Ghana’s embattled Finance Minister during the presentation of the 2021 Budget Statement on the floor of Parliament, said there were ongoing renovation works on some stadia in Ghana; Ohene Gyan Sports Stadium, Accra; Cape Coast Sports Stadium; Baba Yara Sports Stadium, Kumasi; and Sekondi Sports Stadium, Essipong.
After his pronouncement, many Ghanaians, especially those in the Western Region who knew the state of the stadium, didn’t take it lightly.
One of them is the Member of Parliament for Essikado Ketan constituency, Joe Ghartey.
“I write with regard to the above. The Finance Minister in the Budget Statement delivered on Wednesday, 17 November, 2021 stated that the rehabilitation works on the Essipong stadium is 90% completed.
“My checks reveal otherwise. As Member of Parliament for the area, I would be grateful if you could furnish me with the update of the said project, which is located in my constituency.
“Furthermore, if the information given is inaccurate, please furnish the Finance Minister with the accurate information to enable him advise himself accordingly. The project is of great interest to me and my constituents. Counting on your usual cooperation.” He wrote in a letter.
Two years since the pronouncements, a JoyNews check at the stadium reveals a worrying state of the facility; a near decayed stadium. What we saw was simply an eyesore.
Outside of the stadium, parts of the ceilings have completely been ripped off, other parts are dropping off. Washrooms are deteriorating. Nothing appeared to show a maintained stadium. The whole place is a complete mess, in plain language.
But what one sees outside is even manageable in terms of the shock it gives you. Once inside of the facility, one is likely to experience the shock of a lifetime.
There are worn-out chairs with rusty metal frames– ones that can inflict toxic wounds on anybody unlucky enough to be injured by the metals. Debris of sand used to work on a portion of the roof are scattered on the chairs. The scaffolds used to work on a section of the roof are still standing by, with the inner perimeter having sand scattered almost everywhere. It is a clear and present danger for anyone using the facility.
Stephen Kwame Yeboah is a popular sports personality in the Western Region and has a clear recollection.
“We hosted the tournament in 2008, and from 2009 to 2019 when the then Sports Minister Hon. Isaac Asiamah visited the facility, the edifice has not seen any renovation works”.
He says the then Sports Minister said once there had not been any major rehabilitation works on the stadium since construction, he was going to ensure the stadium was worked on.
He recalled the minister’s assurance that there was a budgetary allocation for renovation works to begin, giving the people hope that since the facility was constructed during an NPP administration, another NPP government promising to renovate same was believable.
“But from 2019 to November 2021 when the Finance Minister said the renovation works was more than 90% completed, it came as a surprise to some of us because it has been a place we visited regularly to find out what was really going on, and even the MP for the area Joe Ghartey came up to challenge that assertion by the Finance Minister,” he said.
To Stephen Kwame Yeboah, it seems no one cares about the state of the stadium.
“Sometimes, I feel we have powerful personalities in the region with influence in the NPP who could push for the facility to be fixed but it seems nobody cares about whatever is happening and if you push too much, it’s like you are crying more than the bereaved because there are people put in charge to do the work,” he said.
He revealed that aside from the roofing, nothing has happened since former Sports Minister Asiamah visited the facility while in office.
“From my personal observation, apart from the roofing that they have started working on, there is nothing major going on,” he says.
Kwame Yeboah, who has spent close to a decade in Sekondi Takoradi working as a sports presenter, wants leaders of the region to do better in advocating for the rehabilitated of the stadium.
“We have leaders; we have chiefs and big politicians here who, for me, are very influential in this NPP government, but it seems they are all not perturbed by what is happening to the Sekondi Sports Stadium, Essipong,” he said.
Benjamin Aboagye, another Sports Journalist with Skyy Power FM in Takoradi has also been investigating why nothing seem to be happening.
“I went there last three weeks, they told me the contractor left because money was not forthcoming and the materials for the project are expensive,” he revealed.
He believes the underperformance of teams in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis could also be attributed to the state of the stadium. He wants government to consider privatizing the infrastructure.
“You would ask yourself if the project is renovated, what would the stadium be used for? Because now in the Western Region, teams cannot afford the stadium therefore there is nothing to motivate the government. If you renovate the stadium you have to keep it running,” he said.
A functioning Sekondi Sports Stadium, Essipong, brings market to businesses in this area. Residents want the government to act now to restore the stadium to its former glory.
Like many, John, a resident of Essipong has fond memories of the recent past.
“This stadium used to be a very active stadium with people traveling from neighbouring countries to play here, but for some time now it has really deteriorated and I think something must be done about it.
“If the government takes the pain to renovate this stadium, it would attract businesses to the area and also help the progress of the local league, while bringing revenue to the government and the National Sports Authority,” he stated.
Clearly, the Sekondi Sports Stadium, Essipong has been abandoned since CAN 2008. The claim by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta to the effect that repair works were at 90% completion was inaccurate, and obviously, nothing is going on there to restore the stadium to its former glory.
That leaves one with the obvious question: When will Ghana care at all?