Posted by Olusegun El-Suatini | 26 January 2019 | 1,333 times
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has dismissed an appeal brought before it by Daily Times of Nigeria PLC. The Presiding Judge, Justice Tijjani Mustapha, ruled that the appeal lacked merit. The appeal was in protest against an earlier judgement delivered in July 2018, by the NICN in favour two Nigerian journalists – Nduka Uzuakpundu and Babatunde Scott – who had dragged Daily Times to the NICN for unpaid salaries.
The judgment marks an end to a two-year, tedious struggle and rugged quest for justice by Uzuakpundu and Scott.
During the trial, the owner of Daily Time of Nigeria PLC, Mr. Fidelis Anosike, tried, but failed, through his counsel, Mr. Uche Awulu, to convince the NICN that Uzuakpundu and Scott were no employees of the Daily Times, and so their case against it should be dismissed.
The court ruled that given the evidence before it – letters of employment of Uzuakpundu and Scott, letters of wrongful termination of their appointments, under the pretext of re-organisation of Daily Times of Nigeria PLC, the publishers of Daily Times, where Uzuakpundu and Scott worked and bank statements of their accounts – Uzuakpundu and Scott, who were represented at various times by counsels Tayo Odukola, Sam Ogueri and Mark Nosa Imonitie from Abope Chambers, headed by Dr. Femi Aborishade – were legally employed by the Daily Times of Nigeria PLC.
A former Minister of Information, who craved anonymity, was of the opinion that “the judgment in favour of Uzuakpundu and Scott is a clear case of the triumph of good over evil. It was a victory of truth over falsehood. A well deserved defeat of an evil intent to muddy the waters of justice. All that in spite of the naked lies and brazen acts of dishonesty sworn to in nearly thirty paragraphs of an affidavit.”
Some sources at the Bureau Public Enterprise (BPE), Abuja, who craved anonymity, told this writer, on the line, soon after the judgment on January 21, 2019, that the agency had been following the suit filed against the Daily Times by Uzuakpundu and Scott, and they see the judgement as well deserved.
The sources – one a Manager and the other a Director – revealed that in recent times, the BPE had received nearly 50 petitions – 15 counter-signed by two former Managing Directors of the Daily Times, twenty counter-signed by three former National Presidents of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), seven counter-signed by two of the founders of the must-read, but now off-the-newsstand Newswatch magazine, nine counter-signed by a former Minister of Information and six by a former governor of Lagos State – all from genuinely aggrieved Nigerian journalists concerning how Mr. Fidelis Anosike and his brother Noel – alongside Mr. Olisa Egbunike, had been maltreating Nigerian journalists whom they employed to work for the Daily Times, by refusing with brazen heartlessness to pay them their salaries – and much to the criminal breach of the labour/industrial laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In response to the plea in one of such petitions jointly written by 14 journalists who are still being owed by the Daily Times, the BPE sources said they may have to draw the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, “to the criminal conduct of the publisher of Daily Times, Mr. Fidelis Anosike, in his indefensible refusal to pay those journalists a back log of salaries; some close to twenty months.”
The sources added that this move would be with the intent to compel Mr. Fidelis Anosike and his co-oppressors of Nigerian journalists to mend their ways, and comply with the rules and guidelines of the BPE – like a binding publication of other titles in the media house’s stable – when it sold Daily Times of Nigeria PLC to him.
But, said the sources, “There are very strong indications at the Presidency that the criminal manner with which Mr. Fidelis Anosike has treated most Nigerian journalists is perceived as corruption per se; a practice that the Buhari administration frowns upon.
“We fear that except there are convincing signs of repentance on the part of Mr. Fidelis Anosike – defraying the debt he owed about fifty (50) certified Nigerian journalists, who are members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) – the Buhari administration may be compelled o stop the publication of the Daily Times.”
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