Thursday, April 04, 2013

Obaigbena blames Boko Haram for failure to pay ThisDay staff salaries

Many Nigerian media houses don’t pay their workers salaries pomptly.

The embattled Chairman/Editor-in-Chief of Leaders and Company Limited, publishers of the THISDAY title, Nduka Obaigbena, on Thursday blamed the company’s failure to pay its workers’ salaries for the past six months on the activities of Boko Haram.

An online publication, The Eagle Online, in a two-part serial, narrated the challenges some of Thisday staff face. The online medium had said that the lack of salaries has negatively affected the workers to an extent that two of them – Agaga Silver, a staff in the maintenance sector of the Lagos office, and the Gombe State Correspondent, Saka Ibrahim, recently lost their lives after management failed to meet their requests for their salaries to enable them pay for their hospital bills when they took ill.

It also cited the case of the Cross River State Correspondent, Jude Okwe, who is suffering from a serious kidney condition and cannot afford the medical bill, hence, the state government took up the bill.

Also a Bayelsa State counterpart, Segun James, whose wife has been sick for a long time, had to practically relocate to the Lagos head office of the publication before he was given a life-line to take care of the situation.

The Nigerian Union of Journalists had threatened to shut down the operations of Thisday and other media houses that have failed to pay workers salaries.

For several hours last Friday, the office of ThisDay headquarters, located at Apapa, Lagos, was shut from as early as 8 a.m. by the National Union of Paper, Publishing Practitioners Workers of Nigeria to put pressure on the management on the workers’ salary.

In response to the embarrassing situation, Mr. Obaigbena, in a memo to the staff on Thursday evening, promised to clear the debt within 30 days, blaming the difficult times ThisDay has been through to the bombing of its Abuja office by the Boko Haram.

“Dear Colleagues, following several enquiries, I write to notify you that we are working very hard to pay delayed salaries,” Mr. Obaigbena said in the memo to the workers. “The process has already started in Abuja and should end within the next 30 days when ALL arrears of salaries and entitlements would have been settled and we resume payments when due.”

“As you are well aware, as a company, we had long put the issue of delayed salaries behind us and staff were being paid on time when we had the misfortune of a terrorist attack on our Abuja offices in April last year during which our buildings, million-Dollar printing and computer-to-plate equipment were gutted. And we sadly lost two lives – one of whom was our security official.

“Our insurance did not cover the losses as we were not insured for War Risk – no one planned for a terror attack in Nigeria and so we were left to fend for ourselves. Despite that, we continued to meet our commitments as due. But when the cost of outsourcing printing to third parties caught up with us, things began to slow,” Mr. Obaigbena said.

He said “after paying over N600 million in unplanned costs to outside printers, we began to feel the pain from October last year when many of you began to experience some delays in salary payments.”

“We could have cut costs by reducing staff, but given the circumstances we chose keep all staff until things got better. For many it is so easy to forget we had a terror attack and are losing monies everyday because of it.

“What we have decided to do is to sell non-core assets to pay off all debt and buy new printing and production equipments for Abuja. That process is on.

I just thought in view of the current negativity, I should communicate directly with you all, to assure you that all will be well. I thank you for your understanding and continuing loyalty to the company. We Shall Overcome. With continuing regards, Nduka,” the memo read.

----------Monday Ateboh/Premium Times
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