Stakeholders are of the view that one of the ways to address challenges of unemployment and criminal tendencies among the youth population is to develop sporting facilities at the grassroots. However, authorities of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would rather watch such facilities like the Kuje Mini Stadium project rot away. ANDREW ABAH and GBENGA OMOKHUNU report.
Kuje mini stadium, which was initiated and started in 2012 is seriously begging for attention as the sports arena is in a very sorry state. The facility has since been taken over by hoodlums who take cover thereafter launching attacks and hapless residents.
A first look at the uncompleted structure, designed to accommodate about 2,000 spectators, shows that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has abandoned the project which was meant to enhance sports development at the grassroots and also generate income.
Shamefully, the main entrance to the abandoned stadium facility has become a huge refuse dump thereby exposing residents, especially those living in that vicinity to the risk of airborne diseases and outbreak of an epidemic.
It is more shameful that the multi-million naira project, located at Kuje Quarters, is less than 10 minutes’ walk from the Kuje Area Council secretariat.
This has heightened insecurity in the area as residents no longer feel safe passing through the area. Fear of attacks by armed hoodlums hangs heavy in the air.
This development might have informed the recent visit by the Minister of State for the FCT, Dr. Ramatu Aliyu, to the abandoned stadium project.
Not a few were alarmed when the Minister described the project as one of the “non-existent projects” in the area council, apparently as a result of the extent of dilapidation of the structures.
She, however, reiterated the commitment of the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s drive towards the completion of all abandoned projects.
As a way out, the Minister stressed that the FCT administration might consider the Public, Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to complete some of the identified projects, especially the mini-stadium which is replicated in all the six area councils.
The Dr Aliyu also used the occasion to call for adequate funding of the Area Councils, to decongest the city centre, noting that the tour of facilities was to identify areas of urgent needs.
According to her: “As far as I am a concern, the Kuje stadium is non-existence because it has not been put to effective use in the past five years. The entrance has been overtaken by refuse dump and no sporting activities are taking place in the main stadium.
“We are going to build shops at the entrance of the stadium, and that will discourage people from dumping their waste right by the side of the stadium. We are even considering the option of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to achieve this because if the stadium is put to effective use, some of our youths will be meaningfully engaged.
“We are focusing on completion of abandoned projects in area councils and that is the essence of our tour. President Mohammadu Buhari’s mandate is to complete all abandoned projects.”
The Director of FCT Sports Council, Dilichukwu Onyedima, said the idea of a mini stadium in all the area councils was initiated by his predecessor, Alim Musa.
That was during the tenure of Mrs Blessing Onu, then Social Council Secretary. Onyedima said the idea of building a stadium in each of the six council areas was to decongest the mini-stadium at the city centre during sporting events.
He observed that facilities in the city stadium, located at Area 10, are getting overstretched with the football pitch losing its grasses.
More importantly, the concept of building a mini stadium in each of the council areas was to help discover and develop talents at the grassroots.
The minister herself acknowledged the abundant sports talents that needed to be identified and groomed for national and international sporting events
She said: “We have area council sports officers that report directly to us. The facilities not available in the councils affect our performance at local competitions.
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We have also introduced what is known as KNOW AND APPRECIATE THE GAME, basically to encourage them. I know and believe that if the mini stadia in the councils are completed, it will enhance sports development in the Federal Capital Territory and equally bring in supporters and sponsors of sporting events.
The Edo 2020 National Sports Festival is fast approaching and we need these facilities to be put in place. The FCT has been doing well in sports but we can do better, even compete with states like Delta, Edo and Lagos if the stadia in councils are completed”.
Also, the Chairman of Federal Capital Territory Football Association, Abba Mourktar Mohammed, during a visit to the abandoned stadium, described the pitch as “desert” which can’t encourage any meaningful football development. He said no player can develop without a playable pitch.
“For me as head of football in the FCT, I will look for a way to meet with the Kuje Area Council Chairman, to see how we can work together to provide the basic, which is the pitch. Kuje is very important to the FCT apart from being the Food Basket of the Territory. Some great young talented footballers need to be discovered and projected. As part of our plan, if we work on the pitch, some of our Abuja based clubs participating in the nationwide League One and the Nigeria National League would like to make Kuje their home ground because of the proximity to the city centre and the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport which is less than 20 minutes. I am happy that the federal capital administration has shown interest in putting the necessary facilities in place and completing the mini-stadium. Ordinarily, the Prisons Football Club don’t need to come to area 3 pitch for their league matches if the pitch is playable”, Mourktar said.
The Executive Chairman, Kuje Area Council, Mr Abdullahi Suleiman Sabo, had, a few months ago, promised to commence work on the abandoned mini stadium, with special attention to the pitch and the stands. Sabo gave the assurance during the Kuje Area Council Chairmanship Cup final event.
The council chairman, however, said competing for project options amid paucity of funds, has affected plans to embark on a comprehensive rehabilitation of the stadium. He had nevertheless assured that the football pitch would be ready before the next edition of the competition, which is an annual event.
Our correspondents made efforts to get the chairman’s reaction on why the promise he made some months ago regarding rehabilitation work on the stadium has remained unfulfilled.
Also, attempts to get his reaction on the huge refuse dump close to the entrance of the secretariat and which has become a threat to public health, were futile.
Numerous telephones calls and SMS messages to his mobile line were not answered up to the time of filing this report.
And till the relevant FCT authorities make good their promise to rehabilitate the abandoned mini-stadium project, the only visible public facility in the Kuje Area Council is the prison yard, which has been renamed correctional centre.