By Yomi Sadeeq
In this investigation,THE INFORMANT247’s YEMI SODEEQ who visited the indoor sports hall of the Kwara State Stadium in Ilorin, writes that despite the release of over N72 million for its renovation, the old sporting facility is in shambles, housing reptiles and downsizing the momentum of sporting men and women who ought to be training at the facility.
It was a sunny Monday afternoon and a training day for Volleyball players at the Kwara State Stadium complex. Adedayo Oke, the Captain of the Kwara United Volleyball Club who also doubles as the Assistant Coach of Volleyball in the State, stood at a corner inside the gigantic Indoor Sports Hall of the stadium.
Oke was visibly worried. At some points, he was lost in thought when this reporter approached him to inquire about the state of the complex.
He looked up with a jolt, sighed and before he could utter a single word, Oke reached for an old bag of sacks and brought out several damaged balls.
He then began to narrate how they are facing difficulties trying to access the facility.
“It is quite obvious, especially to those familiar with this stadium, that this facility is in a state of despair. This floor is no longer good for the safety of players and the equipment we use. The balls and other sporting equipment have become an endangered species, with irons and metals inside the hall pushing them to a short life span,” Oke lamented.
The volleyball skipper further noted that the ramshackle hall is having adverse effects on how long their balls can be used. By that expression, Oke’s argument suggests that the deteriorating condition of the facility is taking some economic toll on their pockets. “You can see we now have less than two balls in good condition. We used to have ten balls, but the balls have been deflated by pins and nails around here,” he added, stressing that each volleyball cost between N40,000 to N45,000.
A shadow of its old self
The Kwara State Stadium Complex is an expansive edifice cherished by the sports-loving Kwara residents. From the gate to the training pitches, swimming pool, outdoor twin basketball and volleyball courts, main bowl, football academy and indoor sports hall, the stadium complex stands out as the first of its kind in the country.
The arena, built in 1977 by the then military administrator of the state, late Brigadier-General George Innih, remains one of the stadiums in the country owned by a state government, with a large concentration of sports, numbering 28 in the whole complex. It hosted the 1985 National Sports Festival, and it has also hosted several other important sports tournaments, like the World Handball Championship in 1991, among others.
The multi-sports ‘Indoor Sports Hall’ inside the complex, among many other sporting events, could host basketball, volleyball, handball, table tennis, badminton, boxing, judo, and taekwondo including all para-sports for disabled athletes. The structure, which houses offices of the Kwara State Sports Commission, also by extension has places for games like dart and weightlifting.
However, this all-important facility is in shambles presenting a leaky roof, broken chairs for spectators and damaged air conditioners. The place becomes uninhabitable, especially during the rainy season. It’s now a place for reptiles and other dangerous animals.
N73 million is spent without accountability
Records obtained by The Informant247 show that in 2021, the sum of N72,485,773.22 was released for the rehabilitation of the edifice.
Records from Kwara State’s financial statement obtained by this medium show that a total sum of N516,180,034.00 was earlier budgeted for the renovation of the hall in the 2021 financial year.
About 7 months into 2022 and despite the evidence of the release of N73 million naira, not a single inch of renovation has been started at the facility. Our correspondent reports that the facility remains in shambles and no work has started even after the release of funds.
The edifice has severely deteriorated, and the environment has become very filthy. The chairs in the spectators’ sitting area are broken, and some have fallen off their positions. The metal at the edge of the broken seats, according to players, destroy balls every now and then.
The floors are impassable and windows have been blown off by the windstorm. The playing tracks have worn off completely. Whenever it rains, it is flooded for several hours.
The roof is blown off and the walls present easy passage for lizards and other reptiles. Just like the roof, there are gaping holes on the floor, as well. A peep into the office area showed that the terraces were equally damaged.
The main entrance to the hall itself is dilapidated. The famed hall where some of the country’s best trained before international championships, is now in a sordid state.
Players and other users of the Kwara State sporting facility continue to express their disaffection with the condition of the facility and how it continues to weaken their morale.
Olasunkanmi Abdulhameed, a basketball player who was training inside the hall says the state government has not done anything recently to put the facility in shape.
“They are not doing anything here, for now, absolutely nothing,” he stated.
“I’ve been training here for the past 2 years. They only worked on some other facilities. Nothing was done here. Everything is unkempt, it stinks too.”
An official of para games who spoke to The Informant247 but does not want his name mentioned for fear of victimization said: “Our government is just playing politics with that place. They go there, pay lip services and budget millions of naira for renovation, eventually, nothing will be done. I don’t think the government is actually ready to renovate this place.”
A member of the Kwara Badminton Veterans Club, Ahmed Ayinla berated the current standard of the hall, stressing that it no longer ticks the boxes of competition requirements.
“Going by a standard badminton hall, that place doesn’t meet the standard in terms of facilities like changing rooms, shower rooms, and even convenience,” he said. “The lighting within the hall is another major problem. Some of the games that could be played at night time now need ‘special provisions. The lights are no longer functioning. If not, there are some little provisions just to make sure that things are still going.
“The floor itself is old. It is supposed to be matted. It is very rare for you to see wood like this. It really affects the performance of the Athletes who train here on the wood and go out there to play on the mat,” Ayinla added.
A Table Tennis player, Bisola Asaju noted that, although a new hall is currently being constructed for the game, the players still have a lot to contend with regarding the Table Tennis section of the facility.
“One of the challenges we are facing here is the loose window at the roof that gives space for wind and this is not really good for our game because the wind used to disrupt the movement of balls.
“Anytime there is rain, we will need to stop the game because of some places where rain used to enter the hall. Some of our tables have now been spoiled by the rain,” said Bisola who added that the floor has also worn out and it is often difficult to play anytime there is no light.
An official of the Kwara State Sports Commission, who craved anonymity, said, “the renovation is long overdue. I could remember vividly when I was young, the hall played host to a lot of international competitions like the World Handball Military games. But in recent years, the state of the indoor facilities has become worrisome and it is a major concern for all stakeholders.
“The offices that surround the indoor sports hall are also affected and it is a gory sight during the rainy season and it is often more or less like we are outside anytime there is a downpour,” he added.
Kwara Sports Commission reacts
When asked about the money released for the renovation of the indoor sports hall of the stadium, the Chairman of the Kwara State Sports Commission, Bola Magaji who also lamented the condition of the facility, said that he is not aware of any funds released for its rehabilitation.
“I am aware of the money released for the renovation of the swimming pool, the squash court and Handball, but I can’t say the same for this hall. You can see my office too. Is this how my office is supposed to be,” the chairman whose office is also within the complex said.
He said the Sports Commission only came on board last year, adding that details about the renovation of the Indoor sports hall weren’t contained in the inventory he took upon his assumption of office.
The Kwara State government had last year on August 3 appointed board members for the Kwara State Sports Commission after the abrogation of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development
Several attempts to reach the Commissioner of Finance, Olasumbo Florence and the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development in the State, Barrister Iyabo Banire for comments were futile as they refused to pick up calls or reply to text messages.
This story was published with support from Civic Media Lab.