The elaborate reception for the new African football champions, the Super Eagles, discovery of ghost workers and rising population were the main stories in Nigeria this week. Also reported during the week were Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, the massive objection to the 4-billion Naira (about US$ 27 million) Mission House for the first lady and moves by federal legislators to stop the use of foreign currencies for local transactions.
'Tumultuous reception for heroic Super Eagles' was the headline of the GUARDIAN on Wednesday. The story said that a sea of cheering residents and fans thronged the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to receive the victorious Super Eagles who returned on Tuesday from South Africa where they were crowned continental football kings.
The Eagles had on Sunday night defeated Burkina Faso 1-0 to become the African champions for the third time. Their last triumph was 19 years ago.
According to the GUARDIAN, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Bala Mohammed, who led other top officials to receive the Nigerian team had a herculean task gaining entrance into the arrival hall of the airport as the crowd surged, resulting in a stampede.
Security agents watched helplessly as the surging crowd smashed the glass doors in the ensuing euphoria and stampede, which also temporarily paralysed other official airport activities.
Residents, including women and school children who lined the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua expressway leading to the airport, also waved as the convoy headed to the stadium.
The NATION headlined its story 'Keshi, players get national honours, cash, plots of land'. It said that President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday announced a cash gift of 5 million Naira (about US$ 33,000) to each member of the Super Eagles and the team’s three assistant coaches.
While the Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, was given 10 million Naira (about US$ 66,000), members of the technical crew received were given 2 million Naira (US$ 13,200) each.
The cash gifts also came with a plot of land and national honours for each member of the team.
While THISDAY ran the story with the headline 'Jonathan Showers Gifts, Honours on Super Eagles', the VANGUARD called it 'Afcon: Super Eagles get cash, national awards.'
'Eagles jump 22 spots on FIFA Rankings' was how the INDEPENDENT reported the follow-up to Super Eagles' victory. According to the paper, the team's achievement in South Africa has started to yield dividends as it team jumped an incredible 22 spots on the February edition of the FIFA Rankings released on Thursday.
The Super Eagles that previously occupied the 52nd position before 2013 AFCON, now occupy the 30th position and are now fourth best-ranked African team.
According to the rankings, their exploits gave Nigeria 747 points and pushed it 22 places up to the 30th position, its best since August 2010.
On ghost workers, the INDEPENDENT headlined its story 'Staff Audit: FG unmasks 45,000 ghost workers, saves N100 billion', reporting that the Federal Government has saved over 100 billion Naira (about US$ 667 million) following the ongoing staff audit that has so far unmasked about 45,000 ghost workers in 251 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The audit, under the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS), introduced in the last 18 months, has covered 153,019 workers as at January, while 321 MDAs are yet to be audited.
The figures were disclosed on Wednesday in Abuja by the Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, whose ministry made a performance assessment presentation at the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The NATION captioned its story '45,000 ghost workers on payroll, says Fed Govt', saying that 45,000 ghost workers have been uncovered in 215 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government under the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS).
Briefing State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting, chaired by President Jonathan in Abuja, Ngama said the IPPIS was introduced to enhance efficiency in personnel cost, planning and budgeting on actual verified number and not estimates.
The minister said that government had also established the Treasury Single Account (TSA) as a unified structure of government bank account, which gave a consolidated view of the cash position.
Ninety-two MDAs, he said, were currently on TSA while 97 Abuja-based MDAs would be added by next month.
The papers also reported the growing population in Nigeria with the SUN running the story under the headline 'Population hits 170 million'.
The SUN said that the National Population Commission (NPC) on Thursday startled Nigerians with a declaration that the country's population had now risen to 170 million.
It quoted the NPC Chairman, Eze Festus Odimegwu, as saying that Nigeria’s population grew at 3.2 per cent per annum and that by the end of this year, the country’s population would have vaulted from 160 million in 2006 to 170 million in 2013.
The sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was reported widely in Nigeria. Nigerians, especially the Catholic faithful, were shocked when the Pope announced that he would resign on 28 February, citing his deteriorating health.
Benedict, the 265th Pope, was elected on 19 April, 2005. His resignation will pave the way for the election of a new Pope by the Conclave. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome and the leader of the Catholic Church worldwide.
The NATION, treating the story under the headline 'My resignation won’t hurt church, says Pope Benedict', reported that a visibly moved Pope Benedict on Wednesday tried to assure his worldwide flock over his stunning decision to become the first pontiff in centuries to resign, saying he was confident that it would not hurt the Church.
He spoke as the Vatican announced that a Conclave to elect his successor would start sometime between 15 and 20 March in keeping with Church rules about the timing of such gatherings after the Papacy becomes vacant.
“Continue to pray for me, for the Church and for the future pope,” he said in un-scripted remarks at the start of his weekly general audience, his first public appearance since his shock decision on Monday to step down.
'No hope for African Pope – Benedict’s brother,' wrote the SUN on Thursday. The paper said that Pope Benedict’s elder brother, the Rev. George Ratzinger, has given insight into why the coveted position of Catholic Pontiff may elude Africa as the Church begins the process of appointing a new pope.
Much speculation has focused on whether Benedict’s successor might come from Africa or Latin America, rather than Europe, where Roman Catholic congregations are shrinking.
The pope’s brother, speaking in Regensburg, Germany, said he expected to see a pope chosen from outside Europe one day but not just yet.
“I’m certain a pope will come from the new continents but whether it will be now, I have my doubts,” he said. “In Europe, we have many very able people, and the Africans are still not so well known and may be do not have the experience yet.”
Among those considered frontrunners for the role are Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan; Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who heads the Vatican’s office of bishops; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, an Argentinian, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria.
The VANGUARD, with the headline, 'Soyinka leads protest to Fashola over N4bn First Lady House', reported that Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and civil society groups on Thursday condemned the 4 billion Naira earmarked for the construction of a Mission House for the First Lady, Patience Jonathan, in the 2013 budget of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, saying it is “a mind-boggling fiscal misappropriation”.
The Mission House for the First Lady is expected to serve as centre to host other African First Ladies.
Soyinka and civil society expressed their displeasure in a letter read during a protest march organised by Women Arise for Change Initiative, which also had in attendance, Mr. Festus Keyamo; wife of late Beko Ransome-Kuti, Abosede; daughter of the late Afro beat king, Yeni Anikulapo and others.
The protesters displayed various placards which read: “N4 billion will create jobs, so we say no to mission house'; N4 billion budget for Mission House, we say no to fiscal rascality.”
The TRIBUNE ran the same story under the headline 'Soyinka, Keyamo ask FG to halt N4bn Mission House'.
The papers also carried stories on moves by the Federal House of Representatives to halt the use of foreign currencies in local and domestic transactions in Nigeria.
The legislators observed, during a debate, that there is a growing trend in the use of foreign currencies, especially the US Dollar, for payments of school fees, hotel bills, real estate, rent and purchase in bars, night clubs, luxury good shops, in Nigeria, saying that the trend has led to the high demand of foreign currencies in the country.