When the National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, was constructed in 2003 at a cost of N57.6 billion, tax paying Nigerians did not know that ten years later, the same edifice would require N97 million for the regrassing of the football pitch alone after it was shut in 2012 because of disruption of power supply to the stadium which affected the regular wetting of the pitch and overgrown by weeds.
The stadium was built to host the 8th All Africa Games held in Abuja in 2003 and was commissioned on 7 April, 2003 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The National Sports Commission, NSC, awarded the controversial contract for the rehabilitation of the main pitch of the stadium to Julius Berger in January this year for an alleged fee of over N97 million. The scope of the contract was the removal and replacement of the topsoil, planting the approved specie of grass, watering and nourishing the grass until roots are established, maintenance of the pitch, watering and trimming of the grass as well as the provision of new water sprinklers for the stadium.
During the re-opening of the stadium, the management of the NSC led by Bolaji Abdullahi splashed millions on musicians for the ceremony. Artistes such as Ice Prince, Olamide, White Nigerian and DJ Kenny were paid a huge sum of money for a re-opening ceremony which fans were disappointed to have witnessed because the event was marred by heavy rain which soaked the tartan tracks of the refurbished stadium.
The regrassing of the stadium for N97 million which followed the directive of President Goodluck Jonathan did not go down well with the House of Representatives Committee on Sports headed by Godfrey Ali Gaiya. Members of the committee, during their oversight function to the stadium, decried the spending of such a huge amount of money on regrassing and organising an opening ceremony of that nature.
We are alarmed that the NSC could waste public funds in that scandalous manner. If a stadium could be regrassed for N97 million, how much would it cost to build a new one? The issue of spending money not appropriated in the yearly budget has also cropped up because it is illegal for the NSC to do so.There are also questions surrounding how the sum of N1.8 billion that was appropriated for capital projects by the NSC was spent, in the light of this frivolous and outrageous spending on regrassing the stadium.
Spending so much on one stadium at the expense of other stadia that are also in very bad shape across the country is ill advised. The National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, has become an eyesore yet the NSC chose to waste N97 million on one stadium, which we believe, will also be abandoned soon. The NSC must get its priorities right and manage its resources in a frugal manner. This is not the time for profligate spending, given the parlous state of the nation’s economy.