Prior to the 2003 All Africa Games which was hosted by Nigeria in Abuja, the federal government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo awarded a $360 million contract to Schlaich Bergermann and Partners to build the Abuja National Stadium.
One of the prominent facilities located inside the Package A of the national edifice now renamed MKO Abiola national stadium is the velodrome for indoor cycling.
- Humanitarian crisis worsens in Niger as IDPs troop to state capital
- How fire wreaked 700 shops, killed 19 in 3 months
The MKO Abiola National Stadium consists of a 60,491-capacity covered the main bowl which recently hosted the ill-fated Nigeria vs Ghana World Cup playoff, a presidential suite and viewing area, 56 corporate suites, modern turnstiles, a box office, post offices, banks, media facilities and the under-utilised velodrome.
In the years before the 19th National Sports Festival hosted by Abuja in 2018, the velodrome which was abandoned for 15 years was used for different purposes ranging from private events such as weddings, trade fairs and job recruitment exercises.
In 2008, the velodrome hosted the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs) before the breath-taking edifice became a storage facility as it was filled with thousands of gas cylinders and stoves.
The stoves, which were allegedly purchased as election gifts by former president Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign team ahead of the 2015 elections, were kept there for about two years before they were removed in 2018.
Upon his appointment as the minister of sports in 2019, Sunday Dare, during a facility tour of the stadium stressed the need for innovative ways to fund and maintain the facilities while restating the fact that in Africa, only South Africa has the type of velodrome at the MKO Abiola national stadium.
As if it has not been abused enough, not long ago, the first-ever National Youth Conference (NYC) organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development was hosted at the velodrome.
However, our investigation has revealed that the velodrome is presently the hub for Christian religious activities as not less than three Nigerian Pentecostal churches now take turns to hold their activities.
Between September 24 and 25, 2021, The Everlasting Light of Hope International Ministry (The ELOHIM) had an international prayer meeting with a special thanksgiving service on the 26th which was a Sunday at the same venue. The church is led by Wiseman Daniel, a protégé of late Prophet T.B Joshua.
It was also gathered that the velodrome on February 18, 2022, hosted a special Abuja Power Touch Night organised by God’s City International Church (GCIC), Abuja. The Senior Pastors of the Church are Pastor Matthew and Pastor (Mrs) Mary Morakinyo.
Our reporter, who visited the velodrome on a Sunday, witnessed the church service of the Elohim ministries.
Before he gained access into the venue, he had to undergo security checks and was asked to put on his face mask.
Soon as he stepped in, ushers stopped our reporter as they demanded to know if he was an old member, a newcomer or someone who needed prayers and deliverance.
Our reporter picked the former and was directed to a section for the old-timers where he witnessed deliverance sessions ranging from worshippers receiving various forms of healings for broken bones and ailing backs. So many other ‘miracles’ were also on display.
Also, between March 16 and 18, 2022, Christ Apostolic Church, (Nigeria and Overseas), Medaiyese Region had its ‘Abuja for Christ’ crusade with the theme ‘Your Gate Shall Be Opened Continually’.
The crusade was led by Prophet Hezekiah Oladeji and other men of God with Chris Morgan, Sesan Moses, Joyrich Olowo, Omo Oba Akikitan and the regional mass choir ministering in songs.
When he was approached to explain why the gigantic velodrome is being used for purposes other than cycling, the Director of facilities in the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports, Engr Tunji Okedairo, said the velodrome is a multi-purpose facility.
“The velodrome is for all purposes. It can be used for political gatherings, religious programmes and any other event. They apply and if approved, the money is paid into the TSA account. It is not meant for cycling purposes alone,” he said.
When asked how much it costs to rent the place, Okedairo said he doesn’t know the cost and directed our correspondent to the stadium manager, Bosun Obanla.
Responding to a text inquiring how much it costs to hire the ultra-modern facility, the stadium manager in a text message said “Total cost is N650,000 per day.”
Ordinarily, the money that the velodrome has generated should have impacted positively on the facility but our reporter observed that the place still suffers the same fate with other facilities at the national stadium.
It is unkempt as most of the fittings inside the building are falling apart just as the surrounding is perennially untidy.
Meanwhile, when contacted, president of the Cycling Federation of Nigeria, Giandomenico Massari, said he has discussed the issue of the velodrome with the sports ministry.
“We have discussed the matter with the ministry and I can’t tell you what we discussed but we will sort out the matter,” he said.