The current economic crisis has forced some Nigerian dailies to cut staff strength in their newsrooms across the country, PREMIUM TIMES learnt weekend.
Sources in Leadership Newspaper in Abuja and The Punch in Lagos told PREMIUM TIMES the media giants recently let go of over a hundred journalists between them, citing rising cost of operation amidst a general economic downturn.
Nigeria’s economy slipped into recession late August after contracting for two consecutive quarters due to months of low crude prices.
Several businesses have closed shop or downsized as the economic situation continues.
Sources in The Punch said the paper, one of the largest employers in the industry, cut between 30 to 40 jobs within the past week.
A management source who confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES said some of the staff were dismissed following a staff performance appraisal.
“It’s true that they were dismissed, but not entirely because of the economic situation,” the official said. “We look at staff productivity like every year and those who didn’t meet up were many this year.”
A senior editorial staff said the company would soon engage new hands to replace those recently fired.
“I think we already have training and recruitment exercise underway,” the staff said. “Very soon, we should be able to employ a few replacements.”
Punch staff in Abuja, Lagos and elsewhere were affected by the exercise which another source said was the broadest for the company since 1998.
The cut was deeper in Leadership, where about 70 per cent of the company’s staff were either converted to freelance or furloughed.
A reporter who was recently converted to freelance said the development marked the toughest time for his career, but, nonetheless, expressed optimism.
“There are many of my colleagues in other papers who have nothing t be hopeful for,” the reporter said. “So don’t assume I am being timid when I said mine is better than most.”
An editor in the paper said the changes had taken “a terrible effect on production.”
“I am an editor, but the sack made it difficult for me to make specific and timely demands from reporters,” the editor said. “I can’t ask them to go to this place and do that story within the deadline.”
Zipporah Tanko, Director of Human Capital at the newspaper, said the management received a recommendation to cut staff strength by 70 per cent but it found the conversion more expedient.
“Yes, it is true that we had to convert them to freelance, but this was even after a painstaking effort by the management,” Mrs. Tanko told PREMIUM TIMES Sunday. “The recommendation we got was to dismiss around 70 per cent of our staff and the management said that would be too draconian.”
“So what we did was to tell them to keep their beats and keep the company’s ID so they can still have a sense of belonging as a Leadership Newspaper family,” Mrs. Tanko said.
Mrs. Tanko said the paper has plans to reabsorb the reporters as full staff once the economic situation turned around.
“Their full employment status will be reconfirmed immediately we have a better economic environment and the company witnessed an improvement in its business.”
The Nigerian media has been experiencing crisis for several years with many media houses going years without paying reporters.