By James Agberebi:
The Lagos State government is set to take over the renovation and maintenance of the National Stadium, Lagos, which has been in a poor state for years, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
The plan to hand over the stadium to Lagos State government was announced during an inspection carried out on Wednesday by the Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung and Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode.
The stadium which has hosted international events like the Africa Cup of Nations (1980 and 2000), U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (1995) All Africa Games (1973 and 2003)and the FIFA U-20 World Cup (1999), has been in a sorry state hence the decision to hand it over to the Lagos State government to return it to its glory days.
Among the areas inspected by the Sports Minister and Governor Ambode were the Indoor Sports Hall, the table tennis hall, Legacy pitch, National Institute for Sports and the mainbowl of the National Stadium which has had most of its seats removed and the pitch which is now half sand, half grass.
Dalung decried the poor state the stadium and how it has been allowed to degenerate.
Dalung advised that a management body who will be responsible for the maintenance of stadium must be set up by the Lagos State government.
"Abuja National Stadium is already having the same situation (neglect)," Dalung said. "And my findings have shown that the management culture of these structures is very key and fundamental. You can sink any amount of money into these structures but if we don't have good managers, we are going to have problems.
"Whatever arrangement we are going to put in place, the management team must not be political, they must be very professional and patriotic in carrying out their duties. If the management don't carryout the duties expected of them, our efforts will go to waste.
"This visit is very important because it has provided us with the information of how we got to where we are today and what step we can take in the future. We have gone round, we have seen the National Stadium, Lagos, in a sorry state. The level of dilapidation is embarrassing. It can never be equated with our civilization as a people, so whatever step that can be taken must be taken to address it.
"Today we have a disaster and we must do everything possible to avert it. For Lagos State government to sustain the National Stadium, there must be a Lagos State Infrastructural Development Agency. This agency will be saddled with the responsibility of management of National Stadium and all other relevant sporting facilities belonging to Lagos State government."
Dalung revealed that if the stadium is put back in shape, a Super Eagles 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier will be staged there.
He said: "Though from Plateau State, I am a fan of Stationery Stores of Lagos and I will want your excellency to do whatever it takes to make sure the club returns because the hitory between Stores and the National Stadium cannot be detached.
"I have recieved what I can call sport football gossip from the Nigeria Football Federation that if the National Stadium, Lagos, is handed over to the Lagos State government, and renovated in six months, the next match between Nigeria versus Cameroon will be played here. This promise to bring the Nigeria versus Cameroon game here is to spur the Lagos State government so that they can achieve the desired result."
In his remarks, Governor Ambode stated that his administration will do everything possible to make sure the stadium gets the facelift it deserves.
"This visit of the National Stadium is historic because we have decided that we will join hands to prove a point that sports development is a sure way to fighting recession," Ambode told reporters.
"We cannot fold our hands and watch this monument to just waste away like that. The last match that was played here was like 15 years ago. But the truth is this, the inner key to youth empowerment is to re-establish this edifice to be world standard.
"We will like to thank Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari, who has graciously approved that the Ahmadu Bello Stadium should be given to the Kaduna State government. He has also graciously approved that the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium should be given to Enugu State and also the same with the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar.
"I want to say the Sports Minister has been wonderful because he has been at the forefront in making this happen. He has revealed that he is a fan of Stationery Stores. He advised that we get a management agency for the stadium, we already have a management. We are properly positioned and it will only spur us on and let me say we are ready to take over the National Stadium."