Once Upon Our National Stadium, By Ikeddy Isiguzo

Ikeddy Isiguzo 
MY appearance on Channels Television’s News @ 10 on Wednesday night to speak on Lagos State’s “take over” of the National Stadium has elicited various reactions. I expected them.
A common line is that the Federal Government is unable to maintain it. The logic is that Lagos that can should “take over” the stadium. The interest in restoring the stadium should not over ride procedure which I think is important to avoid a dangerous precedent under the pretence of exigency.
References have been made to Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, which the Federal Government returned to the Enugu State Government on 5 November 2013. It was a regional facility the Government of Eastern Nigeria built. The Federal Government acquired it after renovations for the 1999 FIFA U-20 Championship.
The Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna, after renovations for it to host the 1977 National Sports Festival came under federal control. The same applied to the Liberty Stadium in 1979 which the Federal Government upgraded for the National Sports Festival. Both stadia were build by regional governments.
One of the justifications for handing over the National Stadium to Lagos State Government is that the stadia in Enugu, Kaduna and Ibadan have been returned to governments of those States.
Minister of Youth and Sports Solomon Dalung an Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, inspecting facilities at Surulere National Stadium, Lagos on Wednesday, March 1.
Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium returned to Enugu State after it applied to the National Sports Commission. The application passed through the Federal Executive Council. President Goodluck Jonathan approved.
That was how Enugu got the stadium back at a ceremony at the Government House when then Director General of the National Sports Commission, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye handed over the documents approving the transaction to Gov Sullivan Chime. Anyone can verify this deal.
Liberty Stadium is still under the Federal Government. No process has commenced to return it to the Oyo State Government, or any State Government in the former Western Region.
The Kaduna State Government tried unsuccessfully in 1989, under Maj-Gen Y. Y. Kure, Minister of Sports, to take back the Ahmadu Bello Stadium. More efforts since 2009 proved futile. Other States in Northern Region staked their claim to a common asset.
Moreover, Kaduna State has not made a formal bid through the National Sports Commission to the Federal Executive Council.
National stadium mainbowl
Dilapidated mainbowl of the National stadium, LAGOS.
Our National Stadium is a common asset. Whatever state it has fallen into does not minimise its ownership or the fact that it belongs to the 36 States of the Federation, plus the Federal Capital Territory. It was entirely built with federal funds. Its location does not make it an asset of Lagos State, to be “taken over” by Lagos State.
Lagos has not applied to the Federal Executive Council to “take over” the stadium. Unless it follows this procedure the exercise would be mired in endless controversy. It is not good for the National Stadium nor for more enterprising States like Lagos.
The National Stadium is a nice piece of estate. Its dilapidation does not take that away. Behind the stadium is a swathe of undeveloped land bigger than the current site of the stadium meant for future developments. Encroachments have taken some of it away, yet what is left is prime property.
Uses for the land can include a prime housing estate, an entertainment centre as the Lagos State Government mentioned, in passing, a shopping mall, a hotel. The National Stadium is more than the dilapidated main bowl.
It is an asset, a national asset, an attractive asset that if thrown open for bid can attract investors. The proceeds of the deal should naturally return to the national purse because the National Stadium is a national asset.
Maybe nobody told the Minister of Sports about procedures. His enthusiasm cannot mitigate a mistake that he is making. The “take over” of the National Stadium has not been discussed even at meetings of the Ministry of Sports. The Minister was at the National Stadium inspection with Lagos State Governor Akin Ambode, who promised to fix the stadium in the next six months. It is an impressive promise. I am among many who cannot wait to see the National Stadium restored.
None of the Directors in the Ministry, who should be involved in the deal – Director of Facilities, maybe Director of Sports Development – was at the inspection.
Why would Lagos’ “take over” of the National Stadium not follow due process? What are the details of the deal? Who approved it? Can such massive asset of the Federal Government be disposed off at the instance of the Minister of Sports? Why dabble into an inchoate deal? Are we really interested in improving the National Stadium?
My position is simple – let the deal on the National Stadium be transparent. The National Stadium is an asset, bad as it looks. Any transactions on it should follow procedures that should ensure the National Stadium is restored to benefit of Nigerians.
I am not against Lagos State, any State or anyone, taking over the National Stadium. The take over should meet conditions for disposing national assets. Those procedures have never been in doubt: what is going on is not one of them.

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