Time and time again, promises were made. Time and yet, time and again, ‘work’ started, but the Uyo Township Stadium remains the same: an abandoned and decaying edifice.
For many years, the Uyo Township Stadium served as the pride of Akwa Ibom. It was the home ground of the local club, Akwa United. It also served as an event ground for the Christmas carol celebration, which draws people from all parts of the state and some tourist attractions for residents. All these are now gone.
When UDEME visited the stadium in August 2022, the facility shadowed its former self. It is now a location inhabited by weeds and dilapidated structures.
Irene Joshua, a football enthusiast, who lives opposite the stadium entrance, said the community missed the joy of football for a long time.
“For many years, we have seen no football matches in this stadium. I used to go inside the stadium every weekend to watch football, but now, every weekend we just sit at home, nothing exciting for us anymore. We have missed this stadium,” he said.
The dilapidated state of Uyo Township Stadium got the attention of the Akwa Ibom state government in 2019, who decided it was time to give the stadium a facelift.
In 2019, the Akwa Ibom state government budgeted N100 million for the reconstruction of Uyo Township Stadium, N60 million for the provision of a gymnasium, and N50 million for the provision of a hostel facility.
Subsequently, in 2020, the state government again budgeted N200 million naira to reconstruct the stadium. N20 million for the construction of dressing rooms; N15 million naira for the provision of a hostel facility; N120 million for the provision of artificial turf; and N150 million for the provision of tartan tracks at the stadium.
Altogether, between 2019 and 2020, a total of N615 million has been budgeted to reconstruct the Uyo Township Stadium with the required facilities.
However, findings by UDEME reveal the state government has not executed the project as budgeted back in 2020 and 2019. UDEME could not ascertain how much has been released for the project.
Attempts to get the monetary release from the state’s Ministry of Youth and Sports proved abortive. This reporter engaged officials at the ministry who insisted such information would not be released.
The sorry state of Uyo township stadium
UDEME visited the Uyo township stadium in August and found the stadium in a very sorry state.
The main entrance to the stadium, defaced with dilapidation, is locked with padlocks and chains. A peep into the stadium revealed nothing but grasses.
The basketball court, relaxation spot, and the stadium’s restaurant just outside the stadium is now used by traders as a selling point for fish, meat, yam and other items.
The only accessible entrance to the stadium is a small gate that is apparently broken down and forced open. Other parts of the stadium bore the look of an unkempt and forgotten arena, with weeds taking over the soccer stands, dressing rooms, gym sections and other parts. Virtually every corner of the stadium has turned into a trash site and farmland.
Homeless people use parts of the stadium as shelter. When UDEME visited the site, people slept on some chairs at the VIP stands. The gym bears clear signs of abandonment, with old training shoes littered around the hall. The walls were neither plastered nor painted.
Moses Etim, who was weight lifting in one of the decaying gyms at the stadium, lamented the poor facilities. He told Udeme that nothing had been done for years.
“Since 2014, this is the equipment I came to see. Even these two weights, we have to cry and cry and cry before they went to bring abandoned weights from weightlifters. That is what we are using now,” he said, pointing to the eroded piece of metal.
Construction of Uyo township stadium
Construction of Uyo Township Stadium started in March 2019 but was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents say work stopped in the same March.
In February 2021, after an order from the state governor, Governor Udom Emmanuel, work resumed at the stadium. During the construction, the Commissioner of Youth and Sports, Mr Monday Uko, promised that the government was keen on seeing the successful completion of the stadium.
“This Stadium is a historic facility, which is very dear to Akwa Ibom people, and we are committed to giving it the facelift it deserves. We will transform it into a 21st-century-compliant structure.
“All the equipment required for the execution of this project is on the ground, and we are confident of completing it as soon as possible,” Mr Uko said
A year later, Uyo Township Stadium is still a shadow of what he promised, an abandoned and decaying edifice.
Athletes react to the poor state of the stadium
During the flag-off of the reconstruction in 2019, athletes were asked to leave the stadium to allow smooth work by the contractors, but this instruction from the government left some athletes stranded.
Some athletes who decided to stay back at the Uyo Township Stadium either used uncompleted buildings as their training centres or were outside the stadium.
James Ubong, a powerlifter who was seen training at the dilapidated stadium amongst other athletes, told UDEME they couldn’t leave the stadium since the government didn’t provide another training centre.
“We don’t have another training centre. When there is competition, the government will not ask if you are trained. They want you to get a medal for them.”
Mr James also informed UDEME that while a few athletes left for the Godswill Akpabio stadium to train, most remained due to financial constraints.
” We were asked to leave and train at the Akpabio stadium, but when you calculate the transport back and forth every day, we don’t have that kind of money, and for us that are disabled, it will be difficult for us. If we had a bus that could take us to the stadium and bring us back, it would have been easier for us,” he said.
UDEME understood that the athletes in the stadium had little or no equipment to work with.
Esther Edet, who was lamenting over the infrastructural decay at the stadium, said the athletes had gone as far as buying burglar-proof to protect the little equipment they have.
“Everyone comes into this place and steals your training equipment. When you come, the next day you will find out that one piece of equipment is missing. We complained to the government, but nothing was done, so a private donor gave us the burglar-proof to secure our equipment,” the athlete informed UDEME.
Ambrose Isaac, a track athlete who was seen practising his runs at the cemented parts of the stadium, frowned at the stadium’s condition and how the Government had failed to complete the renovation of the stadium.
“I am supposed to be running on a track, it makes me calculate my speed better, but I am running on cemented grounds. It even gets worse if I fall down. The injury will be worse because this is cemented ground and not tracks”
When UDEME visited the office of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, one of the staff who asked for anonymity to speak to UDEME about the project said the Uyo Township Stadium is under construction, and that’s all the information the ministry would release to the public.
“The stadium is under Construction. My Oga (Boss) will not say more than that. The only thing people should know is that the stadium is under construction”
Another staff at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, who also sought anonymity, said that the ministry doesn’t have enough money to complete the project.
Attempts to get an official reaction from the ministry were unsuccessful. Secretary to the commissioner directed this reporter to the Director of Sports, who also declined comments.
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