By David Oladimeji
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, had ruled that the DTN appeal lacked merit. The appeal was in protest against an earlier judgment delivered in July 2018, by the NICN in favour of two Nigerian journalists – Nduka Uzuakpundu and Babatunde Scott – who had dragged the 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, t Fidelis Anosike, the proprietor of the media Company tried, was said to have done everything within his powers through his counsel, Uche Awulu, to convince the NICN that Uzuakpundu and Scott were not employees of DTN, and therefore their case against it should be dismissed.
But the court had 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-organization of DTN, 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 Femi Aborishade – were legally employed by the Daily the Company.
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 – especially by the General Manager of DTN, one Olisa Egbunike, who styles himself as a Christian and seasoned journalist, as he was said to have unrepentantly connived with Anosike, the publisher of the Daily Times, in his own false affidavit of a similar length, to the effect that Uzuakpundu and Scott were not employees of DTN Daily Times and therefore, their case should be struck out.
Some sources at the Bureau Public Enterprise,BPE, Abuja, who craved anonymity, told The Value News, on the line, soon after the judgment on Monday, January 21, 2019, that the agency had been following the suit filed against the Daily Times by Uzuakpundu and Scott, and they see the judgment as well deserved.
The BPE sources revealed that in therecent times,they have received over 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 rested Newswatch magazine, nine counter-signed by a former Minister of Information and six by a former governor of Lagos State .
They noted the petitions were from genuinely aggrieved journalists concerning how Anosike and his brother Noel – including one Olisa Egbunike, had been maltreating Journalists employed to work for the Organisation by refusing to pay them their salaries as at when due.
In apparent response to the plea in one of such petitions jointly written by 13 journalists who are still being owed, the BPE sources said they may have to draw the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice andLai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, to the criminal conduct of Anosike, the ownwer of DTN, in his indefensible refusal to pay those journalists their back log of salaries; ranging from 10 to 20 months.
The BPE sources added that this move would be with the intent to compel him to pay the journalists their outstanding salaries and comply with their rules and guidelines binding publication of other titles in the media house’s stable – when the Company was sold 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 to stop the publication of the Daily Times.”