadium, Lagos. If a state of emergency is declared with the presidency intervening directly to save the edifice from further rot and put every other thing in proper shape before handing it over to the private sectors for proper management. I think it’ll be better for this country. Certainly, no Nigerian will come here and be happy with what is on the ground. This is our national monument. It should be a place where one comes in to say I have seen the National Stadium of Nigeria. But having seen what is on the ground, advanced state of decay of the infrastructure certainly nobody is happy about it,” he said.

According to him, there is no official policy in the country that approved the abandonment of the National Stadium. “There is no official policy or deliberate thinking that the edifice of this magnitude should be allowed to waste or rot away. There is no policy that can justifiably authorise a wilful damage of the national monument, no authority worth its onion will allow or encourage wastage. Of course, tax payers’ money has been spent to put up this edifice, so I don’t think there is a policy that will approve its rot and as a parliament, we’ll never allow such a policy because the National Stadium is our collective asset and wealth. Nobody can sit down and say let’s allow it to waste.”

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