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Chinese Contractor Abandons Rivers Stadium Renovation After N2.9bn Payment

The popular Liberation Stadium, now Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt, has remained uncompleted till date since 2006, when a group of militants wrote a letter to the contractor handling the expansion.
The contractor, a Chinese firm, China Civil Engineering and Construction Company, was awarded the contract by the then Dr. Peter Odili administration to expand the stadium from its 16,000 capacity to 26,000.

But 11 years after, the expansion of the stadium that hosted some of the Nigeria ’99 FIFA Under-20 World Cup matches, has not been completed. The contract was expected to gulp over N5bn with the sum of N2.9bn said to have been paid to the Chinese company.

The Chinese engineers, who had begun the project after bringing in some seats and erecting pillars, suddenly abandoned the project and fled.

One of the minders of the facility told PUNCH correspondent that workers at the site of the project, who were mostly Chinese, received a letter from a group of militants, informing them that they would soon be attacked and abducted.

The minder, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the contractor and his workers immediately fled the site (stadium), leaving behind some of the materials they had already brought for the project.

He said,

“In 1999 when Nigeria hosted the Under-20 World Cup, the stadium was good; that was why England played here. Ronaldinho and Xavi played in this stadium. Then the VIP stand was covered so that rain would not affect spectators.
“After the World Cup, the then governor of the state, Dr. Peter Odili, said he would rebuild the stadium and increase the capacity by 10,000 and put a cover around the sports facility. All the lighting was removed to that effect and some of the covers were also removed. This is happening after many competitions were held there. Ever since, this stadium has not been what it should be.
“We heard that the contractor handling the project then was CCECC. The company stopped work because of the security situation in the state then. They resumed work and fabricated many seats for the stadium before they left everything and ran out of the state because of a threat from militants.
“We heard that militants threatened to kidnap their officials. So, they left the state then. Currently, there are no lights in the stadium, As a result of this, games cannot be played at night here. The tartan tracks are pilling. The tracks are seriously in bad condition. The fences are broken.”
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