A N45 million advertisement by cash-strapped Kogi State government is at the center of a bitter disagreement in the Leadership newspaper where a staff is threatening to sue the publication his salary arrears and the advert commission.
The former staf, Durojaiye Hassan, at the weekend said he had concluded plans to drag the publisher of the Newspaper, Sam Nda- Isaiah, to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), over N4.8 million salary arrears.
Hassan also wants the publication to pay him the commission for the hundreds of pages advertisement he single-handedly secured for the Newspaper from the Kogi State government.
The Managing Director of the newspaper, Mr. Obi Azuru, was not willing to be comment on the matter because, according to him, it was a legal matter being handled by lawyers on both sides.
“The case is still being investigated so it makes it difficult for me to comment until a solution has been arrived at. He has written us a letter to say he is going to court. We are watching the events to see how they unfold. We have a lawyer that is also handling the matter, so at this point I am not in a position to be responding to a legal issue like that,” Azuru said.
Recall that Kogi State government which has been having a running battle with its striking workers recently put up adverts in the newspaper enumerating the list of workers it said it had paid up to date two months ago.
Governor Yahaya Bello had promised to place the advert to prove workers wrong that he was indebted to them for between four to 21 months. Majority of the workers are still on strike, while a director allegedly committed suicide over unpaid salary arrears.
Many had frowned at the huge sum spent on the adverts for a cash-strapped government that workers were allegedly being owed salaries and pensions.
Meanwhile, Lawyer to Hassan, Omileye Olamide Ayoola, disclosed the plans to sue the Leadership newspaper and its publisher while briefing Judiciary Correspondents in Abuja.
For over a week now, a full page ‘Disclaimer’ on Hassan has been running in LEADERSHIP Newspaper.
Hassan’s lawyer, Ayoola, urged members of the public who may not have known the genesis of the crisis to disregard the disclaimer advert in the LEADERSHIP Newspapers.
Hassan said, “(He) is (allegedly) known for cheating his staff when it comes to the issue of their welfare. He decided to start running disclaimer adverts against me simply because I refused to be cheated.
According to him, the adverts placed by Kogi State Government amounted to tens of millions of Naira out of which he allegedly paid a month salary to workers.
Ayoola explained that Hassan who was employed by the Newspaper in 2011 until he resigned voluntarily in July 2017 had three years outstanding arrears of his salary to the tune N4.8 million unpaid.
The lawyer, however, said his client fell apart with LEADERSHIP Newspaper when Hassan, through the good relationship he had established in the past secured the pages of advertisement from Kogi State government to the tune of N45.5 million.
“The payment for this advert was done through Hassan’s personal account. The monies were paid into his account in his individual capacity and not as a staff of LEADERSHIP Newspapers but more or less as an agent through which they could have paid the assignment through other Newspapers since he became a free agent after his resignation from the Newspaper in July, 2017.
“In the course of this payment, some monies were lodged to my client account which he appropriately remitted to LEADERSHIP Newspaper and took less N3 million as commission which was an agreement between him and management of LEADERSHIP Newspaper. This N3 million was a token out of the contract worth N45.5 million.
“The explanation for this is that he paid N39.5 million into LEADERSHIP Newspapers, took N3 million as agreed between him and the management of LEADERSHIP Newspapers and another N1 million which was supposed to be given to the Kogi State Government House staff to facilitate the payment as agreed and approved by the management of LEADERSHIP Newspapers as well.
“My client also took N2 million, part of his salary arrears; this was also done with the agreement of the management of LEADERSHIP Newspapers.”
Hassan’s lawyer expressed shock that instead of honouring the agreement with his client, there was a resort to intimidation and harassment of his client with the police.
“My client was harassed, arrested, intimidated and detained by the police for no crime committed under our laws. As a law-abiding citizen, he has always made himself available at every given time as requested by the police force” he added.
He also expressed surprise over the full page disclaimer LEADERSHIP Newspaper which, according to him, has projected his client’s image in bad light.
He said his client has received several calls both locally and internationally asking him what he had done to have necessitated such disclaimer.
Ayoola said, “On the disclaimer, we have today sent a letter to LEADERSHIP Newspapers making various demands prominent among which is his salary arrears, the illegal deduction made on his salary for all the years he had worked with the paper.
“His one year salary which was taken from him over advertisement he knew nothing about should be paid. We have all the evidence and facts to prove all these. These are facts that will be clear for the court to see when the time comes.
“The issue of staff unfair treatment in Nigeria has become so common. This battle should not be treated lightly because if this should happen to Durojaiye today, it can happen to anybody”.