Immediate past chairman of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Lagos Chapter, Fred Edoreh, has made an appeal to the Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, to adopt a human face approach to the ongoing process for the rehabilitation of the National Stadium, Lagos.
Edoreh made the appeal following the recent service of eviction notice to various operators of businesses in the facility.
While hailing the minister for the initiative towards rehabilitating and re-organising the stadium which had been in poor state for over a decade, Edoreh however pointed out that considering the outlook of the economy and the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not auspicious to displace people from businesses and employment at this time.
“It is great to see that the Hon Minister is committed to rehabilitating and making the stadium functional again. However, the process does not have to necessitate the eviction and displacement of thousands of businesses and employments that the stadium hosts.
“It is even more inauspicious at this period that their means of livelihood had been truncated for months by the Covid-19 lockdown and just when it seems to be easing and they are looking forward to returning to pick their lives again, the government strikes to kill their hope with an eviction. I pray some of them do not commit suicide. Ordinarily, things are already difficult enough. The shortfall in government revenue and downturn on the economy also gives cause to worry, then this.
“We must recognise that beyond being a facility for sporting entertainment, modern stadiums are also business centres. Rather than seek to restore the stadium to its 1970s design that did not include business places, we should be seeking to incorporate business centres in it. Luckily, there are already existing businesses there, even if by improvisions. It was not the businesses that brought the stadium into dilapidation. It was the neglect of maintenance by the successive authorities. It is even the businesses there that have helped to keep the stadium alive for the close to two decades of its abandonment, otherwise the stadium would long have be forgotten.
“I wish to suggest and appeal to the Honourable Minister to let the users be. Let us possibly seek to re-organise them into sections, give them physical and operational standards to maintain and charge them proper rents to guarantee steady internal revenue for the regular maintenance of the facility and environment.
“It is important that we keep government always about the people. We cannot afford to displace hundreds of businesses that also provides thousands of employment at this time. Government should rather be concerned to protect those businesses and employments and not a time to dip it’s citizens into greater hardship.”