Shock as herdsmen convert Abuja stadium into grazing field

Fulani herdsmen have  converted  the National Stadium, Abuja,  into a fertile land for cattle pasture  as weeds overtake the package B section of  the $360m  facility.

Our correspondent,  who visited the stadium  on Tuesday,  saw  tall grasses in almost every part of the complex.

Fresh and dried cow   dung could be seen on the asphalt within the complex showing that the animals regularly graze on the grasses  at the stadium.

The security officials manning the  gate blamed the sports ministry  for the deterioration in the condition of the stadium – and for giving the herdsmen unhindered access to the stadium, which hosted the 2003 All Africa Games won by Nigeria.

One of  the security men,  who spoke to our correspondent  on condition of anonymity,  said some of the ministry officials are happy that  herdsmen have converted  the  busy stadium into a grazing field.

The source said, “The herdsmen come into the stadium with their cattle almost every day. They come through the collapsed portion of the fence and we can’t stop them because we are not armed.

“The management are  aware of the situation, but  they  have  refused to do anything about it, meaning  they are  comfortable with it.”

Another guard described the presence of the herdsmen and their cattle at the stadium  as “an embarrassment”, but noted that the security unit was helpless to stop them.

He said, “We can’t stop them because  we are not armed,  and they (sports ministry) have refused to engage policemen to beef up the security around  the stadium.

“Look at weeds everywhere on the premises and they have refused to engage someone to clear the weeds.  Maybe the government is  trying to save money by allowing the animals to graze on weeds.”

Meanwhile, the velodrome (an arena for  cycling) at  the stadium complex has been under lock and key  since 2015, after thousands of gas stoves bought ahead of the general elections that year were stored in it by the  Goodluck Jonathan administration.

The PUNCH    in December 2016 exclusively reported  the velodrome’s deteriorating condition and the gas stoves loaded into the facility, but  nearly seven months after, the cylinders have yet to be removed.

The Goodluck Jonathan administration  released N5bn  out of the N9.2b contract sum for  the purchase of 750,000 stoves  to be distributed to rural women nationwide  to encourage them to use clean energy.

The stoves were however  used as souvenirs by Jonathan for his re-election campaign going by the inscriptions on the cylinders.

However, the National Stadium manager, Abolore Alanamu,  said the stoves would be removed  within two weeks, adding that talks were at an advanced stage to re-open the velodrome.

“The National Security Adviser is involved in the matter, so I can tell you that within two weeks, the stoves will  be removed,” Alanamu told our correspondent  on the telephone on Tuesday.

He declined to comments on the  herdsmen and their cattle at  the stadium, saying he was not in charge of the facility.

The  Director of Communications, Ministry of Sports, Mr. Tolu Makinde, could not be reached for comments as he did not respond to calls to his phone. He had yet to respond to an SMS as of the time of filing this report on Tuesday.Punch

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