Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The firing on Friday of Super Eagles coach Samson Siasia because he failed to take Nigeria to the 2012 African Nations Cup to be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea topped all other stories in the country this week.
There were also stories on the mounting opposition to government's moves to remove subsidy on fuel, the growing debt profile and moves by government to rate ministers' performances.
"Nations Cup disaster: Siasia finally gets the boot," was the headline of the story in the Vanguard. It said that after much foot-dragging, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Friday dispensed with the services of Super Eagles Chief Coach, Samson Siasia, despite his plea for more time to put together a "strong" team for the future.
According to the paper, the NFF Executive Committee only rubber-stamped the recommendation of its Technical Committee which hurriedly met to decide Siasia’s fate after he failed to fulfill part of his contract which was to qualify the Eagles for the 2012 African Nations Cup.
The federation had been under tremendous pressure to sack Siasia although Nigerians were divided on the issue. The majority was of the view that some coaches who even qualified Nigeria for the Nations Cup and got to the semi final were given the boot.
One such Nigerian, himself a former coach of Nigeria’s U-17 team and Super Falcons, Godwin Izilein, queried the call for Siasia’s pardon when he couldn’t meet his own side of the contract terms.
The Sun reported the Siasia story with headline "NFF sacks Siasia", saying that the NFF announcement ended weeks of wide speculations about Siasia's future.
Also under the headline "NFF Sacks Siasia", the Tribune said Siasia's tenure as the Super Eagles' coach finally ended on Friday.
The paper recalled that Siasia got the Super Eagles job on 4 November, 2010, beating fellow USA 94 World Cup campaigner, Stephen Keshi, to the job.
Part of his contract demanded that he led the Super Eagles to the semi-final of the 2012 African Nations Cup.
Reacting, Siasia said he meant well on the job but accepted the verdict of the NFF. ''Change is always a process,'' he said, adding ''I highly respect the NFF, its authority, our leaders, the Nigerian people, their feelings and the nation.
''I am more disappointed than anybody else that we did not qualify and I say thank you to those who believe in us and stood behind the Super Eagles of Nigeria.''
Siasia, who said the Super Eagles job had taught him a lot of things, wished his successor the best of luck.
It said although the nation’s football ruling body did not announce a replacement for Siasia, it disclosed that the Technical Committee would meet on Tuesday to come up with recommendations to that effect while the Executive Board would sit on Wednesday to ratify and unveil the new Super Eagles Manager.
Prior to Friday's emergency congress of the NFF, the names of former Super Eagles captains, Stephen Keshi and Sunday Oliseh, had dominated the headlines in the sporting media as possible replacements for Siasia.
While the Punch headline was "At last, NFF dismisses Siasia", the Nation captioned its story "NFF sacks Siasia" and the Guardian said " NFF Sacks Siasia, Uche, Meets Next Week On Interim Coach".
According to the Guardian, the federation also sacked Super Falcons boss, Uche Eucharia, for failing to qualify for both Maputo 2011 All-Africa Games and the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Uche was technically out of work since her contract with the NFF ended with the Olympic qualifiers.
On the planned fuel subsidy removal, the Vanguard, reporting the story with the headline "Opposition mounts against removal of fuel subsidy", said that eminent Nigerians and leaders of prominent pressure groups, ethnic and religious groups, as well as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had resolved to fight to standstill, government’s planned removal of fuel subsidy from next year.
At a meeting hosted by erudite jurist and former Education Secretary, Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN), the citizens, drawn from The Patriots, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Pro-National Conference Organisations (PRONACO), NLC, Muslim Rights Concern (MRC) among others, said they could not fold their arms and watch the nation descend into avoidable disintegration.
In its second story on fuel, the Vanguard reported that following mounting opposition, the Federal Government has declared that the removal plan was not yet a done deal as talks with various stakeholders were ongoing.
Government also said it had not fixed a date for the take-off of the measure.
Saying that the "House of Reps will block subsidy removal", the Trust reported on Monday that the lower chamber of the National Assembly would do everything within its powers to stop President Goodluck Jonathan from removing subsidy on petroleum products.
The paper quoted House Deputy minority leader, Suleiman Abdurahman Sumaila, as saying that lawmakers had uncovered a plot by the government to blackmail them using their governors who will threaten them with recall if they refuse to support government's policy on the subsidy.
Thisday newspaper also went to town with the headline "House May Oppose Fuel Subsidy Removal", saying that the House of Representatives may vote against the proposed removal of fuel subsidy if opposition parties had their way when the issue came up for debate.
The Guardian headlined its story on the country's mounting debt profile as "Concerns as Nigeria’s debt hits US$ 39.72 billion". It said that a few years after the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo brought Nigeria out of the Paris and London clubs debt over-hang, the country’s debt burden is again assuming a worrisome dimension.
It said that the Senate, the upper legislative house in the National Assembly, had disclosed that the nation’s debt profile had risen to US$ 39.72 billion. It put the external debt element at US$ 5.398 billion and domestic debt at 5.21 trillion naira.
This represents a significant leap on the US$ 3.62 billion the Debt Management Office (DMO) presented as the country’s external debt stock at the end of March 2009.
Before the government got the debt relief, Nigeria’s external debt stock in 2004 was US$ 35.94 billion and by December 2006, the amount declined to US$ 3.54 billion.
The Sun and Tribune ran the stories with these headlines -- "Nigeria owes 6.02 trillion naira – Senate", says the Sun and the Tribune called it "States are distressed, says Senate committee" with the riders 'Calls for more funds for states, LGs' and 'As Nigeria’s total debt hits US$ 39.72 billion"
"Ministers may lose jobs over poor scorecard", reported the Guardian which said "The order is clear enough: Laggards, stragglers and slackers beware; there is no more room for you in government!"
The paper said the warning was evident in the submission of Special Adviser to the President on Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Prof. Sylvester Monye, at a high-level roundtable on Nigeria’s economic transformation agenda.
According to Monye, as part of its quest for greater performance from federal ministries, plans are underway by the Presidency to commit all ministers to sign a performance contract with it.
The bond, which would be backed up with a performance contract policy, was adopted from those currently in operation in the United States, United Kingdom, Malaysia, New Zealand, India, Ghana and Kenya, where government officials are held accountable for what they do or fail to do in office.
Monye stressed that a set of main outcome indicators would be determined by the Presidency on which basis the ministers would be assessed and blamed the failure of governments in the past on the lack of efficient machineries to implement programmes.
-0- PANA VAO/MA 29Oct2011