Kwesi Sagoe, a former President, Nigerian Cricket Federation, says the construction of a cricket pitch of international standards in the University of Lagos will further project the institution as one of Africa’s best.
Sagoe, also a former Chairman, African Cricket Association, made the assertion on Saturday at the Sod Turning ceremony for the redevelopment of the Cricket Pitch of the University of Lagos Sports Centre.
The project is to cost at least N75 million.
The ceremony, which was put together by the University of Lagos Cricket Alumni Association, was in honour of a retired lecturer in the university, Prof. Adebola Kukoyi, who turned 80 on Thursday.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Kukoyi, a Professor of French, was an active member of the association during his days as a student and lecturer in the university.
He retired from the university in 2005.
Sagoe said beyond honouring Kukoyi on his 80th birthday, the association felt there was the need to give back to the university of Lagos, which moulded them.
He said: “The whole idea is to give back to cricket and make sure that in Unilag, it remains the sport of first choice and must not disappear from the extra curricular activities of the institution.
“That is very important, and we stand by it.
“The English Football Federation has a high performance centre at one of the universities in UK.
“This is the kind of relationship we want University of Lagos to have with the Nigerian Cricket Federation, whereby this place can be a high performance centre for Nigerian cricket as a whole.”
Sagoe added that building a befitting cricket facility in honour of Kukoyi would be in appreciation to his immense contributions to the development of the sports in the institution.
He added: “About seven weeks ago, when we put our heads together as a body of cricketers who played under his watch for the upcoming birthday of Prof. Kukoyi who also imbibed some qualities in us.
“We felt the need to come up with what we are witnessing today.
“As at today, we have about 102 members, and we are still reaching out to others; the important thing about this is that all the members are happy that we got together to deliberate on how to celebrate Prof. Kukoyi.
“We thought deeply about the cricket facility here, that it will be good to renew it, and therefore we sought the consent of the university authorities to name it in his honour.
“We are very excited by the reception that we got from the vice chancellor and his management team.”
Uyi Akpata, Vice President, Nigerian Cricket Federation and a member of the alumni association, said at least N75 million would be needed to put in place a cricket pitch of international standards in the university.
Akpata, also the Chairman, Edo State Cricket Association, added that the institution’s cricket alumni association was looking at positioning the institution as one of the best on the African continent, considering its recent ranking by Forbes as the third productive university in Africa.
He said: “For the pitch, which is the main one, it has to be completed within the next two months.
“We need to take advantage of the rainy season to do it so that planting can be done.
“To do the pitch itself with the underground watering system, irrigation, turf wickets and others, we are looking at a range of between N50 million to N70 million, but it could be less if we would be assisted with equipment by other public-spirited individuals.
“Ultimately, it is a process, and we are targeting to do a formal opening ceremony around November.
“What we are looking at now is beyond this.
“It is about how we are going to support the university going forward, support female cricketers and attract foreigners here to play cricket.”
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, reiterated that part of his vision on assumption of office was to bring in friends and alumni to assist in building the institution.
Ogundipe said: “Here, we are talking about project, programme and person.
“In the last one or two weeks, there have been lots of activities; this is one of such activities that our vision has attracted to the university.
“This project, the cricket pitch, will be of international standard, and I can assure you that by next year, we shall begin to see foreigners come into the university to play cricket.
“We thank God for the life of Prof. Kukoyi who had been part of the cricket family since his days as a student and even when he was here as a lecturer and when he retired.
“He contributed to the development of these ‘boys’ and because of this, they want to honour him this way, not to him as an individual, but through him to the institution.
“I think I have taken some lessons from this.”
Also in his remarks, Kukoyi said he was overwhelmed and humbled by the gesture.
He said: “I am indeed overwhelmed and surprised at this whole idea.
“I know the vice chancellor is a remarkable person, a man of substance, just like all others who are behind this.
“When they want to do something, they put in all their energy to it.
“With all these efforts, we are going to turn this place to an academy of sports.”