The Akwa Ibom state government has denied President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) the opportunity to use the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo for its campaign. President Buhari has been scheduled to flag off his presidential campaign in the state but according to Premium Times, the state government denied the president and the APC the opportunity.
The state government, instead, has directed the president and the APC to make use of another stadium – the Uyo Township Stadium – which accommodates a far lesser number of people compared to the 30,000-capacity Godswill Akpabio stadium. Monday Uko who is the commissioner for sport in the state in a statement claimed the denial was based on sporting purpose.
He said: “The next season of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) is scheduled to begin on January 13, 2018. In view of this and the fixtures of home matches for Akwa United FC, it will be practically impossible to ‘regrass’ the stadium for pre-fixed matches, if used for non-sports activities, because of the nature of pressure that such events bring on the pitch. “Additionally, The Maintenance Contractor (Julius Berger) had also advised that the present atmospheric conditions being very hostile to the pitch, the facility should not be used for non-sport activities during this harmattan period, so as to avoid inflicting long-term or irreversible damage to the grass on the football pitch. The commissioner said the explanation became necessary because “political actors and commentators” in the state were trying to use the issue to pit the state government against President Buhari.
He also explained that the annual state-sponsored Christmas Carol night in Uyo took place in the Uyo Township Stadium, instead of the earlier proposed Godswill Akpabio International Stadium for the same reason. He said: “The stadium from its inception has been under a maintenance contract with Julius Berger Construction Company.
They operate all the sensitive and non-sensitive components of the facility. “They had closed for the year and proceeded on vacation (as it has been their usual practice) and are due to resume on January 7, 2018. The implication of this is that the technical capacity required to activate the venue is currently unavailable, and this is not within our control.
“The Ministry has however approved, in the alternative, the use of the Uyo Township Stadium for the event. We guarantee that the approved venue is in perfect condition,.”