By Jacob Ajom
There was pandemonium at the national stadium, Lagos yesterday as physically challenged athletes demonstrated against the purported imposition of fees for the use of stadium facilities.
The ‘athletes’ gathered at the stadium entrance as early as 8.30 am and blocked all access roads leading to the sports complex thereby causing serious traffic jam on Western Avenue, Surulere..
National sports commission staff and other people with businesses to do at the sports arena who were already in the complex were not allowed to go out just as those wanting to go into the complex were barred.
Some of the demonstrating athletes were in wheel chairs, some with crutches while some others limped to the scene, chanting war songs and pouring tantrums at national sports commission officials who they accused of trying to rip them off.
It took the intervention of the stadium manager who went and addressed them for nerves to calm down. It was after the address that the athletes dispersed and eventually opened the stadium gates and access roads to the stadium.
Yekini Salawu, a special table tennis player and one of the demonstrating athletes told Sports Vanguard that he first heard of the purported imposition of N100 fees for use of facilities by athletes on a radio programme.
“The national stadium, Lagos is the only ground open to all of us and most of us have been training here all our lives. It is wrong for them to ask us to pay money before using the facilities to train. In a day an athlete trains twice, that translates to N200 daily. Who funds the athletes?” he asked helplessly.
Speaking in the same vein, Adeniran Omotayo, a powerlifter asked, “in whose interest are they collecting this money?” adding, “The money they collect as gate fees on weekends should be enough for them. So far, I have not seen anything they do with the money.”
Sports Vanguard called at the stadium manager’s office but was told he was not on seat. The story was the same when we called at the NSC liaison office in Lagos, as Tayo Oreweme, the Liaison officer was said to have gone out on inspection.
But a source at the stadium manager’s office who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that “not all the so-called athletes” were indeed genuine. “Some of them have started using the stadium as a haven for all sorts of atrocities. Some of them are criminals who should not be seen here because they have no business in this place.”
Meanwhile, the official said no kobo has been collected from any of the athletes and wondered why they were demonstrating based on rumours.