Sometime last year when the country’s national team was scheduled to have a friendly match with Arsenal Football Club of London, it was discovered that the state of the Abuja National Stadium which was supposed to host the match was in deplorable condition and this raised questions after which the blame was laid on the feet of vandals whom they claimed destroyed the cable supplying electricity to the pitch and then came the issue of re-grassing the pitch in time for the match. This was allowed to drag for too long that Arsenal FC were forced to cancel the friendly.
The response to the cancellation was the decision to re-grass the itch.
Recently it was announced that the re-grassing project was completed and that it cost the National Sports Commission a whopping N96 million, while sources revealed that Arsenal FC of London had volunteered to help re-grass it to the standard applicable in the club’s Emirate Stadium in London for as low as N25 million. But all these, we gathered, fell on the deaf ears of the NSC officials who would rather contract it to Julius Berger, the company that finally did it but whose work was criticized as substandard by sport experts across the country.
This has since been generating criticism from the members of the House of Representatives, whose chairman, Committee on Sport has been vocal about the activities of the NSC; but in response the National Sports Commission has revealed to the House of Representatives Committee on Sports that the amount of money coughed out for re-grassing the Abuja National Stadium was N97 million ($600,000).
Addressing the committee members, the director of Finance and Administration in the Sports ministry, Alhaji Mustapha Mohammed declared that the sum was paid to Julius Berger, the contractor that replaced the grass on the football pitch.
“We spent N97 million to re-grass this pitch,” Mohammed told puzzled committee members while insisting that that did not include the amount spent to commission the stadium that was once used to prosecute Super Eagles home matches.
In the same vein, the chairman of the committee, Godfrey Ali Gaiya, has refused to accept the amount spent because to him the job done is substandard.
“My God, how can you use N96 million to re-grass a pitch, and this job was tested by nature right in our presence when it drizzled for few minutes and the whole place became water-logged. We have asked them to invite the contractors to come and do a good job.”
“My verdict is that I am not comfortable with the level of water log on the pitch. I was in Calabar and it rained for three days non-stop before the match and you cannot compare Calabar that is in tropical environment to Abuja that is in the Savannah where rain is lighter.
“So, if it rained in Calabar for three days when Nigeria played Malawi and I never saw anything like waterlogged spot, why should ordinary drizzling cause water ponds on the renovated Abuja pitch?” Gaiya asked.
“We don’t want to aggravate our mood further so we decided to be silent on that, but this is not good for our sport,” Gaiya fired back.