The Lagos National Stadium, once a symbol of pride and glory for Nigerian sports, now lies in ruins. The stadium, which hosted many memorable events and matches, has been neglected and abandoned for over 15 years. The poor maintenance of the facilities has rendered the stadium unsafe and unfit for use.
In April 2023, the former Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, ordered the temporary closure of the stadium after one of the giant floodlights collapsed due to a windstorm. He also revealed that many of the stands were in a dangerous condition and could fall apart at any time.
The current Minister of Sports, John Owan-Enoh, has hinted that the Federal Government might demolish the stadium and rebuild it from scratch.
He said that the government would only take the option that would revive the dying edifice. He had previously announced that he would proceed with the planned concession of the facility to a private investor.
However, the decision to rebuild the stadium has sparked mixed reactions from sports journalists and enthusiasts.
Some argue that it is a wise move to replace the old structure with a modern stadium that would serve generations. Others contend that it is a waste of resources and that the stadium should be converted into a commercial or residential property.
Latifat Adebayo-Ohio, a reporter at Making of Champions, supports the idea of rebuilding the stadium. She tells Newsflash Nigeria that the stadium is an old structure with archaic architecture and that the last cost of remodeling the structure was unrealistic. She says that there are no other options but to build a modern stadium.
“Oh sure. It’s an old structure, with archaic architecture, best to build a modern stadium that will serve generations.”
“Also the last cost of remodelling the structure was unrealistic.
“No (other) options as far as I’m concerned. Build a modern stadium.”
She also adds that the Lagos National Stadium is historical and that the Lagos State government would maintain the Teslim Balogun Stadium, which is a state-owned stadium and is located opposite the national stadium.
“National Stadium Lagos is historical”.
“(The Lagos) State government will maintain Teslim Balogun Stadium, as it is a state-owned stadium.”
Wale Agbede, the Head of Sports at Plus TV, disagrees with the idea of rebuilding the stadium.
He said that the successive governments and sports ministers have not paid enough attention or investment to the stadium and that they will not do so in the future.
He says that the stadium is not necessary anymore, considering the amount of work that the Lagos State government has put into the Teslim Balogun Stadium, which has hosted recent matches.
He says that he understands the emotional attachment that many people have to the stadium, as they grew up watching the Green Eagles play there. But he says that the stadium is a prized asset that is wasting away in the heart of Lagos.
He suggests that the stadium should be pulled down if possible and that a private investor should take over the land and develop it into a profitable venture that would benefit the government and the community in Surulere.
He cites the example of Arsenal, who converted their old stadium, Highbury, into a shopping plaza with offices and businesses and are still making money from it even after moving to the Emirates.
He says that the asset should be converted and that any team that wants to play there, such as the Super Eagles, could use the Teslim Balogun Stadium instead. He says that if the Super Eagles have to adopt a national stadium, it should be the one in Abuja, which should be revamped.
“It is clear that from every action that has been taken from successive governments and everyone that has been in charge of sports in Nigeria, that they will not pay the kind of attention needed to that stadium.
“Neither will they put in the investment that is required for the stadium to be brought back to life.
“And quite frankly, if you look at the amount of work that the Lagos State government has put into the stadium that is just opposite- the Teslim Balogun Stadium, I don’t think the National Stadium is anymore necessary.
“I understand the emotional attachment. A lot of people grew up watching the Green Eagles.
“But I think that place with its location in the heart of Lagos, that place is a prized asset and it is wasting away.
“If there’s a private investor that has a solid plan that could bring profit to the government and will help the immediate community in Surulere, I am absolutely in favour of it.
“I think the stadium should be pulled down if possible. Look at what Arsenal did with Highbury. A large section of it was converted into a very big shopping plaza with offices and businesses and they are still making money even though they moved to the Emirates.
“I think that asset should be converted. Because if you give to a private institution, what do they stand to benefit? Any team that wants to play there, maybe the Super Eagles, could as well use the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
“If the Lagos State government continues to maintain the Teslim Balogun Stadium, there is no need for duplicity.
“If the Super Eagles have to absolutely adopt a national stadium, it should be the one in Abuja. Revamp it. If it has to be Lagos, then there’s a stadium around the corner. Use that one.”
The fate of the Lagos National Stadium remains uncertain, as the government has not made a final decision yet. The stadium, which was once a source of joy and inspiration for many Nigerians, now awaits its destiny.