By Tunde Oyedele
The sports loving Nigerians, who visit the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos on regular basis, should henceforth watch their step, as the sports ground now harbours dangerous reptiles such as crocodiles, alligators and pythons to mention just a few. In fact, call the stadium a mini-zoo in Nigeria and you won’t be totally wrong because the animals hibernate near the National Institute for Sports, NIS. Eyeonthesports.com gathered that the dangerous creatures reside at a neglected piece of land adjacent the NIS, inside the stadium, where the Christian Chukwu-led Green Eagles won the 1980 African Cup of Nations.
The abandoned property is behind the Yaba Railway Station, while the spectators coming to enjoy football matches from Yaba, Ebute Metta and Tejuosho environs enter the stadium through the gate situated at the location.
The immediate neighbours of the reptiles and other dangerous animals living in the arena are the athletes who train on the training pitch of the stadium, students and coaches who study at the Institute and lodge at the NIS Hostel.
Narrating the discoveries, the National Sports Commission, NSC Liaison Officer in Lagos State, Mrs. Tayo Oreweme confessed that the portion of the stadium is filled with dangerous reptiles.
Oreweme, who conducted a delegation of House Committee on Sports, led by Honourable Godfrey Gaiya, round the stadium on Friday, said the complex need an immediate attention of the Federal Government.
“This piece of land has been there since the 70s when the stadium was built but nothing has been done on it. We see some crocodiles and other dangerous reptiles whenever they come out of the swampy area”, the Sports Ministry officer told the inspection team.
Further investigation by eyeonthesports.com revealed that the reptiles come out to hibernate near the Administrative building of the NIS during heavy downpour, making that part of the stadium a no-go-area especially at night.
“The reptiles are forced to come out probably to keep their heads above the water each time it rains heavily, but the management of the stadium has done well by ensuring that the bush around the swamp is cleared at all times. Otherwise, the animals would have invaded other parts of the stadium,” a staff of the NIS told eyeonthesports.com.
Oreweme, also showed to the committee, other facilities begging for the attention of the Nigeria government in the stadium. They include; the abandoned Main-bowl, where the pitch, tartan tracks and seating terraces have structural defects, Boxing and Weightlifting Gyms, Swimming pools, the Knock-up hall, Main power station, Water treatment plant and Medical Building amongst others. The committee also visited the projects at the Games Village in Bode Thomas, Surulere, where a multi million naira 3-star guest house contract awarded on 21 March, 2011 was also abandoned.
Leader of the inspection team to Lagos, Gaiya, said he was shocked to hear that such harmful creatures live in an environment meant for sporting activities in the country.
The Chairman, House Committee on Sports, further expressed his disappointment at the high level of decay of facilities at the stadium, and called for a state of emergency on all the stadia across the country.
“We from the House Committee on Sports have seen the dilapidated facilities here at the National Stadium in Surulere, and are unhappy about the situation.
“This is unacceptable to us and we believe that the sports loving Nigerians will not be happy to see these facilities like this. Having said that, we will make our recommendation to the Federal Government to begin an immediate refurbishment of the stadium,” he said.
The National Stadium, commissioned in 1973 by former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon, was abandoned shortly after the edifice hosted the 2000 edition of the African Cup of Nations co-hosted by Ghana and Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the deteriorating condition of the tracks and other facilities at the stadium have drastically affected Nigeria’s athletes who find it difficult to train properly for international championships.
Majority of the athletes, who are allowed to train at the stadium for only two days a week; Monday and Friday, had complained that the period was grossly inadequate for them to prepare for tough competitions.