New Nigerian staff remain hopeful as company raises N1bn from liquidated assets
Two years after the 19 Northern Governors issued guidelines for the disposal of properties owned by New Nigerian Newspapers Ltd, New Nigerian Newspapers and Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo editors, retirees and current employees of the company say they remain hopeful that their dues will be paid soon.
OWith around 1 billion naira in its kitty, northern Nigeria’s leading news company, the New Nigerian Newspapers, may well be on its way to settling the dues of its dozens of employees, eagerly waiting to smile in the bank. Some of the properties of New Nigerian Newspapers Limited (NNN), publishers of new Nigerian newspapers, and Gaskiya Ta fi Kwabo were built under the late Prime Minister of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, in 1966.
The paper went on to become one of the most respected news organizations in the country, though it later faced decades of challenges that crippled its operations and ultimately led to its collapse. For the past eight years, the company had stopped production but still makes appearances online. Its range of retirees and those who still keep the diary online told stories of hardship and disenchantment with the company’s apparent neglect and its earlier impact on their lives.
In 2021, our correspondent, who visited the former newspaper’s headquarters in Kaduna, understood that the few workers still in service still lived in poverty as they often went months without pay. Most of the time, they received half or a quarter of the salary. Daily Trust The correspondent returned to the company’s premises along Ahmadu Bello Way in Kaduna last week and reports that the situation has not changed.
A member of staff who met our correspondent in the deserted premises said he was living in poverty and was barely able to provide for his family. Staff who pleaded to remain anonymous said: ‘We are in a critical situation. Feeding ourselves and our family is difficult and some of us barely eat once a day.
“My children have dropped out of school because I cannot pay their school fees. I have issues with my wife because I can’t take care of her like I should,” he said angrily. The middle-aged man, however, said what kept him going was the hope that he would one day reap the benefits of the 25 years he invested in the business through his rights.
“We implore the governors of the North to keep their promises and settle our rights before the start of the general elections in 2023. The campaigns have already begun and our families deserve to live a better life,” he said.
In 2006, the 19 northern state governors took over the company from the federal government after a failed attempt to sell it privately. Our correspondent reports that in 2020, in the face of the accrued entitlements of the number of retirees and existing workers, governors in the North have given directives for the disposal of company properties across the country. Kaduna Secretary of State to the State Government, Balarabe Abbas, has been appointed chairman of the company’s resuscitation committee for the payment of worker’s rights after the company’s assets, including staff accommodation , some unfinished storey buildings in Kaduna, as well as assets in Lagos and Abuja, are being phased out. Daily Trust on Sunday understood that the purpose of the transfer was to raise funds to settle workers’ rights.
However, two years after the decision was made, former and current employees of the company say they are disappointed that after the sale of the company’s properties and the payment processes completed, they still have not been paid. . Some staff members claimed that all necessary reports on the payment of workers’ rights had been submitted to the committee, which has not yet contacted them.
“We don’t know the reason for the delay in starting payment,” one of the staff said angrily. “We keep hearing next month, next month since last year, but we haven’t been paid yet. Now we hear that the money will be released before the end of September, although it is not official,” he said.
An editorial from the company said: “Most of the properties have been sold and the reason for the sale was to raise funds to pay us. We are praying intensely and seeking God’s intervention on this,” he said.
For his part, the President of the National Union of Publications Printing and Paperworkers of the New Nigeria Newspaper, Comrade Friday Sule Idoko said that the GSU of Kaduna State, who chairs the resuscitation committee for the payment of compensation, assured them that they will obtain their rights. According to Comrade Idoko, the workers remained patient even though he described the process as slow.
“Although there are difficulties, but we think they will do something positive this time around because all the good signs are on the ground. Some of the properties have been sold, some have not. been yet, but hopefully this time we get paid,” he said.
Although the chairman of the resuscitation committee, Lawal Balarabe, ignored phone calls and text messages sent to him on the next step after the sale of the properties, the company’s managing director, Yusuf Musa, said he had recently made a presentation at the last Northern Governors meeting in Abuja on the progress made so far and confirmed that funds had been raised through the sale of properties.
Musa said Daily Trust on Sunday that during the governor’s meeting, he listed three prayers to help with the challenges of the business. “This includes tackling the company’s growing liabilities resulting from the accumulation of workers’ wages. Management believes that all workers should in principle be retired and wages suspended while those whose services are still required can be rehired later,” he said.
He said it was necessary to retain only five staff led by the chief executive for administrative purposes in view of the resuscitation of the organization. “The third prayer is to approve the payment of a certain percentage of all the debts of the workers, according to the resources obtained from the sales of the properties so far.”
He also said that it was necessary to settle all the debts the company owed to its other partners amounting to more than 25 million naira to avoid further litigation threats. “The money raised so far exceeds N1 billion, but our expectations were above N2 billion,” he said.
The managing director said some of the properties have yet to be bid on while others have yet to be fully paid for due to economic reasons and likely inflations in the country.
Asked when the workers will be paid, the DM replied: “That is what we are pursuing at the moment. Recently, we had three visits to the Northern Governor’s Secretariat on this subject. You know we can’t say when, specifically, payment will be made, but all necessary follow-ups have been done and we will continue until our demands are met,” he said.
He praised the chairman of the resuscitation committee, Balarabe Abbas, for his tireless efforts to settle the case, adding that the money from the sale of the properties is in the hands of New Capital Properties Limited, which is the agent for arrangement.