Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State is giving out the sum of $40,000.00 (N14 million based on the exchange rate of N350 to $1) to the Nigerian senior national football team, the Super Eagles, for defeating their Cameroonian counterpart, the Indomitable Lions, at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo on Friday September 1, 2017, in fulfillment of his ostensibly impulsive promise to donate $10,000 to the team for every goal scored.
If it is necessary to donate public funds to players, who have already made it in life materially, before they can win a match at home, then what is the cacophony about?
Ironically, two years after the state government owned Akwa United FC won the 2015 FA Cup, Governor Udom Emmanuel is yet to fulfill his promise to give each of the 34 registered players of the local club N2 million and a house.
I do not like sports. However, anytime that the Super Eagles plays, I do devote considerable time to watch their match if circumstances gives allowance for me to do so.
Like every patriot, I am delighted that Nigeria won. What I will not concede to, is the argument that because of Friday’s victory by our national team, I, as an active and responsible citizen, should not interrogate the economic value of the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium to Akwa Ibom State.
The Godswill Akpabio’s administration awarded an estimated, whopping $250,000,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Million Dollars) contract for the construction of the stadium in 2012 to Julius Berger Plc. The project was slated to be completed in 2014.
It was designed to be a 30,000 seater ultra modern MULTI-PURPOSE sports complex, modeled after Allianz Arena, a football stadium in Munich, Bavaria, Germany with a 75,000 seating capacity.
Apart from the football pitch, a 400m-running track for athletic events and other sporting facilities were supposed to be part of the structure.
Today, people seem to have forgotten the outrageous amount of money that was thrown into the construction of the stadium. I also wonder why those who constantly admonish me to be “a constructive critic”, have not asked questions about the whereabouts of the athletic and the other components of the stadium?
Why is the stadium SINGLE-PURPOSE (solely for soccer) and not multi-purpose as specified in the contract?
Why are we reticent about the fact that nearly Seven (7) years after Senator Akpabio awarded the scandalously inflated contract for the construction of the stadium to Julius Berger Plc, the project, like most of Akpabio’s other White elegant projects (like the Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Four-Point Sheraton Hotel, etc) remains uncompleted?
Where is the 250 Million Dollars, which if it had been properly invested, could have yielded 31 industries across the 31 Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State (which Akpabio promised, budgeted funds for, but NEVER built a single industry)?
The stadium, we were told, was going to boost the internally generated revenue of Akwa Ibom State.
Today, I am publicly challenging anyone who feels that the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium has economic value to Akwa Ibom State, to tell us how much, in figures, have been generated by the state government between 2014 when it was commissioned to date?
What we see clearly is that rather than generate revenue for the state, the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium has become a liability. It is a drain on the resources of Akwa Ibom State.
If emotional satisfaction and not profits is all that we derived from having “an International stadium”, it means there is a problem.
Akwa Ibom State Government spends money to lobby the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) in order for matches to be brought to the stadium. The state government also gives out money to players to “motivate” them during matches. It is evident that funds also go into certain logistics each time a match is to be played at the stadium.
How much has the state derived so far, from sales of tickets? Investment without returns is useless. Football is business. That is why Alhaji Aliko Dangote is reportedly looking into the prospects of buying Arsenal club.
The money that goes into the private sector from visiting spectators who lodged in hotels and patronised goods and services in Akwa Ibom State each time an International or local match is taken to the stadium, will never justify the huge amount of money dissipated by the state government on the construction of the stadium and hosting of matches.
A vast majority of the people who go to the stadium to watch matches are residents of Akwa Ibom State who have no need of securing hotel accommodation.
In the final analysis, we will all see that an International stadium (uncompleted), is not a priority for a civil service state like Akwa Ibom where politics is the largest employer of labour.
The stadium is an unproductive legacy of a squandermania. It is a white elephant project that was used to siphon money.
While basking in the euphoria of Friday’s victorious outing of the Super Eagles at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, let us bear in mind that the stadium is owned by a state in Nigeria where pensioners and retirees are dying without receiving their gratuity and pensions.
Do not forget that in that same Akwa Ibom, the next-of-kin of late primary school teachers between 1991 to date have not received their entitlements.
It is in that same Akwa Ibom State that Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ recently terminated its contract with the government to manage the state-owned Five-Star Hotel, Le Meridien Hotel & Golf Resort, over debt of N394 million owed the international hotel services company by the government.
In counting areas where the Akwa Ibom State Government has FAILED in its responsibilities and financial obligations, the list is endless.
If $250 million had been invested wisely in education, job creation or mass housing in Akwa Ibom State in 2012, it would have had tremendous generational impacts on the citizens of the oil-rich but impoverished state.
Tragically, the then profligate governor played to the gallery and dissipated such huge but scarce resources on a needless stadium project which remains uncompleted and economically unproductive.
May Nigeria not be destroyed by the crass misadventures of morally deficient, financially reckless and intellectually bankrupt leaders who would rather mortgaged the future of the citizens than invest sensibly in productive ventures, in their outrageous and insatiable propensity for vainglory.
Written by Inibehe Effiong, a Legal Practitioner and the Convener of the Akwa Ibom Conscience.