Minister of Youth and Sports Development Sunday Dare on Tuesday defended the demolition of illegal shanties at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, saying the sports ground was not a marketplace.
Dare made the clarification while fielding questions from journalist on the sidelines of the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Total E&P and the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) on the N150 million basketball league sponsorships.
Dare, who witnessed the ceremony in Lagos, said that the government aim at transforming sports from a recreational activity into a business had started to yield positive results.
The minister rejected some public perception of the ejection of traders from the National Stadium as an injustice, saying that the action was aimed at saving the edifice from gross abuse.
Dare said that practical efforts would be made to restore the National Stadium, Surulere, to its original plan in order to attract viable investors for its concession and ensure a smooth process for the venture.
“The menace of COVID-19 has not stopped the police from checking crime and there’s no excuse for illegality. For over 18 years, we have seen the stadium being used for purposes other than sports.
“We have started a new regime of trying to develop our sports infrastructure, a new initiative around sports. This facility (National Stadium, Surulere) is an iconic monument for sports development.
“It is a sports complex and using it for any other purposes will not be acceptable; it is not a market or a beer parlour.
“What we have done is to return it to its original blueprint and prepare it for concession. The concession is on its last stage because we have been receiving bids,” he said.
Dare said that for the stadium to be appealing to potential investors, illegal structures must give way, adding that provisions had been made for the construction of a shopping mall inside the stadium complex.
“The investors must have access to the stadium unencumbered, and if anyone goes there now, he or she will be shocked that the stadium is that beautiful.
“This is because we have pulled down those shanties and before the end of the year, we will see changes in the stadium.
“We hope to build a 150-shop capacity shopping mall that would allow traders to come and be in a single marketplace,” he said.