Nakivubo is a death trap, grieves Okello

Wednesday September 30 2020

Previously an 18,000-seater stadium, the new design shows that Nakivubo will have a new capacity of 35,000. But that is foolhardy. The size of stands being put up is too small, and the access and exit routes in case of an emergency are illegal. PHOTO | MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

By Innocent Ndawula

Social media has been in overdrive since Monday with many Ugandans; home and abroad adding their voice to a sports editorial column that was written by yours truly and ran in this paper on the same day under the headline; ‘Nakivubo: How did we get here?’ 
Most of the people that have offered feedback, which continues to pour in like an avalanche, haven’t been shy to show their dismay at the slow speed of the Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium project redevelopment progress whereas a handful have opted to appreciate young Kampala businessman Hamis Kiggundu for having the heart to undertake such an enormous task.
With the set delivery date, 2019, of the project issued to Roko Construction already in arrears and with a new one set for August 2021 by contract holders Ham Enterprises, the jury is still out on the latter to do a diligent job.
And Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) and Confederation of African Football (Caf) certified Security and Safety Officer Dixon Adol Okello commonly referred to as ‘Bond’ is one of the stakeholders that has poured cold water on any hopes of the operators pulling off an international stadium with Fifa and Caf qualities.
“Ham is telling lies to Ugandans,” says Okello, the man nicknamed Bond after the James Bond series which focus on a fictional British Secret Service created in 1953, because of his hands-on style during social gathering events; both entertainment and sports. 
“For starters, silina fitina (loosely translated as I have nothing against him). I am happy that such a young Ugandan has the guts to take over such a big project. But he didn’t get proper advice right from the onset and he even failed to consult the right people going forward. There is no way Fifa and Caf can certify that stadium given the design I have see.”
Okello, who on a special assignment, took a stroll down to Nakivubo at the back end of last year says that if Ham Properties had consulted Fufa CEO Edgar Watson (Caf Technical Study Group), Fufa Development Director Ali Mwebe (Caf General Coordinator) and Fufa president Moses Magogo (Caf Executive Committee Member & Caf Chairman Futsal & Beach Soccer Committee & previously on Fifa Safety & Security Committee) after getting the deal back in 2015, things would have been better right now.
“These guys are big stakeholders of the game and are knowledgeable of what it takes to build an international stadium. They could have advised for free but they were ignored. The authorities didn’t help the cause but were happy to hand over to Ham quickly knowing that an international stadium in such a location is impossible. They should have given him another plot of land to develop the stadium but not Nakivubo. Right now, Nakivubo can only host league games if it is even ever finished,” Okello, a Switzerland and Poland trained Crowd Risk and Stadium Expert, adds.
Problem Areas
Previously an 18,000-seater stadium,  the new design shows that Nakivubo will have a new capacity of 35,000. But that is foolhardy. The size of stands being put up is too small, and the access and exit routes in case of an emergency are illegal. The surroundings including buildings towering over the stadium, the taxi/bus parks and Owino Market make traffic impassable. Four main gates are a must and proper barricaded buffer zones like Namboole but there is hardly any room for them at Nakivubo. 
“The towering buildings compromise security. Anyone can throw a bomb from up there. What happens in case of a stampede as people hurriedly exit? Are people willing to close and vacate their shops in those arcades 48 hours to the match day to allow for a bomb sweep and at 24 hours to the match and on the morning of the match day? It’s location means, we have to condone off traffic for 72 hours say from Shoprite Biwologoma, Mini Price, Pride Theater and Kisenyi ahead of an international game. But who will grant that permission to rid the buses and taxis from the stadium’s proximity? I reckon, no one. Nakivubo is a death trap, ” said the former national athlete (400m and long jump).
Raw deal
“Two things; Ham cannot complete the stadium even one year from now if he is to do proper stuff. Secondly, Nakivubo cannot be an international stadium. Impossible. Things in Uganda keep repeating themselves. This is similar to the raw deal that Shoprite gave KCCA at Lugogo. But Nakivubo is worse. It is a death trap,” concluded Okello.
When contacted, National Council of Sports (NCS) Assistant General Secretary – Technical David Katende Ssemakula distanced the country’s sports governing body from the forgettable happenings at Nakivubo. 
“I would want you to appreciate the fact that NCS is operating under a different Act as compared to Nakivubo. The board there is established under the Nakivubo Board of Trustees Act (NBTA) and that Act defines what has to be done and how to develop and improve the Stadium,” said Katende.  
“Because of the different Acts, ours remains mere supervision. The board is independent of NCS. So it does its planning and how it wants to develop the facility on its own. We oversee this structure but actual management is by the NBTA. 
“Secondly, that project is being run under a PPP (Public Private Partnership) so there is a private investor, investing in a public facility and that is the partnership. So the private investor is Ham, on behalf of the public is the board of Nakivubo. So as part of Nakivubo, the board provided the land, the investor is putting in the money to develop the structure and I think they have agreed under that PPP MoU and for how long it will take to recoup the money that he has invested. Maybe at a particular time when it elapses, he will just handover the facility to the Board for further management.” The redevelopment is estimated at $49m (Shs181b).