French President Emmanuel Macron was hit by a second resignation in a week on Tuesday as his sports minister quit, forcing him to make two changes to his cabinet.
Macron was already seeking a replacement for environment minister Nicolas Hulot, whose shock resignation last week caught France’s political establishment off guard.
Hulot, a TV star who enjoyed the highest ratings of any in Macron’s cabinet, accused the president of not moving fast enough on key green pledges such as cutting France’s reliance on nuclear power.
His resignation was a blow for Macron, who famously responded to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate deal with a pledge to “make our planet great again”.
His office announced that parliament speaker Francois de Rugy, a former Greens party member who jumped ship to Macron’s Republic on the Move party last year, would fill Hulot’s shoes.
Earlier Tuesday, Sports Minister Laura Flessel, a popular fencing champion overseeing preparations for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, also stepped down.
Unlike Hulot, Flessel cited “personal reasons” for her decision.
“She wants to be able to act more freely and in a different way. (Her decision) is not linked to budgetary issues,” a source close to the minister told AFP, referring to tensions over state funding for the 2024 Games.
She will be replaced by Roxana Maracineanu, a silver medalist in the backstroke at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and a world champion in 1998.
The cabinet shuffle comes as Macron is trying to rebound from his lowest approval ratings since taking office in May 2017.
A poll Tuesday showed his ratings at just 31 per cent, down 10 points since July.
When you are president, “there are some days that are easier than others,” Macron said Monday during a back-to-school visit in Laval, western France.
His popularity had already taken a hit before the holidays after one of his top security aides was caught on film roughing up protesters while wearing a police helmet during a Paris demonstration.
Critics accused the president and his team of trying to cover up the incident, reinforcing his image as an aloof leader dismissive of traditional checks and balances.
The French leader also seems to be entertaining doubts about a major tax reform.
The government has pledged to start collecting income tax from workers’ monthly wages starting in January, instead of the year after tax declarations are filed as now.
But Macron now appears to be having doubts, saying he wants to ensure that all the kinks in the new system are ironed out before it is brought it.
French daily Le Parisien reported over the weekend that hundreds of thousands of mistakes had been uncovered during a recent testing phase.
Analysts say that former banker Macron, who has promised to boost purchasing power, may also loathe to oversee a drop in workers’ net salaries on their payslips — even if the total amount they pay in taxes does not change.
Business leaders, whom Macron has pledged to help by slimming down regulations, have criticised the reform which could cost companies a total of 310 million to 420 million euros ($360 million to $490 million) to implement.
Macron was scheduled to discuss the issue with Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday along with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
Philippe’s office said Tuesday that he would appear for a prime-time TV interview Tuesday evening to discuss both the cabinet shake-up and the tax reform plan.
Dalung, however, called on state governments and the private sector to create an environment that will encourage sports development, especially at the grassroots level.
He thanked the organisers of the competition for a job well done, saying it is a platform to encourage the younger generation to believe in Nigeria and develop their sporting skills.
“This is the right foundation for sports development. young people must be introduced to sports at these stages and the beauty of it is that they are going to establish friendship right from here.
“The team playing spirit will also be developed here so that when they meet at the latter part of their lives, they are not meeting strangers. This is how significant things like these contribute to sports development,” the minister said.
The House of Reps Committee on Sports says it will not consider the 2017 budget unless it is given a detailed presentation of how the 2016 budget was spent by the Ministry of Sports.
The House Committee took this position following allegations from different federations in the Sports Ministry regarding the disbursement of funds.
As part of its duties in ensuring the implementation of the 2016 budget, the House committee met with the Minister of Sports and officials of the ministry on Friday.
The meeting also sought to tackle pending issues such as the allegations against the Ministry of Sports regarding the disbursement of funds to the various sports federations in the ministry as some of them are yet to receive allocations as stated in the 2016 budget.
The Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Solomon Dalung, said that he was not aware of such allegations and that putting up a defence would be injustice to the Sports Ministry.
The Minister also touched on funding for the Rio 2016 Olympics and the challenges faced by the Ministry.
A member of the committee, Danburam Nuhu, observed that the ministry ought not to spend beyond the funds approved by the National Assembly.
As the debate rounded off, the chairman of the committee, Bukar Lawal, said that the Minister would have to face the committee again on another day.
Committees are also expected to complete work on the 2016 budget as soon as possible as the 2017 budget proposal is already before the National Assembly.
The former Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdulahi, is set to replace Mr Lai Mohammed as the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after north central leaders adopted him.
His election held on Thursday at the Zonal Congress of the party in Abuja.
Among the delegates to the congress were Governors Simon Lalong of Plateau and Sani Bello of Niger States.
The congress was chaired by the National Vice Chairman of APC from the zone, Zakari Idde.
Abdulahi was unanimously confirmed via a voice vote by the delegates, after the Nasarawa State House of Assembly Deputy Speaker, Godiya Akwashiki, nominated him and was seconded by Senate Spokesman, Aliyu Abdullahi.
Mr Abdullahi told journalists after his emergence that he would adopt a fresh strategy on his new job as he was aware that the post is different from his former position of sports minister, as they “demand different approaches”.
“I have a fair understanding of what I am expected to do even though you never know until you really get there.
“What I can assure is that I will do the best I can, not only in the improvement of our party but also in contributing to the progress of this country especially at this challenging period,” he said.
On the pressure that comes with the office of the National Publicity Secretary for a ruling party, Abdulahi said that he had the experience to manage this.
“However, what I know is that every human being is under pressure. Mr President, the ruling party chairman and everybody including the journalists are under pressure. There will always be pressure because the expectations of people are very high.
“So, irrespective of the economic challenges, we have to continue to weather the storm especially now that I am brought in to be part of the process. All I can reassure is that I will give the best I can to ensure that we continue to move forward,” he said.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, held the position until hi appointment as Minister by President Muhammadu buhari.
South Africa’s Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, says he is taken aback by the suspension of national coach, Ephraim Mashaba, especially now that the national team is doing well.
South Africa’s football association suspended head coach Ephraim Mashaba after what it refers to as “a regrettable incident”, a day after he guided the team to a 2-1 World Cup qualifying home victory over Senegal.
SAFA gave no reason for the suspension, but there are indications the 66-year-old argued with officials from the national body after the match in Polokwane.
“Mashaba will not join the team on their trip to Mozambique”, read the FA’s statement.
It added: “The Association has deemed it necessary to employ disciplinary measures after a regrettable incident at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday, 12 November 2016.”
There were also reports that he disrespected SAFA President, Danny Jordan.
His assistant Owen da Gama will take charge for the friendly against Mozambique in Maputo on Tuesday.
South Africa share first place in Group D with Burkina Faso on four points after two rounds.
The Minister for Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung, has charged managers and users of sporting facilities in Nigeria to develop a good maintenance culture.
According to the Minister, the poor state of infrastructure in the country is getting worse because those in charge of the facilities do not take proper care of them and when they go bad, they are abandoned.
While conducting a facility tour of the National Stadium in Lagos, Dalung expressed deep disappointment at the dilapidated state of the nation’s sporting facilities.
”As a people, our maintenance culture is very poor. We have no good reasons to explain why these structures are in the state they are. If fully maximized, those facilities could have generated good revenue and other benefits for sports development.”
The Minister expressed disappointment at the level of rot at the National Stadium and hopes to bring the structure back to life if given the chance to stay on with a long term plan.
One project he wants completed is the swimming pool. He gave a strict order to the contractor executing the project.
“If you tell me that this project will be completed in 100 years, I will wait. But if after that I come and you provide excuses why it is not completed, you will need God and the angels to intervene for you.
“If we release funds for you, we will follow you to the touchline. I don’t allow contractors to be paid and they use our money to change their fleet of cars and woo new girlfriends.
“My position is that before the end of the first quarter, people should be swimming in this pool. If it’s too difficult for you to meet up, I’ll help you but make sure that this pool is completed before the end of first quarter.”
Solomon Dalung also confirmed that there were plans to improve the welfare of national team players and coaching crew. According to him, it is important to take care of the athletes so they can give their best when representing the country.
”We are addressing the issue of non-payment of wages to players and the coaching crew. After giving the country a good representation, denying them of their benefits is totally unacceptable.
”The president has also approved the rewards of athletes who have made this country proud and have not been rewarded. These include the first team that won the Fifa U-16 Championship in 1985, we have sorted them out and the President has approved a date which will be announced this month for a celebration to appreciate the players including those who have done well recently.”
The Minister said that he believes a good reward system will sustain the skills, zeal and patriotism of Nigerian athletes whenever they are representing the country.
Nigeria’s Sports Minister and Chairman, National Sports Commission, Dr. Tammy Danagogo has charged the Nigeria Football Federation and coaching crew of the senior national team to make the Super Eagles competitive and ensure that only the best players represent the country at all times.
The minister who was pleased with the recent two-legged friendly matches for the home-based team against Cote d’ Ivoire and Yemen in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai, urged the NFF to organise more quality friendlies for the the players to stay busy.
According to a statement from the commission, Dr. Danagogo advised that with regular friendly matches for the Team B Eagles, the coaches would be able to beef up the first team for crucial matches with new players discovered as the Eagles prepare for the 2017 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers scheduled to begin after the on-going 2015 edition in Equatorial Guinea.
“If the Team B gets regular friendly matches, the coaches will have a pool of players to select from to beef up the main team.
“They have to make the team competitive so that only the best will represent the country at all times,” he said.
He called on Nigerians to continue to support the Super Eagles despite their failure to qualify for this year’s edition of the Nations Cup, adding that he was sure the NFF and the players have realised the mistakes of the past and will ensure they are corrected.
A veteran Nigerian Sports Journalist, Kayode Tijani, has frowned at the manner in which the crisis in the Nigerian Football Federation is being handled.
Tijani spoke on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily via the telephone from Abuja, to share his views on the goings on in Nigerian football administration.
He stated that the only way for Nigeria to avoid heavy sanctions was for the Sports Minister to denounce the factional NFF President, Chris Giwa, and put security at the Federation Secretariat latest by 8AM on Monday, September 8 “to let the Maigari faction take over”.
He explained that even if the Government was the major financier of the NFF, it still has to abide by the recommendations of world football governing body, FIFA, who is threatening heavy sanctions over the matter.
He refused to condemn the decision to unseat embattled NFF President, Aminu Maigari, but asked that things be done properly without attracting sanctions that would damage the image of the country and the entire sport sector.
As recommended by FIFA, there must be a congress chaired by Aminu Maigari, whom they recognize as the NFF President, for their to be any change in leadership.
Nigerians have suggested that Government taking its hands off football matters could reduce the regular crisis in the organisation and Tijani said that although it would take a while for things to stabilize, the move might be productive in the end.
He cited the League Management Committee as an example of the kind of independence that could be good for the NFF.
On the insistence of factional President of the NFF, Chris Giwa that only the Court of Arbitration for Sports could ask him to vacate the office, Tijani said, “If he wants that there is no problem but first of all resign or remove yourself from there.
“You can’t be staying in there and saying you want the Court of Arbitration panel. Its not even in his power. There is supposed to be a congress.”
Tijani blamed greed for the crisis, as everyone was “rushing there because of the cash the Government is bringing”. To him, there is no other basis for anyone to put personal interest ahead of the risk of Nigeria being banned by FIFA.
He warned of the possibility of all potential corporate sponsors of Nigerian football withdrawing their support of the game as they would not want to be associated with controversies.
The man, fondly referred to as the ‘Sport Encyclopedia’, believes that the impact of this on the Super Eagles’ performances would definitely be negative.
He also frowned at the practice of some media practitioners who have decided to take sides in the matter. He urged them to learn from Channels Television who have reported the crisis without bias, as this was the only way to help Nigeria move forward.
The House of Representatives Committee on Sports has invited the warring factions of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for an amicable resolution of the crisis rocking the Glass House.
Chairman of the Committee, Godfrey Gaiya, invited the factions after a closed door meeting with the Sports Minister, Tamuno Danagogo, at the National Assembly. Gaiya said that it had become necessary to meet with all warring factions to resolve the crisis.
Gaiya had last week pleaded with the stakeholders not to allow the crisis to escalate to the extent of attracting international attention and any sanction from the world soccer governing body, FIFA.
Hon. Gaiya noted, “After carefully watching and observing the recent happenings in the Nigerian football family vis-à-vis the crisis, the National Assembly wants to call on the warring factions to sheathe their swords in the interest of fair play and the development of the game in the country.
“We also noticed that the build-up to the election was among the issues causing ripples and we want to also appeal to the concerned committee to make the nomination forms available to all interesting persons. The concerned committee must also create a level playing ground and allow the electoral congress to take the final decision as the tradition in the past.”
The National Assembly further noted: “We urge the authorities concerned not to allow the crisis to escalate to the level of attracting international attention or result in FIFA setting up a harmonization committee, which certainly will not be in the interest of Nigerian football.
“The National Assembly will continue to follow up the development but may in due time invite all factions, if need be, to find an amicable solution to the crisis.”
FIFA Referees Advisor and Consultant to the Nigeria Football Federation on refereeing, Linus Mba, has become the first casualty of the FIFA Suspension order on Nigeria.
Mba, who was appointed three weeks ago as the Match Commissioner for the Sierra Leone and Seychelles African Cup of Nations qualifier in Freetown on July 19 has been replaced.
On Monday, the retired FIFA referee and former member of the CAF Referees Committee got a letter from CAF regretting his replacement.
The letter signed by Amr Fahmy Manager, Nations Cup said in part: “I regret to inform you that due to the suspension of the Nigerian FA, we had to temporarily suspend all appointments for any officials/referees from Nigeria, so we were left without any choice but to replace you for the above-mentioned match.”
Fahmy letter read: “…price that experienced men like yourself, good servants of African football, have to pay.”
Few hours before CAF’s decision, the referee consultant had received a mail from the General Secretary, Sierra Leone Football Association, Chris Kamara, that his tickets and other documents for him and the referees were to be sent by Wednesday.
This decision has come on the heels of suggestions that before Tuesday the Nigeria case would be normalized to allow FIFA lift the suspension order.
The Eaglets are expected to leave on Wednesday to Congo DR, while the Super Falcons are set for the African Women Championship draws in Windhoek, Namibia, this weekend, but that would only happen if Nigeria normalizes the relationship with FIFA.
The fate of Mba would further explain the powers of FIFA sanctions as adopted by Confederations and other Federations worldwide.