The white elephant of Plateau •Why multi-billion naira Jos Stadium remains uncompleted 30 years after
A sports stadium project which started in 1988 is still lying prostate almost 30 years later with billion of naira worth of equipment rotting away. ISAAC SHOBAYO writes that despite recent government interest to resuscitate the project it may remain a white elephant.
APART from being Home of Peace and Tourism, Plateau State is also known for its uniqueness in sporting activities. The state has produced quite a lot of talents whose names still ring a bell in Nigeria. This probably informed the decision of the former military administration of the state, General Lawrence Onoja in 1986 to conceive the idea of a befitting stadium for the state; more so that there was no modern and standard stadium in the entire North-Central geo-political zone to host international sporting events whenever the need arose.
General Onoja awarded the contract in 1988 with a mobilisation fee of N10 million. Shortly after he left, the project was abandoned by successive governments until the inception of this democratic dispensation when former governor, Senator Joshua Dariye, attempted to forge ahead with the project but was later abandoned for some reasons.
When former Governor Jonah Jang came to power in 2009, he promised to break the jinx by completing the stadium with the hope of making it one of the landmarks of his administration’s achievements. The stadium was restructured to accommodate 44,000 spectators with an assurance to complete it before the end of 2013.
To make it one of the best in the geopolitical zone, he worked towards ensuring that the project meet FIFA standard when completed, but he could only raise the project to about 70 perc ent completion before he left office in 2015. Insiders have attributed this shortcoming to the expansion of the scope of the project.
Apart from the expansion of the seating capacity of the main bowl of the football pitch, other sporting facilities like basketball, hockey and volley ball courts, among others, were added to the project, thus raising the contract sum to N11 billion which later went beyond the financial capacity of the state government and was consequently abandoned.
On assumption of office in May, 2015, Governor Simon Lalong assured that the stadium abandoned by his predecessors due to lack of fund would be given priority along with other uncompleted projects across the state. However, two years after, the project is still lying prostrate without hope of completion as promised.
Though it was captured in the 2017 budget with the sum of N800 million earmarked for it, the site of the project has become desolate and overgrown with weeds while imported materials to complete the work litter the project site. The company handling the project BCC Tropical Nigeria Limited has temporarily moved out of the construction site and laid off 90 percent of its staff due to lack of fund.
A highly competent source close to the construction company revealed that the company temporarily moved out of site in October last year, adding that since then, some people have been breaking into the stadium to cart away valuable items and as well vandalized fixed ones.
“The situation is further compounded by concession of the football pitch for training by Plateau United, Mighty Jet and one other club. This enabled some undesirable elements in the guise of spectators to have access to the stadium on the pretext of watching the training of these football clubs,” the source stated.
The source said further that the construction company recently raised the alarm and wrote to the state government about the decay of most of the installed facilities, adding that the completed football pitch and other equipment are left at the mercy of inclement weather, saying that non-maintenance of the artificial turf on the football pitch may likely cause a setback whenever the state government mobilised the company back to site.
Some of the other facilities that have been vandalised include 250KVA generator belonging to the construction company, while parts of the perimeter fencing of the stadium have been damaged by unknown people.
It was learnt further that imported equipment worth about N1 billion, and yet to be fixed, are rotting away following stoppage of work. Notable among them are two German-made scoreboards purchased in 2014, floodlight, among others, which probably by now would have become dysfunctional.
Sunday Tribune gathered further that the one year warrantee given by the manufacturer of the scoreboards had since elapsed by October 2016 while a concerned citizen of the state who did not want his name in print said the company cannot be held responsible, saying “if anything happens to the items because of non-release of funds by both Jang and Lalong administrations, it is not the fault of the company.
When Sunday Tribune visited the project site, there was nobody on site except a security man and men of the Special Task Force whose office is close to the stadium. The surrounding was porous and unkempt while some of the imported materials like iron, among others, litter the construction site.
State Commissioner for Sport and Youth Development, Danladi Man, said the state government is set to break the jinx surrounding the project adding that the stadium is dear to the governor and the people of Plateau State.
“The state government is working round the clock to mobilise the contractor back to site. One of the projects that are very dear to the governor is the abandoned stadium and the governor has repeated without number that the stadium would be completed before the end of his first term in office,” he said adding that due to paucity of fund and the magnitude of the project, the state government has concluded an arrangement to invite the contractor handling the project to work out modality of completing it in phases, based on the equipments and materials on ground.
On the vandalism of some of the fittings at the stadium, the commissioner said despite the fact that the project belongs to the state government, it is still in the care of the contractor handling the project.
“I am not aware that some of the fittings or equipments yet to be installed are being stolen or vandalised; the contractor should be the one to answer the question because the project is still in his care.
“The score board and other sensitive equipment purchased are also not in the custody of the government, but the contractor; if the warrantee has expired, it is the company’s responsibility to discuss with the German company that produced the equipment. So what we are trying to do is to source for fund and work out modality of executing the project in phases,” he said.
Sport lovers in the state doubt early completion of the project despite its being captured in this year’s budget. Sunday Tribune learnt that though N800 million was allocated to it this year, there is an outstanding N600 million debt which if deducted from this year’s allocation leaves a balance of N200 million which could hardly take the project far.
A cross section of those who spoke with Sunday Tribune on the development advised the government to execute the project in phases instead of trying to complete it all at once. A retired civil servant who is also a sport enthusiast, Mr Yakmut Bala advised the government to concentrate on the main pitch and execute other parts in phases.
The project started twenty nine years ago is a source of concern to the people of Plateau State considering the time and money injected to it’s so far. Sunday Tribune findings revealed that the administration of Senator Jonah Jang injected close to N7 billion into the project with the projection of completing the stadium at the cost of N11 billion. A management staff of the company who volunteer information to Sunday Tribune revealed the projection of N11 billion is no longer realistic in view of the economic situation in the country.
A top government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the stadium “has to be completed now or never, it has become a disgrace to Plateau State,” just as Sunday Tribune learnt that the projection of N11 billion to complete the project is no longer feasible.