*File photograph of Mr. Friday Atufe, former employee of Leadership Newspapers has won a court case against his former Publisher, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah
This may not be the best of times for Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah the Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, an Abuja-based daily publication as the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Abuja Division, has fined Leadership Newspapers and its Publisher, Nda-Isaiah 31per cent interest on outstanding N1.2 million debt it owed his former employee whose employment was terminated under controversial circumstances way back in 2015. It is a common practice among Nigerian newspaper publishers to employ journalists and owe them months if not years of unpaid salaries, which exposes journalists to all sorts of temptations that compromise professional media ethics.
Hon. Justice Oyewumi Oyebola, the Presiding Judge of the NICN, gave the judgement in a recent ruling in a suit NO: NICN/ABJ/27/2019 filed by Messrs. Julius A. Atanawhemera and Elvis Ejeta, counsels to Mr. Friday Atufe, the complainant who was a former Business Editor of the newspaper in its Lagos Bureau office against the defendants, Leadership Newspapers and its Publisher, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah. The publisher was also a one-time Presidential aspirant in 2015.
The judge held that the claimant is entitled to the sum of N1.2 million as his outstanding salaries and other emoluments, adding that the claimant is also entitled to 21 per cent interest accruable on the outstanding debt. The judge also held that the claimant is entitled to the sum of N100,000.00 as general damages, remarking that all judgement sum is to be paid within 14 days failing, which it is to attract 10 per cent interest.
The claimant had by a General Form of Complaint dated February 11, 2019 and subsequently amended on November 5, 2019 filed the court action against the defendants claiming the following reliefs: A declaration that the claimant is entitled to be paid the sum of N1.2 million being outstanding salaries and emoluments of the claimant being owed by the first and second defendants to the claimant as his former employer;
A declaration that the claimant is entitled to be paid his pension deductions into his Pension Administrator’s Accounts (AXAMANSARD) by the defendant from September 17, 2014 to October 22, 2015. An order directing the defendants to pay 21 per cent interest accruable from the outstanding debts to the claimant; An order directing the defendants to pay six per cent after the judgement till the outstanding debts is finally liquidated and an order compelling the defendants to pay to the claimant the sum of N100 million only as special damages for wrongly withholding the monies and salaries of the claimant and thereby causing untoward financial and emotional anguish to the claimant, among others.
General damages in the sum of N30 million to deter the defendants from engaging in conduct similar to that, which form the basis of this law suit as a result of their unreasonable and wickedness against the claimant and exemplary damages in the sum of N20 million as a result of untold hardship, loss, pain, distress the claimant underwent as he denied the fruit of Mr. Friday Atufe’s labour, the judge ruled.