Abuja stadium need to wear the glory of its new name

The Abuja National stadium will be renamed Moshood Abiola National stadium following President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration during the Democracy day celebration at the Eagles Square on June 12. Abiola was adjudged to have fairly won the presidential elections in 1993 but the results were annulled by former military President, Ibrahim Babangida to the dismay of Nigerians.

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He said, “Today, I propose the renaming of the Abuja National stadium henceforth, it will be called Moshood Abiola National stadium”.

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On the 6th of June 2018, Buhari, also awarded Abiola with Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), meant only for Presidents.

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Many football fans will be happy with this latest decision by the President but is changing the name of the National stadium the right thing to do knowing that the stadium now serves as ‘grazing reserve’ with Fulani herdsmen and their cattle traversing the length and breadth of the facility without restriction, according to recent reports.

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The stadium was completed during the buildup to the 8th All African Games (COJA) 2003, which was hosted by Nigerian. The project was awarded in 2000 to Schlaich Bergermann and Partners at a whopping sum of $360 million (which is equivalent to 130 billion naira according to the rate of Nigerian naira to dollar in today’s market) under the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

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It is rated among the 50 most expensive in the world as at 2017, the 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. 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.

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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. With all these exciting features in the stadium at the time it was built, sixteen years after all we could talk about is the renaming of the stadium and not bothering about the state of the stadium which has gone down the drain.

Abuja National Stadium

The current state of the stadium is a perfect reflection of Nigeria’s perennial problems of poor maintenance and mismanagement. The football pitch can be compared with a make-do pitch in some villages or local areas where children or teenagers test their football 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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr once lamented about the bad state of the Abuja National stadium, describing it unplayable.

“It is regrettable that the Super Eagles do not have a home ground for matches, I have worked in several African countries and national teams play in the capital. The last time I checked, the Abuja stadium was unplayable” “Nigeria deserves better,” the Franco-German tactician added.

The Super Eagles have been playing their recent games at the Stephen Keshi stadium, Asaba Delta state. Now that we need the stadium to be back at its best, all we could get from Mr. President is just the change of name and not how to make the stadium better in order to fulfill the main purpose it was built for.

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The restructuring of the stadium should’ve been the utmost move for the Buhari led administration rather than changing the name first. It is good to change names of stadiums but in this situation, the Abuja Stadium need to wear the glory of it’s new name given that it can’t be compared to some of the stadiums we have around in the country due to poor management.

The likes of Godswill Akpabio Stadium and Stephen Keshi Stadium even not being in their best condition can still host games compared the newly named ‘Moshood Abiola Stadium’.

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