Officials wrangle over maintenance of Lagos sports facilities

Posted on Mar 5 2018 - 4:36am by admin

The management and maintenance of sports facilities in Lagos is causing ripples among top officials in the state, reports ’TANA AIYEJINA

Last month, the Confederation of African Football approved the newly-renovated Agege Stadium, Lagos, for MFM FC’s 2018 CAF Champions League home games.

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had promised to upgrade the stadium, popularly known as Soccer Temple, after MFM qualified for Africa at the end of last season. The stadium got CAF’s approval just 24 hours to the Olukoya Boys’ CAF Champions League second leg match against AS Real Bamako on February 21.

“This is a wonderful achievement and I am glad to announce that this stadium has been approved by CAF to host continental matches starting with the game between MFM and AS Real Bamako,” Gambian Martinez Gomez, who was CAF’s match commissioner for the encounter, said.

A former Special Adviser on Sports to Governor Akinwunmi, Deji Tinubu, had reportedly sold the idea to renovate the community stadium to the governor before his demise in January.

The upgraded stadium today boasts a state-of-the-art VIP lounge, fully equipped dressing rooms for teams, match officials and dedicated offices for official purposes and post-match conferences.

The Press Tribune has 50 seats and charging ports have also been installed to aid on-the-spot reports by the media alongside a dedicated Wi-Fi Internet connection reputed as first of its kind in West Africa.

Though the new-look stadium has offered Lagos residents the opportunity to watch continental games and also improve economic activities in the area, there are fears about plans on the ground to maintain the sporting arena as well as other facilities spread across the state.

These fears arose after an alleged in-fighting amongst top officials in the sports sector during the renovation of the stadium, which reportedly led to a stop-work order on the project contractor, Irenetai Nigeria Limited, by the Lagos State Sports Commission on December 22, 2017.

Amongst other reasons, the LSSC alleged that the bid document made in respect of the project had been rejected by the Lagos State Procurement Agency “owing to lack of revised Bill of Quality, project work plan and engineering drawings.”

The LSSC, in the letter addressed to Irenetai and signed by its Director-General, Babatunde Bank-Anthony, and Gbolahan Oloko, LSSC’s Assistant Director, Facility, thus issued the stop-work order.

“Consequently, it has become imperative in the interest of safety and adherence to mandatory procurement process that your company (Irenetai) is hereby advised to stop work immediately on the project pending when necessary documentation formalities are in place… Please ensure strict compliance with the order,” the letter read.

However, Tinubu intervened and then set up an ad-hoc committee, led by Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Sports Facilities and Infrastructure, Bolaji Yusuf, to supervise the facelift of the stadium.

Yusuf and other members of the committee kept to the governor’s directive on timeliness and standard in ensuring that the job went according to specification, thus producing perhaps the best community stadium in the country at the moment.

Ambode has been lauded for his renovation of the Onikan Stadium, while the state government also disclosed that sports facilities in different parts of the state, including Badagry, Maracana, Ikorodu and Epe, will also have standard facilities.

However, the big question on the lips of close-watchers of events is how Lagos would manage the Agege Stadium because of the current conditions of some sports facilities in the state and the discord among top officials in the sports sector.

For instance, the Campos mini-stadium on the Island, once a well-lit stadium that has a mini-football pitch, a tennis court and a mini-beach ball pitch, with a capacity of 5,000 is gradually evolving into a shadow of itself.

When our correspondent visited the place recently, it was in total darkness.

“The darkness is not only here. All stadiums in Lagos owe electricity bills; some of us (workers) have not been paid. Things are not what they used to be,” a worker at the Campos mini-stadium, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated.

However, this was not the scenario under ex-governor Babatunde Fashola, who had a fantastic record of facilities management during his eight-year administration. It was learnt that Fashola, now the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, took the responsibility of facilities maintenance away from the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Sports and handed it to the private sector, which worked to good effect.

The Director-General, LSSC, Bank-Anthony, said the LSSC had “a directorate of facilities” that would ensure that the Agege Stadium was properly maintained.

“Of course we do have plans for maintenance. We have seven departments in the LSSC and facilities maintenance is one of them. We have a director who runs that department. So, me and the director oversee that department,” Bank-Anthony explained why the LSSC is ready to manage the facilities.

“We have a facility manager, Supo Williams, in Agege Stadium, just like in all our facilities. We are not just building without thinking of a maintenance plan.”

On the issue of facilities maintenance, the Lagos State Sports Commission Law 2017 states that the function of the commission is to “establish and maintain playing fields and premises for the practice of or holding of matches, competitions or contests by amateurs.”

Going by the LSSC Law, facilities such as the Agege Stadium, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Onikan Stadium and other sporting arena in the state, which are used by professional athletes, are not under the purview of the LSSC.

However, the sporting media has been abuzz in recent weeks with how Yusuf, the SSA on Sports Facilities and Infrastructure to Ambode, has been sidelined from the maintenance plans by the LSSC.

Bank-Anthony however declined comments on the issue.

He added, “I have seen what’s been going on but I won’t comment on that. There’s nothing personal; I only follow procedure. What I can tell you is that we have a director in charge of facilities in the commission. Should I disregard him?”

Yusuf, who also declined comments on his exclusion from the scheme of things, said bureaucracy in the LSSC has hampered proper sports facilities management in the state.

“Sports facilities across Lagos are not being managed properly the way they should. Those who claim to be in charge are being bureaucratic; there’s so much paper work without action,” he said.

Aside Agege Stadium, youths around the Isheri area of Lagos State are irked about the closure of the Isheri mini-stadium by the LSSC for several weeks, our correspondent has learnt.

The LSSC reportedly locked the community sports facility to enable the agency to renovate the facility.

However, some of the youth, who spoke with our correspondent, said despite the closure of the place, regular activities such as inter-house sports and other commercial activities have been ongoing inside the stadium that is meant to be closed to the public.

“We can no longer train here since the closure of the place. This community sports facility has helped in keeping youths in the area away from social vices; it also helps us keep fit. But it has been locked and we are now like fish out of water,” an angry youth, who gave his name simply as Bamidele, said.

“We are not allowed to train here anymore but normal commercial activities and schools inter-house sports have been going on inside the complex,” a footballer, who trains inside the facility, said.

Our findings show that Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games gold medallist, Dosu Joseph, whose Westerlo Football Academy had been using the Isheri facility for training before the renovation work began, had been asked to pay N3m per annum by the LSSC for him to make further use of the place.

Amidst allegations that the company contracted to clean the Agege Stadium had not been paid for eight months by the LSSC, the commission’s chairman, Kweku Tandoh, said the cleaning of the sports arena was not handed to a contractor, adding that they were not owing anybody.

“The maintenance is not contracted to anybody. It’s the commission that maintains the place,” he said.

But another contractor of one of the facilities, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said his staff endured a torrid time during the last Yuletide due to unpaid salaries.

“My workers are sad,” he said. “One walked up to me and said in Yoruba, ‘why is it that we do dirty jobs, yet we are not paid?’ I squeezed myself to buy cleaning materials for them in the last eight months. The little money we got during the Christmas and New Year celebrations was what we used to pay the workers. They saw hell.

“We held a meeting with the commission about three weeks ago and they said we would be paid. We are yet to hear from them.”

How long would the cleaners wait? Will the governor wade in to  spell out the roles of various offices in the sports sector?

Surely, time will tell.

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