Troubles is mounting for embattled businessman and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Newswatch magazine, Jimoh Ibrahim, as his staff members accuse him of insincerity after he abruptly suspended publication of the weekly magazine.
Mr. Ibrahim, whose company, Global Media Mirror Limited, owns 51 per cent stake in the weekly news magazine, said in a statement that his decision to rest the magazine is to enable him reposition it.
“The decision is taken to reposition the magazine and make it relevant to modern developments, and as such the magazine is due for corporate surgery,” he said.
Newswatch, established 28 years ago, was bought by Mr. Ibrahim’s company in May last year. The company was a household name in Nigeria during the military era particularly in the 80’s and 90’s.
The businessman, who also has interests in oil and gas, airline, insurance and other industries explained that “the remains of the magazine will now operate from 159-161 Broad Street, Marina, Lagos to enable us overhaul and reconstruct the old office.”
He said the new office would not house “incompetent staff” of the magazine.
Sources in the magazine however say Mr. Ibrahim’s decision has more to do with his financial troubles than any incompetent staff.
Like the situation in many media organisations in the country, the staff of Newswatch have not been paid salaries and allowances for three months, a member of staff disclosed.
The source explained that contrary to the promise Mr. Ibrahim made before he was allowed to buy the controlling interest in the magazine, the businessman has refused to pay the salaries of his staff.
“People are angry. He said he had enough money to finance the magazine, that is why it was sold to him,” a staff of Newswatch told PREMIUM TIMES.
“Now he can’t even pay salaries, how does he want us to survive?”
The source, who does not want his name mentioned for fear of victimization, explained that the crisis took a new dimension when staff were told they had to move from the magazine’s own building on the mainland to Mr. Ibrahim’s company’s headquarters on Lagos Island.
“People who have not been paid for months, you want them to move to a place that will cost more in terms of transportation, how will they cope,” our source asked.
Mr. Ibrahim however claims that he is ready to pay outstanding salaries to those who disagree with the company’s decision.
“Any staff that is not in agreement with the latest development is directed to collect any outstanding salaries from the Accounts department immediately,” he said.
Many of the staff however believe that Mr. Ibrahim’s action is a ploy by the businessman to lay them off.
Newswatch’s problem appears small compared to those Mr. Ibrahim is currently facing with his other companies
A barrage of problems
Mr. Ibrahim, a major financier of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, is currently facing charges of tax evasion and forgery. He, alongside his airline, Air Nigeria, is already being prosecuted for evading tax, to the tune of N4.86 billion, by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
The FIRS also says Mr. Ibrahim and Air Nigeria forged a tax clearance certificate in order for the airline to get the necessary expatriate quota of pilots.
The operation of Air Nigeria has since been grounded. The company’s lessors have also demanded a return of the aircrafts they loaned to the airline.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the problems at Air Nigeria are also reflecting on Newswatch as the airline owes the magazine millions of naira for unpaid adverts and subscriptions.
Mr. Ibrahim, a former PDP gubernatorial aspirant in Ondo state, has also come under scrutiny over the role his companies, Nicon Insurance Plc, and Nigerian Reinsurance Corporation played in the N32 billion police pension administration fraud.