Former Director General at the Nigeria’s Ministry of Sports, Dr. Patrick Ekeji has declared that the panel set up to investigate the vandalism of the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja after Tuesday’s ill-fated World Cup play-off of Nigeria and Ghana, was not necessary.
The nine-man panel was set up by the Ministry of Sports which also announced that the terms of reference for the investigative panel will be communicated in due course.
According to Ekeji who is also a former national team footballer as well as coach, the exercise is uncalled for. According to him, “what is there to probe? The vandalism? Or the result?”
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To him, the whole exercise is mere time wasting as the reason for the crowd invasion of the pitch and the subsequence damage of facilities was already known.
Hear the former sports administrator who passed through virtually all the departments of the ministry during his tour of duty: “Don’t we know what led to the crowd action?
“Our team failed to qualify for Qatar 2022. Period. It was the crowd emotional response to the failed collective desire.”
To Dr. Ekeji, the minister should have simply call for a report from the NFF and subject the same to a study by some sports technocrats and thereafter draw recommendations for the Executive Council.
According to the former director general, the exercise should not take more that two weeks.
Although no life was reportedly lost in the crowd action, the situation was reminiscence of another World Cup duel in Lagos in August 1989 where before even Samuel Okwaraji slumped and died on the pitch in the game with Angola, five fans had died in the stampede that preceded the game.
It was found that the Lagos National Stadium was overcrowded resulting in jostling and pushing, then chokes, suffocation, exhaustion and soon, deaths!
The Lagos stadium had been closed for nearly three years then for renovation in preparation for a possible hosting of the then World Youth Championship in 1991.
The overcrowding was as a result of huge appetite for football which the crowd had been denied of since 17 October 1987 when Nigeria beat Zimbabwe 2-0 in an Olympic Games qualifier.
Thereafter, the stadium was closed for renovation and the then Green Eagles matches were moved around different cities. It was never anticipated that a large turnout would attend the game that signalled the national team back to their traditional nest.
That appeared the same scenerio in Abuja which last hosted the national team on 8 October 2011 before that of last Tuesday. Precautions were not put in place for a possible huge turn out to not just the return of the national team to the city in 11 years, but also the biggest match since the stadium was inaugurated in 2003.
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