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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Herdsmen convert Abuja stadium into grazing field


 

Adelani Adepegba, Abuja

Fulani herdsmen have converted the National Stadium, Abuja, into a fertile land for cattle pasture as weeds overtake the package B section of the $360m facility.

Our correspondent, who visited the stadium on Tuesday, saw tall grasses in almost every part of the complex.

Fresh and dried cow dung could be seen on the asphalt within the complex showing that the animals regularly graze on the grasses at the stadium.

The security officials manning the gate blamed the sports ministry for the deterioration in the condition of the stadium - and for giving the herdsmen unhindered access to the stadium, which hosted the 2003 All Africa Games won by Nigeria.

One of the security men, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said some of the ministry officials are happy that herdsmen have converted the busy stadium into a grazing field.

The source said, "The herdsmen come into the stadium with their cattle almost every day. They come through the collapsed portion of the fence and we can't stop them because we are not armed.

"The management are aware of the situation, but they have refused to do anything about it, meaning they are comfortable with it."

Another guard described the presence of the herdsmen and their cattle at the stadium as "an embarrassment", but noted that the security unit was helpless to stop them.

He said, "We can't stop them because we are not armed, and they (sports ministry) have refused to engage policemen to beef up the security around the stadium.

"Look at weeds everywhere on the premises and they have refused to engage someone to clear the weeds. Maybe the government is trying to save money by allowing the animals to graze on weeds."

Meanwhile, the velodrome (an arena for cycling) at the stadium complex has been under lock and key since 2015, after thousands of gas stoves bought ahead of the general elections that year were stored in it by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

The PUNCH in December 2016 exclusively reported the velodrome's deteriorating condition and the gas stoves loaded into the facility, but nearly seven months after, the cylinders have yet to be removed.

The Goodluck Jonathan administration released N5bn out of the N9.2b contract sum for the purchase of 750,000 stoves to be distributed to rural women nationwide to encourage them to use clean energy.

The stoves were however used as souvenirs by Jonathan for his re-election campaign going by the inscriptions on the cylinders.

However, the National Stadium manager, Abolore Alanamu, said the stoves would be removed within two weeks, adding that talks were at an advanced stage to re-open the velodrome.

"The National Security Adviser is involved in the matter, so I can tell you that within two weeks, the stoves will be removed," Alanamu told our correspondent on the telephone on Tuesday.

He declined to comments on the herdsmen and their cattle at the stadium, saying he was not in charge of the facility.

The Director of Communications, Ministry of Sports, Mr. Tolu Makinde, could not be reached for comments as he did not respond to calls to his phone. He had yet to respond to an SMS as of the time of filing this report on Tuesday.