The Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja is wearing a new look after the sports ministry fixed several of the facilities inside the country’s number one stadium.
Formerly known as the National Stadium, Abuja, it was renamed after Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, last year.
Saturday PUNCH had reported that the stadium, which was built at a whopping $360m to host the African Games in 2003, had deteriorated while the environment looked unkempt and rough with grasses growing all over the walkways and parking lot.
Last week, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, installed a signpost with the stadium’s new name at the entrance of the arena.
And ahead of the 27th anniversary of the June 12 polls on Friday, the stadium wore a new look following renovation works at the arena, with the grasses cut and several of the facilities given a facelift and in good shape.
Our correspondent learnt that the stadium’s velodrome, the white shaped architectural masterpiece, once a sight to behold, had been renovated, after it became home to rodents and birds due to years of abandon and lack of maintenance.
The rotunda indoor sports hall, which had a part of its roof blown off, has been renovated by the ministry, it was also learnt.
A source close to the minister told our correspondent that in his bid to ensure that the stadium was brought back to life, Dare last year relocated his office to the Moshood Abiola National Stadium.
“The move has had two major impact,” our source said. “Firstly, the stadium has become the centre of several activities, meetings, trainings and official government engagements. Secondly, it has witnessed a lot of facility improvement within the limited funds available.
“The minister thrice weekly holds meetings and consultations in his office at the stadium. Many strategic meetings, mostly sports-related, are held in the stadium, including two meetings with all federation presidents. It’s a sign that he wants to bring the place to life because nobody wants an untidy place for an office.”
John Joshua-Akanji, media aide to the sports minister, admitted that maintaining the stadium came at a huge cost, but was optimistic that the minister’s sponsorship drive would help solve the problem of managing the arena.
He said, “The water supply is back, power from the National Grid is also back, while two of the generators are back. The security lights in the perimeter of the stadium are now functional, since February. The budget for annual maintenance of the stadium as submitted by Julius Berger is N1.2bn yearly. Government in the last 12 years has not been able to make provision for this.
The ministry has had to manage between N50m to N120m yearly to maintain the huge edifice.”
Meanwhile, Dare has reemphasised his commitment to ensuring that other stadiums across the country are brought back to life.
On Tuesday he set up a task force for the rehabilitation of the National Stadium, Lagos.
Speaking during the inauguration of the task force, Dare said the members had a mandate to help government commence the initial steps to bring back the lost glory of the edifice.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Gabriel Aduda is the head of the 13-man committee, which has three weeks to complete its assignment.
“These facilities have been abandoned for years, so no magic can fix them in eight months,” Dare said.
“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 is committed to fixing the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna, while we hope to concession the National Stadium, Lagos. Even the Awolowo Stadium in Ibadan will soon be on the path to concession.
“So, we want to restore their lost glory to the benefit of our athletes and all Nigerians. The long years of neglect cannot be corrected overnight. Saturday PUNCH reports.