By CHIKA OTUCHIKERE, Abuja
14 former employees of the LEADERSHIP Newspaper have dragged Mr. Sam Nda Isaiah, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and publisher, to the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) over their unpaid salary arrears.
The employees, who submitted a petition on Thursday last week to the commission, also copied the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). A copy of the letter was also sent to Nda Isaiah.
The petition which was signed by a former Editor of LEADERSHIP Friday, Malam Hassan Gimba Ahmed on behalf of the aggrieved staff, accused the publisher who contested the 2015 APC presidential primaries with President Muhammadu Buhari, of not only denying them their salaries, ranging from N80,000 to N2,500,000, all together put at over N14 million, but failed to remit their pension and tax deductions.
The petitioners disclosed that Nda Isaiah also failed to honour a mutually agreed mode of payment of the arrears which he reached with them through his company lawyers in 2018.
They called on the commission and other relevant agencies to prevail on Sam Nda Isaiah to pay them their salary arrears as well as remit the pension and tax deductions which spanned several years.
Part of the petition which was made available to Neptune Prime reads:
We, the under listed former employees of LEADERSHIP GROUP LIMITED, publishers of LEADERSHIP Newspapers, situated at No. 27, Ibrahim Tahir Lane, Off Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Way, Utako District, Abuja, wish to notify you of our ordeal and agony in the hands of Mr. Sam Nda Isaiah, the Chairman/Publisher of the company, over our salary arrears and other entitlements.
We wish to state that aside from our salary arrears, we discovered that all the pension funds and taxes deducted monthly from our salaries while we worked for the company were never remitted to the appropriate authorities.
We have petitioned the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) on the failure of LEADERSHIP to remit deductions they made from our salaries to them.
We appealed to the FIRS to sanction LEADERSHIP for failing to remit the tax deductions from our salaries to the agency as such act amounts to fraud, and we have been reliably informed that the matter is receiving attention.
We further requested the PENCOM to take more than a passing interest in the failure of LEADERSHIP to remit pension deductions from our salaries and penalize the company accordingly for defaulting.
After our individual efforts to recover monies owed us by the company failed, we came together in October 2017 and engaged the services of a lawyer, M. B. Usman Esq., the Principal Partner of Liman, Liman & Co. of No. 3, Oba Akenzua Street, Asokoro, Abuja, to enter into correspondence with LEADERSHIP on our behalf for the payment of our entitlements comprising salaries, allowances, deducted pension funds and taxes, among others.
We also delegated our lawyer to take the company to court if it failed to comply with our demands.
Accordingly, our lawyer wrote the company, stating our case and demanding that we be paid immediately. And the LEADERSHIP lawyer responded, saying they were verifying our claims with a view to paying us when money was available.
However, LEADERSHIP kept dribbling us, making excuses and sometimes promising to pay us but failing to honour their promises.
On April 27, 2018, their lawyer, Maureen Ohaka, Esq., wrote our lawyer, informing him that LEADERSHIP management had approved payment for six of us, whom they identified; they said their records showed that there were discrepancies in the claims of three of us, while reconciliation and approval of the entitlements of the remaining five of us were underway.
The letter stated that due to financial constraints, payment of the approved stated sums for the six persons would be spread in monthly installments of such amount as might be available to the company via the law firm until each sum was defrayed.
We thought the letter was vague as it did not specify the exact month in which the payment would commence. We also did not want to leave some of us unattended to; so, we directed our lawyer to contact the LEADERSHIP lawyer and inform her that we required speedy clearance of our members whose approval was pending, and we wanted to know when exactly the payment would commence.
Subsequently, on June 6, 2018, LEADERSHIP’s lawyer wrote to our lawyer, asking him for his bank details to enable the company to commence payment of monthly installments to all 14 of us, which meant that the other pending cases had been cleared.
However, the scheduled payment was not to be as we waited and waited, and made consultations but all to no avail. Finally, in December 2018, LEADERSHIP informed us that they were going to commence payment of N50,000 monthly to each of us beginning from that month. Again, they failed! In the end, they paid that N50,000 in two installments, with each of us receiving about half of that amount on January 22, 2019 and the balance of the December payment on February 20, 2019. And that was all the company has paid us till date.
For some strange reasons, our lawyer appears to have developed cold feet. And we are not very keen to engage another lawyer to pursue the matter in court in view of the wheel of justice that grinds at its own pace. This is why we have decided to present our pathetic case to you, sir.
It is common knowledge that resources are pouring into the company from adverts and other projects, but rather than settling workers’ unpaid salaries and allowances, Mr. Nda Isaiah prefers to wallow in opulence and globe-trot.
We need our money as some of us currently have no regular income. We, therefore, crave your intervention in the matter, sir.
Thank you for your anticipated prompt response sir.