Flamboyant publisher of THISDAY, Nduka Obaigbena, has appealed to his workers to be patient over his inability to pay salaries, blaming the delays on last year's Boko Haram attack on the Abuja premises of the newspaper.
Mr. Obaigbena has not paid the workers since the beginning of this year. But he promised to clear the backlog within a few weeks.
"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," he said in a "Dear Colleague" letter to the unhappy staff.
His desperation to write the letter might not be unconnected with a plan by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) to commence a protest in the premises of his paper next week over the unpaid salaries. Many of his employees were complaining about unpaid and late salaries long before the Boko Haram attack.
Mr. Obaigbena recently commenced a global TV station - Arise TV- in London with big broadcast stars on his payroll. The TV station has been severally linked to Nigeria's wealthy Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke as its major sponsor. Several of the broadcasters reportedly demanded three years pay in advance to forestall that fate that befell Mr. Obaigbena's THISDAY journalists.
Given Mr. Obaigbena's tendency to break promises made to his staff, it was unclear today if the NUJ will go ahead with the protest plan.
See text of the letter:
From: Nduka Obaigbena
To: Staff of THISDAY
Following several enquiries, I write to notify you that we are working very hard to pay delayed salaries.
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 equipments(sic( 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. 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 (sic)( 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,