Completed during the buildup to the 8th All African Games (COJA) 2003, the Abuja National Stadium was awarded in 2000 to Schlaich Bergermann and Partners at $360 million under the administration of former
Rated among the 50 most expensive in the world, the Abuja National Stadium consists of a 60,491 capacity covered main bowl, presidential suite and viewing area, 56 corporate suites, modern turnstiles, box office, post offices, banks, media facilities.
That’s not all…
Others are; two scoreboards and floodlights, shops and kiosks for snacks, a standby power supply system, Helipad, 3000 capacity indoor sports hall, 2000 capacity gymnasium, 2000 capacity swimming pool, 4000 vehicle capacity public parking lot, artificial lake, tennis courts, 3000 capacity hockey stadium, 400 capacity VIP car park, baseball and softball complex.
There’s also the emergency service units, closed circuit security cameras, crowd control steel fencing as well as stand-by fire-fighting equipment and metal detectors.
Built to world class, top notch quality it was.
I remember going to the main bowl of the stadium for the calisthenics display at the opening ceremony of the COJA 2003 game, my friends and I felt like we were in at the Wembley Stadium in London. Well...
The feel of the grass on the football pitch was bliss. We knelt, rolled on the grass and danced around during our 15-minute performance with so much ease.
About fourteen years later, the Abuja National Stadium in a shadow of its former self.
Both package A to B of the stadium is a reflection of Nigeria's perennial problems of poor maintenance and mismanagement.
The football pitch shares similarities with a make-shift pitch in some villages where children test their soccer skills with 'yellowish-green' grasses and sandy spaces.
Taken over by weed, the Abuja national stadium now serves as 'grazing reserve' with Fulani herdsmen traversing the length and breadth of the facility without any restriction.
The Velodrome where the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs) 2008 took place currently serves as a storage facility.
When visited the Velodrome located at Package A of the stadium, it was filled with thousands of gas cylinders and stoves.
Fire-fighting trucks at the stadium have faulty tyres.
"These trucks can't even move in an event of fire," said an official who craved anonymity.
"The stadium is better now because of the harmattan. If you come here during rainy season, you will think that you're in a forest. Snake bites, scorpion stings are common cases here during rainy season.
"All these cows will be roaming the stadium and worst is that you cannot stop them, even the security people are tired," the official lamented.
The swimming pool provides another side to the sad tale of poor maintenance.
While the 7ft pool has clean, treated water, the 18ft is an eyesore -- call it a fish pond and you won't be totally wrong.
"Anty, u wan swim? Swimming is only N500, the cheapest in the whole of Abuja. Other places take as much as N2000 - N5000," said the coach who simply identified himself as Saheed.
Asked why the other pool had a 'pond-like' look, he replied yet again with another question.
"Anty, do you want to help us maintain the pool? You can help the government because the federal government does not have money to maintain that one. But you can help the government maintain it, it will be like a partnership," he said.
The director of facilities at the National Sports Commission, Engineer Abubakar Gusau Magaji blamed poor funding for the stadium's deplorable state.
He told Daily Trust in 2012 that Julius Berger got N1.2 billion annual allocation to maintain only Package A of the stadium. But, since the commission took over in 2012, N300m was appropriated for all the six national stadia across Nigeria namely Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Kaduna, Bauchi and Abuja.
“If you go back to the maintenance money given before when Julius Berger was there and now, there is so much difference," he said.
"Julius Berger was given N1.2 billion per annum to maintain only package A but after they left, how much money are we collecting? In this year’s budget, N300m was appropriated for all the six national stadia across Nigeria namely Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Kaduna, Bauchi and Abuja. If you divide that by six stadia, how much do you get? N50m each per stadia divide that 50 by 12 because we are not going to get the money in bulk. It comes in piecemeal. So you have N50m for Abuja national stadium, for heaven’s sake, even electricity bill will clear the money not to talk of water and other maintenance.
“The swimming pool is in a sorry state. I personally contacted the FCT Water Agency using personal contacts. I tried to explain to them when I took over that the stadium is not a money generating venture and it is government property. Apart from the swimming pool that requires a high volume of water twice a year, there is no need for too much water to be used there.
"How can somebody just sit down in his office and charge a government office a whopping amount of N75m? Where do we get N75m to pay the FCT water agency? It is not even advisable to evacuate the water inside the pool.
"It has been there for like seven to eight months unchanged. We don’t have water to put back. And if we throw away the one that is there, reptiles like lizards and frogs would take over the swimming pool. We spend billions to construct but we cannot budget N1b to maintain," he added.
The swimming coach told that the N500 charged was used to maintain the pool.
"Because the government cannot effectively maintain these facilities, we charge N500 for swimming so we can maintain it," he said.
"Also, we have swimming kits for rent at N300 for children and N500 for adults. I also train people on how to swim N25,000. It's these things that we use to take care of the pool and ourselves," he added.
But, Tony Asuquo, the gymnastics coach believes that if properly maintained, the stadium could generate income for the federal government.
"I wrote a proposal to the ministry of sports on how this stadium can become an income generator for the government but it was dumped somewhere," Asuquo told .
"The high-performance centre can generate as much as N5 million for the government weekly. We cannot maintain some of these facilities with government funds, we need individuals to come in and assist.
"There is nothing like a maintenance plan here. What happens here is that we come, clean the floor and train. The air conditioners, lights are not working. There are only a few solar panels for the street lights, you can see the grass everywhere.
"Even the national stadium in Lagos has been abandoned. They should give these facilities to clubs or persons who will manage it and pay the government rent. That's better than allowing it waste," he added.
The facility manager at the Abuja national stadium was unavailable for comments when visited his office on three occasions.
His secretary did not oblige the request of providing her principal's number saying: "My boss has not asked me to do that. My sister, I don't want to get into trouble."
Solomon Dalung, the minister of sports and youths development had told journalists at the Presidential Villa that arrangements had been concluded to engage the private sector in the management of Abuja and Lagos national stadia.
Dalung said: "I agree that there is under utilisation of sports facilities in Abuja. That has taken us to the issue of concession.
“The facilities cannot be managed effectively by the government, looking at the budgetary allocation for even the maintenance.
“Government cannot maintain those facilities. So what we intend to do is to proceed with the concession process which we met on ground. FEC in 2012 had approved concession of Abuja and Lagos stadia," the minister said.
Would concessioning of the Abuja and Lagos stadia save us from further embarrassment?
Well, only time would tell...
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