On a Tuesday morning sometime in April, footballers were training at the Ondo township stadium football pitch. As this was a daily routine, nothing seemed unusual until a heavy rain started and the about two dozen footballers started running for shelter.
The stands, which would have served as shelter, have no roof. The roofing sheet, which was installed recently, had been blown off by a rainstorm.
Adeyeju Johnson, a 26-year-old who plays for a local club, Dominion Football Club, was one of the scampering footballers.
“This stadium has helped us the local football teams in this town,” Johnson, who hopes to become a professional someday, said. “We train and host competitions, invite other football teams from other local governments for friendly matches and others.”
He recalled that the stadium was in a bad state before a recent intervention by the Ondo State Government to give it a lift. However, he added, the renovation was only cosmetic as the stadium still lacks many amenities.
“During league matches, there are some matches played in the afternoon around 1 p.m. So, supporters hardly make it to the stadium due to the scorching sun, knowing that there is no shade to go under.”
Johnson advised the government to build a lasting stand and provide seats for spectators.
Built in 1976, the Ondo Township Stadium has served as a breeding ground for several athletes in the ancient town.
The functional part of the stadium consists of a race track, a football pitch and an administrative block. Also within the large expanse of land is an abandoned table tennis court. The remaining part of the stadium is currently used for farming.
In order to boost its service, the state government for three years since 2018 budgeted several millions for its renovation.
In 2018, N12 million was budgeted, in 2019, N6 million and in 2020, N13 million was budgeted for the upgrade of the stadium under the supervision of the Ondo State Sports Council.
In total, the state government has budgeted N31 million for the renovation of the stadium. UDEME could not ascertain how much was released for the renovation. Such information was not available on the state’s budget portal and in the budget summaries for the years in review. Efforts to get the information from the Ministry of Sports did not yield results due to a lack of cooperation by the ministry.
Findings by this reporter show that despite the renovation works carried out, the 10,000 capacity stadium still lacks basic facilities.
For instance, the stadium does not have electricity, toilets for athletes, water, floodlights, seats for spectators, operations offices and kitchen.
Some users of the stadium said some transformers were provided during the administration of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko, but they were stolen two weeks after installation. There has been no attempt to provide electricity for the stadium since then.
Lucky Emmanuel, a 17-year-old tennis player, lamented how the poor quality of work done affected their sports activities.
“When rain falls, fans run away. Everyone doesn’t want to be beaten by rain and there is nowhere to hide. The roof stand has fallen,” he said.
Oyinkansola Miracle, a 23-year-old Economics student of Adeyemi College of Education in the town, has taken part in many boxing and racing competitions outside the state and has been training in the stadium for some years.
“Apart from the fact that the stadium has helped me in taking part in boxing and racing competitions outside the state, I have also won awards from the Eki Day’s Boxing competition held at the stadium every year,” she said, calling on the state government to do a complete renovation to allow “many talents (to) rise.”
Similarly, Godspower Dorcas, one of the local referees in the town told UDEME that the stadium had afforded her the opportunity to improve her officiating skills. She described the lack of toilets as ‘inconvenient’ while urging the government to intervene.
“To be frank and sincere with you, there are no toilets for the athletes and the one for the referees is not working and we have moved to repair it with our money but you know the government. Imagine someone is having a running stomach, that is the major reason why toilets are needed because the person cannot use shotput in the presence of every athlete,” she said.
When contacted, via a telephone call, the Ondo State Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development, Dele Ologun, told this reporter that he could not account for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 budgets placed under the ministry, saying he assumed office in 2021.
Mr Ologun added that he was not sure if the project’s documents are with the ministry, noting that if this reporter needed information regarding previous years’ projects, he should contact the ministry’s former commissioners.
“My brother, the ministry or I am handicapped and could not give you adequate information needed, whether money was released, the contractor that got the project and what are the things expected to be carried out, because I assumed office last year and projects that I can give adequate information on are those nominated or captured in the 2021 and 2022 budget documents.”
UDEME reached out to the former commissioner, Dotun Owanikin, for comment but he redirected the reporter back to the incumbent commissioner. Mr Owanikin served as commissioner between 2019 and 2020.
UDEME tried to reach out to Saka Ogunleye, the commissioner who served in 2018 but his known phone line was unavailable.
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