The Federal Government has demolished structures deemed to be illegal at the National Stadium in the Surulere area of Lagos State.
The demolition exercise began on Wednesday, according to the Punch.
The exercise comes after billionaire businessman, Kessington Adebutu, promised to renovate the sports complex, which was built in 1972 by the military regime of Gen Yakubu Gowon (retd.) but has been in decay since the early 2000s.
The action is expected to launch the stadium’s renovation by Adebutu, who runs betting company Premier Lotto, popularly known as Baba Ijebu, in the coming weeks.
However, several shop owners lamented the tearing down of their shops in the stadium, which has remained closed to the public since March due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In June, Sunday Dare, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, inaugurated a Ministerial Task Force that would oversee the renovation of the stadium.
“Government’s plan to fully concession the Surulere Stadium in a PPP arrangement is ongoing, even as the ministry seeks to commence some renovation works. It’s a sporting infrastructure built by the government and not a mall or business premises,” Dare tweeted.
On 17 August, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development gave occupants of the Lagos Stadium a seven-day notice.
However, after a public outcry and pleas by the shop owners, the ministry gave the occupants an additional seven-day extension, which expired on 1 September.
Funmi Ojo, a food vendor who owned a shop in the stadium, lamented that she has been using the proceeds from selling her cooked meals at the stadium to cater to her family.
The 60-year-old owner of Food Village restaurant said she had been selling at the stadium since 1992 and has no alternatives to caring for her family.
She said: “I’ve been selling cooked food here at the stadium since 1992. I can’t understand what’s happening. We were given a 14-day ultimatum to move our belongings out of the stadium, which we complied, and now they’ve demolished my shop along with many others.
“Look at me, I don’t have a husband, through my food business, I was able to train my children, my last child graduated from university two years ago, but he is jobless. We feed on my food business in the stadium. We are begging the government to help us.”
Chijioke Hygynus, who sells jerseys and football kits, said he and many of the shop owners have been forced to auction their goods, with nowhere else to keep them.
“They gave us seven days and another seven days that has ended. Many people are packing or have packed. I wonder where they want us to rent shops after what COVID-19 did to us. Many of us are auctioning our goods; where can we keep them?”
Temitope Lawal, who sells table tennis equipment, is one of those forced to auction his goods.
“I am selling my sporting goods as auction so I don’t lose them totally. This is very painful because I have a family to cater for.”