Lagos Stadium: As the national edifice crumbles, there are knocks.

The 55,000-capacity National Stadium in Lagos was once considered the best in West Africa.

It hosted major sporting events such as the Africa Cup of Nations in 1980 and 2000, as well as the 1999 U-20 World Cup.

The main bowl's capacity was reduced to 45,000 in 1999, and it hosted its final major event — the 2000 AFCON, which Nigeria co-hosted with Ghana.

Sunday Dare, the Minister of Sports, ordered the stadium's temporary closure last week.

This came after the collapse of one of the giant floodlights at the facility.

The floodlights pillar caved in from the middle, following a windstorm.

More worryingly perhaps, Dare also revealed that a large percentage of the stands were in a precarious state and could crumble as well.

“We also commissioned an expert report to check the stands and their integrity.

“And 40 per cent of the stands, the report said, had cracked and that we would have to knock them down completely because they are dangerous. If you fix new chairs and people sit on it, it could collapse,” Dare explained.

Oluwashina Okeleji, who works with the BBC, agrees with Dare’s decision.

“Yes, it is the right decision,” Okeleji tells DAILY POST.

“This is a stadium that has been abandoned for well over two decades. We have had large religious gatherings held at the stadium and there could have easily been a huge disaster.

“That stadium has structural defects and in my opinion, it would be cheaper to knock it down instead of repairing it,” he said.

Wale Agbede, the Head of Sports at Plus TV, adds: “Announcing it at this moment is just making it official.

“Because nothing has been happening there for a long time, except skeletal activities.

“Do I think it’s the right decision to be made? There was no decision to be made. But it now depends on the next course of action.”

There have been suggestions of the National Stadium getting privatised.

Agbede agreed, noting that, “It is clear that from every action that has been taken from successive governments and everyone that has been in charge of sports in Nigeria, that they will not pay the kind of attention needed to that stadium.

“Neither will they put in the investment that is required for the stadium to be brought back to life.

“And quite frankly, if you look at the amount of work that the Lagos state government has put into the stadium that is just opposite the national stadium – the Teslim Balogun Stadium, I don’t think the National Stadium is anymore as necessary 10-15 years.

“I understand the emotional attachment. A lot of people grew up watching the Green Eagles.

“But I think that place with its location in the heart of Lagos, that place is a prized asset and it is wasting away.

“If there’s a private investor that has a solid plan that could bring profit to the government and will help the immediate community in Surulere, I am absolutely in favour of it.

“I think the stadium should be pulled down if possible. Look at what Arsenal did with Highbury. A large section of it was converted into a very big shopping plaza with offices and businesses and they are still making money even though they moved to the Emirates.

“I think that the asset should be converted. Because if you give to a private institution, what do they stand to benefit? Any team that wants to play there, maybe the Super Eagles, could as well use the Teslim Balogun Stadium.

“If the Lagos state government continues to maintain the Teslim Balogun Stadium, there is no need for duplicity. If the Super Eagles have to absolutely adopt a national stadium, it should be the one in Abuja. Revamp it. If it has to be Lagos, then there’s a stadium around the corner. Use that one.”

Okeleji is all for the national team making Lagos its permanent home.

“There are people that always insist the Eagles should travel around the country to play. But you need to have a permanent home.

“You can look at other countries around Africa. They always have a place they call home. The Eagles are homeless. And that could be one of the things that has changed the psychological aspect of how players see the national team.

“When you’re playing in Lagos, it should be similar to playing at the Wembley Stadium in London.

“It is about time to rediscover our identity. The Lagos crowd is a different ball game and can make life difficult for visiting teams,” Okeleji added.

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