Eighteen journalists have dragged the Taraba State Government to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in Jalingo for allegedly sacking them because they are not indigenes of the state.
The journalists said while they have not been informed of their sack, they have not been paid their salaries since 2014.
They were staff of the Taraba Publishing Company Limited, publishers of the defunct Nigeria Sunrise Newspaper.
They are praying the court to compel the government to pay their accumulated 77 months salaries amounting to over N73 million (N73,257,715.40k).
The newspaper had stopped publication in 2024 but the staff who are indigenes of Taraba were absorbed into the state civil service three years later in 2017.
The 18 thereafter petitioned the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) before resorting to the court action.
According to their petition to the PCC, they had worked with the state newspaper for over four years but were sacked without being issued official letters because they are not indigenes of Taraba State.
In their statement of claims, they said they had been denied salaries since the company stopped operation in 2014 and were discriminated against because of their states of origin.
The defendants in the suit are the Governor of Taraba State (1st defendant), Taraba State Government (2nd defendant), Attorney-General of Taraba State (3rd defendant), the Taraba State Commissioner of Information (4th defendant) and the Taraba Publishing Company Limited (5th defendant).
According to a witness statement of the first claimant, Hosea O. Yunana: “That I am an employee of Taraba Publishing Company Limited, the 5th defendant employed via a letter dated 13/3/2012 as …confirmed on the 31/1/2014.
“That the 5th defendant, as my employer, is a company wholly owned and controlled by the Taraba State government, the 2nd defendant, and the 1st, 3rd and 4th defendants are officers of the 2nd defendant directly in control of the 5th defendant.
“That the defendants unlawfully withheld my salaries and that of my colleagues who are co-claimants with me in this suit, for 77 months from September 2014 to this very day while I still remained in the service of the 5th defendant.
“That the defendants discriminated against me and my colleagues/co-claimants in this suit on the basis of our States of origin in refusing to redeploy us in its service and this contravened our right to Freedom from Discrimination as protected by Section 42 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“That all efforts made by us to get the defendants to look into our plight proved abortive and futile.
“That we wrote a complaint to the Public Complaints Commission who in turn wrote to the 5th defendant on the matter and the 5th defendant, through its Managing Consultant/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), responded via a letter to the Commission dated the 23/5/2018 confirming our story and who also attached a list containing our names, dates of employment and salaries, among other information.
“That in the above letter, the Managing Consultant/CEO has confirmed that he has intimate the 1st defendant, the Executive Governor of Taraba State, on our issues and complaint and the governor initiate some steps to address them but it ends there.
“That, through our solicitor, M.Y. Saleh, SAN, we wrote various letters of demand dated 26 January, 2021 and addressed variously to the Executive Governor of Taraba State, the Secretary to the Taraba State government, the Attorney-General and Honourable Commissioner of Justice of Taraba State, the Honourable Commissioner of Information and Reorientation of Taraba State, and the Managing Consultant and Chief Executive Officer of Taraba Publishing Company Limited respectively.”
Their demand as presented by their lawyer, M.Y Saleh, SAN, are:
“That the refusal of the defendants to pay the salaries and entitlements of the claimants is unlawful.
“The sum of N951,398.90k as their collective salaries for each month starting from February 2021 until judgement is given by this Honourable court.
“The unpaid salaries of the claimants for the 77 months they remained in the service of the defendants without disengagement which is as follows:
a. The sum of N29,881,416.15k, being unpaid salaries for the period September 2014-March 2017 before the Taraba State government absorbed the indigenes of Taraba state.
b.The sum of N43,376,299.25k, being unpaid salaries for the period April 2017-January 2021 after the absorption of indigenes of Taraba State till date when the suit was instituted.
“The total of which amounts to N73,257,715.40k as claimants’ entitlements from the defendants.
“Damages in the sum of N30,000,000.00 for the mental torture, trauma and hardship the claimants have undergone waiting for their salaries to be paid and their plights to be addressed”.
Taraba Publishing Company Limited, publisher of the now rested Nigeria Sunrise newspaper, was established by the Late Danbaba Suntai administration in 2010.
It stopped operation shortly after the governor was involved in an air accident in 2014.
However, in 2017, 46 Taraba indigenes of the defunct company were absorbed into the state civil service, leaving the non-indigenes out in the cold.
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