By Patrick Omorodion
FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner from Trinidad and TobagoÂ Â Â led an inspection team to Nigeria last month to ascertain how ready the country was for the FIFA U-17 World Cup which the country is expected to host later in November.
After going round the venues, with the exception of Warri which was dubbed a trouble spot, he gave a damning verdict on the country, stressing that but for Abuja and Lagos, all other venues fell short of the standard the world football governing body has set for hosting of its competitions.
He warned that the country stands the shame of losing the hosting right to another country if the designated venues fail to correct their shortcomings when the inspection team come for the final visit.
The venues which Warner short-listedÂ as host cities but declared not ready for the event include Calabar, Enugu, Ijebu-Ode and Kano. Part of the problems why these venues are not ready, it was gathered, was because top shots of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the competition awarded contracts for major works at the venues to their companies.
According to a very reliable source, the Kano centreâ€™s main problem is the laying of the artificial turf which the LOC awarded to aÂ company, Sports Solutions, allegedly owned by of one of its top shots. This contract, it was gathered, was a condition for the city to be listed as one of those earmarked for inspection and possible approval. Other cities were also allegedly given conditions by the LOC top shots before they could be listed as prospective venues for the event.
â€œIt is unfortunate that the LOC awarded contracts to its members when they know the companies donâ€™t have the capacity to do the jobsâ€, our source said.
According to our source, â€œthe contract for the laying of the artificial turf was awarded at a cost of N800 million and the Kano state government wanted to shipÂ in the materials but the company told the government that it would be faster by air.
When the Kano state government queried the delay in the job being done, it was told that the company was still trying to raise a letter of credit. The company also requested the government to pay N300 million as freight charges, an amount the government considered too highâ€, our source revealed.
Another source close to the Kano sub-seat also disclosedÂ Â Â that part of why the said company got the contract was that it deceived the Kano State government into believing that it is recognised by FIFA in artificial turf business.
WithÂ FIFA shifting their visit forward to last Thursday, June 11, the artificial turf for the Sani Abacha stadium was yet to arrive. It was gathered that the Chairman of the Kano sub-seat and Special Adviser to the state governor on Sports Development, Alhaji Mohammed Ahmed Muâ€™azu Kawo is now in South Korea and is expected to fly into the countryÂ with the turf on Monday, June 15.
It could be recalled that the same LOC top shots presented a bogus budget of N37 billion to the Federal Government which queried the amount and subsequently cancelled the idea of hosting the event.
The decision was however rescinded after several interest groups convinced President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua that an outright cancellation would not be good for the image of the country and that the competition could be hosted with lesser amount. Government then agreed to release only N9 billion.
Even though the LOC officials took the battle to convince the government that the N37 billion budget was not outrageous the National Assembly, President Yarâ€™Adua stuck to his guns and sacked a top shot of the National Sports Commission (NSC) who was believed to be behind the bogus budget as well as a â€˜showâ€™ to discredit the government at the National Assembly.