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After 30 years, Plateau ‘masterpiece’ stadium remains uncompleted

The foundation for the Plateau multi-purpose sports complex stadium was laid in 1988, but after about nine military leaders and elected governors, the project is yet to be completed.  Although over N7 million has been spent on the structure, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that N4 billion is still required to complete the 30-year-old project.

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Major General Lawrence Onoja (rtd) was 40-years-old at the time he awarded contract for the construction of a multi-purpose sports complex stadium in Plateau State. Now, months to his 70th birthday, it is unlikely that the former military governor of the state will be pleased with the level of work at the Zaria road stadium, after 30 years. 

At the time the foundation of the stadium was laid in 1988, the stadium was expected to stand as one of the most modern and internationally acclaimed multipurpose stadia not just in the North-central region, but Nigeria as a whole. However, despite at least nine military leaders and democratically elected governors, the project is yet to be completed. From its modest beginning by Gen. Onoja, the original plan for the stadium has since gone through several adjustments and re-adjustments to meet international standard.  The immediate past governor of the state, Jonah David Jang’s aspiration had been to make the stadium the best in Nigeria and ensure it meets international standard. Jang also tried to hurry the construction with the hope that it would increase the state’s chances when it bided for the 2014 National Sports Festival.

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This never came to pass and the stadium still stands uncompleted on the Goodluck Jonathan way, along Zaria road in Jos.  About N4 billion is still needed to complete the project, which has already gulped N7 billion based on information gathered from the state Ministry of Sports and Youths Development. The total project cost of the stadium is put at about N11.3 billion, according to state Commissioner of Sports and Youths Development, Danladi Mann. 

With attempt at making it the best in Nigeria now usurped by the 30,000-seater Akwa Ibom international stadium complex and games village, Plateau plans to take the second seat. Mann said the Zaria road stadium is of international size and FIFA rated, adding that, “from our reckoning after the Uyo stadium in Akwa Ibom, I think this stadium should be the next.” 

But following Jang’s failure to break the jinx, Governor Lalong is said to have taken up the challenge. He initially expressed confidence of completing it before the end of 2017 and reiterated this after the state’s football team, Plateau United, worn the 2016/2017 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) in September last year. This again did not happen. 

Though Lalong’s three years in office has been characterised with efforts at completing long abandoned projects in the state, existing financial realities may not make the stadium feasible in the next two years. Right now, the stadium is at 65 per cent completion, according to the commissioner, who however said some construction materials and other fittings are presently on ground but cannot be fitted until the project gets to a certain level. 

“The willpower to complete the project is there, the government has broken the jinx of Plateau United wining the premiership for the first time since its inception about 42 years ago. The team will need a home ground to play its home games. So it wouldn’t make sense for the team to be forced to play its home games in Bauchi or Kaduna,” said Mann. 

He further said to ensure that work on the 30,000 capacity stadium is quickly completed, the ministry had proposed that the project is segmented, adding, “we want to start with the statebox which will gulp about N1.5billion. It has the dressing room, the media section, medical and others as part of it. It is the main attraction because it is to be an all covered stadium”.

Already, the pitch and tracks have since been put into shape and are often used for various local matches and other sports trainings. 

Mann added, “a facility like this will give us a lot of opportunities in terms of economy because of sport tourism. It will boost the tourism industry in the state, the local talents we have will have the advantage of using this modern facility and you know you can’t talk of sports in Nigeria without mentioning Plateau because of the talents we have.”

The highly-admired structure has also faced challenges of vandalism, but Mann said both government and the contractor have a responsibility to secure the place.

 “There was a time some electric conductors were vandalised, the contractor made a report and he had to replace those items. Even though there was a partial handover which is the pitch and the track which we are already using, the project is still under the contractor,” he said. 

Another issue that is yet to be resolved is whether the state government will compensate owners of houses situated at Sabonlayi community which is directly behind the stadium. A letter written to the community by the state government in 2013 had stated that an existing FIFA rule spells that there should not be less than 50 meters radius from the stadium fence and the community.

At that time, the plan was to ensure that another road is constructed around the Sabonlayi community so that the stadium is surrounded by tarred roads. The senior ward head of the community, Adamu Aji, told our correspondents that though they are aware of the new vigour to complete the stadium, no one has approached them yet.

He recalled that he was with his late father when government officials and the contractors visited the area in 1988 and marked about 50 houses and 23 plots of land for demolition and acquisition. 

“During that period, those with houses were compensated with between N800 to N1000, while those with plots of land received between N400 to N600,” he said.

“I went with my father to the fence of the stadium and we asked the government officials and contractors if they wouldn’t come back years later to ask us to vacate the area. Then, one of the contractors, a European brought the side plan of the stadium and showed it to us, saying this was the standard measurement for any world class stadium, and that it was what they needed,” he narrated. 

Aji however explained that the last government tried to construct a new road behind the stadium which necessitated the expansion by 50 metres. 

“We told them that even the road that is to be constructed was included in the initial plan the contractors showed to us in 1988 and we didn’t encroach on the stadium land. However, the matter later died down,” he said.

With Plateau now home to the NPFL winners, it is hoped that when the team starts to use the facility more frequently, it will stimulate the state into finding resources to complete it.

“The deadline for completion has been obviously extended because of unavailability of funds. But I assure you that in the next five months, something will happen in the stadium, work will reach a certain level,” the commissioner added. 


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