- Category: GENERAL
- Published on Monday, 27 August 2012 10:16
- Written by Newswatch Founding Directors
“A Litany of Lies” - We have read the statement titled Stop the Crocodile Tears, PART 1, published in several papers by Global Media Mirror Limited also known as Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim. It is a pathetic statement of self-indictment, a statement by a man in search of self-validation. In that statement he dealt basically with three
Our retirement from Newswatch and the monies paid to us as retirement benefits
Dele Giwa’s ideas
1. OUR RETIREMENT
Three letters of retirement written by Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and Soji Akinrinade were published. Ray Ekpu’s letter was not. Does it mean Ray Ekpu did not retire? We are still wondering what purpose the publication of the letters is meant to serve. Did we deny retiring? Of course not. We retired from our offices in Newswatch Communications Limited but not from the board of the company whose board meetings we have attended three times since Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim took over.
Barrister Ibrahim also published the monies paid to each of us as retirement benefits. What purpose is that supposed to serve? Is he trying to say that it is because he paid us retirement benefits in May last year that is he is owing the staff four months’ salary in August 2012? The fact of the matter is that the figures submitted to him as retirement benefits were approved in 2002 by the board under the chairmanship of Chief Alex Akinyele when we were contemplating retirement.
During the completion board meeting of the company on May 5, 2011, it was Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim who moved the motion for our retirement and the payment of our terminal benefits and the board approved it without any dissenting voice. But curiously Mr Ibrahim did not pay us our money in full. At a meeting between the four of us and him in his office he told a lady who was with him to read out the monies to be paid. They were at variance with what was submitted to the board on the day of the completion board meeting. He noticed our consternation and said ‘this is the money that is available’. We grudgingly agreed to waive part of our legitimate retirement benefits so that the company could move on. He then said we had to pay 10% of the money to the tax authorities. We agreed he could deduct the money and pay the tax authorities. We have asked him for the receipts of payment thrice but he has not given us. It is doubtful if he paid the money to the tax authorities because the excuse he gave us is that the tax people never issue receipts promptly. This is 15 months. Will Mr Ibrahim give us the receipts of the tax payment?
Mr Ibrahim is giving the public false figures he claims are the shares of each of the Newswatch shareholders. The document he is quoting is a working document addressed to no one, signed by no one which we used for discussion with some potential investors before the board under Chief Alex Akinyele took a final decision on the company’s share structure. This was well before the completion board meeting at which Mr Ibrahim’s company was admitted to purchase 51% shares. Since May 5, 2011 and up till last week Mr Ibrahim has been announcing his presence everywhere as the 51% majority shareholder in Newswatch Communications Limited. At what point did he make this fantastic discovery that he owns more than 51% and the other shareholders less than 49%?
The shares purchase agreement is the major document governing the relationship between the core investor and the other shareholders. By the agreement Mr Ibrahim’s company, Global Media Mirror Limited was supposed to pay N510 million for 51% shares and to also pay within three months N500 million in cash or kind. The question is: has the company or Mr Ibrahim (what’s the difference?) met these obligations? Here are the facts:
Mr Ibrahim transferred N510 million naira on May 9, 2011 from Nicon Investments Limited into an account he opened at Afribank, now Mainstreet Bank, in the name of Newswatch Communications Limited. He is the signatory to that account. As you can see, Mr Ibrahim transferred money from himself to himself. If this is not abracadabra we wonder what is. We were paid our terminal benefits from that account. The seven months salaries that the company owed the staff were paid in two instalments (three months first and four months later) from that account. Soon after he transferred N150 million from that account back to Nicon Investments Limited. In other words, he took back N150 million from the 510million he put in that account. So has he fully paid for his 51% shares? The answer is an unequivocal NO. Besides, his company has not invested the N500 million either in cash or kind which was due in August last year. So has he performed according to the terms of agreement? Again, an unequivocal NO.
3. DELE GIWA
We are at a loss as to why Mr Ibrahim had to drag Dele Giwa’s name into the issue of his inability to run Newswatch as efficiently as he boasted he would. The last portion of his statement was devoted to Dele Giwa, a man he never met and never knew. He says: “we invested in the ideas of Dele Giwa and not in any material particular that can be of vested interest.” This gratuitous invocation of Dele Giwa’s name is purely an effort at self-aggrandisement and we dismiss the effort as fraudulent. Did he attend the marathon ideas sessions that Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Mohammed and Dan Agbese had before founding Newswatch or did Dele Giwa tell him privately in his teenage years what publishing ideas he had?
Mr Ibrahim says that after Dele Giwa’s death, “no significant progress has been made in Newswatch magazine, with the publishing from a third party press in the last 28 years.” For starters, Newswatch has never been ‘published’ from a third party press. Newswatch had always been printed by Academy Press Limited and published by Newswatch Communications Limited in the last 28 years.
To say that Newswatch has made no significant achievement since Dele Giwa’s death is the most asinine piece of nonsense we’ve heard in a long time. Dele Giwa died on October 19, 1986. Since then we have published the magazine uninterruptedly for 27years. Only Mr Jimoh Ibrahim has broken the magazine’s rhythm. We have published more than 20 books; we have acquired a choice real state with three office building erected on it; we have established full pre-press facilities; we have established one of the best reference libraries in the country; we have won more than 60 professional awards from respectable national and international award organizations; we have established a strong brand name which Mr Jimoh Ibrahim himself admitted when he was interviewed by Newswatch on May 5, 2011. He said “the paper is super in integrity and the brand name is very strong.”
From Mr Ibrahim’s published presentation it is clear that he is a quintessential truth-bender. He says Newswatch staffs were owned eight months’ salary by the date of his involvement with the company. This is a lie and he knows it. He paid the staff the seven months’ salary we owed them in two instalments, three months in the first instalment and four months in the last instalment. He also says that “thirteen months unpaid salary was written off by the staff.” This is nonsense. At no time in the history of the magazine were the staffs owed 13months’ salaries. Also, at no time in the history of the magazine did the staff write off any indebtedness of any kind. NEVER.
He claims that the company had over N500 million liabilities owed to third parties. Another lie. The indebtedness which was clearly spelt out to him chapter and verse was N470, 403, 079.32. These included staff salaries, retirement benefits of ex staff, trade debts, and statutory deductions. Apart from the salary arrears to staff he has refused to pay most of the other debts.
He mentioned the fact that we had leased one of our buildings to a television company, NN24. What could be wrong with renting out space you are not using? His airline, Air Nigeria rented Etiebets Place for use until recently. This man is in serious search for what to say for his failure as a touted turn-around expert who has failed to sustain a publication that was in the market every week for 27 years until he took over.
Mr Ibrahim never fails to let you know whether the opportunity offers itself or not, that he is an alumnus of Harvard University, one of the best universities in the world. He wears a huge hat with Harvard prominently pinned to it. He wears no other ring apart from the Harvard ring and gives unscheduled lectures on Harvard and business. Now, he tells Newswatch staff that he will pay for printing of the magazine for one year while they have to find a way of paying their salaries. He wants them to rake in advertising without providing vehicles with which they can go out. He wants the reporters to write stories without traveling out to source for stories. He went to Harvard so he has bragging rights but if that is what Harvard taught him then that is voodoo management concept. He is about to give Harvard a bad name.
At Harvard do they teach people to buy and kill companies? Does Harvard business study amount to subterfuge or trickery?
In our various discussions with Mr Ibrahim, he said repeatedly: “you are my senior brothers. I can never cheat you.” Was that said to make us drop our guard and to trust him absolutely so that he could achieve his pre-determined ambition of trying to take over our company by trickery? We are probably naïve old men to have trusted this man absolutely. It was only when we felt hurt by his litany of failed promises that we started to write letters to him, sought to hold meetings with him and even reported him to an elder statesman whose name he drops every minute.
He has so far behaved like a loose cannon. He thinks he can do whatever he likes and get away with it despite the laws of the land. His reputation has gone ahead of him. Everyone now knows he hates to pay his bills. He wants to take over only assets, no liabilities. He has refused to pay Messrs George Etomi and Partners who handled the share purchase transactions and yet he knows Newswatch had an agreement with him. He refused to pay Mr Bankole Makinde, who introduced Mr Ibrahim to us, the finder’s fee which Newswatch normally paid staff who sourcefor business. He told the four of us to pay him from our pockets for a business he did for the company. We paid Mr Makinde two million naira from our pockets.
When Mr. Ibrahim paid the staff seven months arrears of salary, he did not pay us. When we asked why he did that he said he did not think we were on a salary because he is not on a salary. Then he said we should submit our claim to him in writing. We submitted it to him on April 4, 2012. Since then, he has given us more than ten appointments. On each occasion that he failed to pay he had an excuse: Oh, I lost the document you gave me; Oh, I didn’t know today is a public holiday; Oh, I don’t have my check book here; Oh, I’m going to London in the next five hours; Oh, I’m going to Sao Tome now. After several months of dribbling us for many months he said we should give our account numbers to his staff. We did that May 2012. Up till this minute no money has been deposited in our accounts.
His arguments on most of these issues defy logic and define illogic. But why can’t he play straight?
We’ve borne his antics with incredible stoicism. He is busy threatening our lives but that will not deter us. We will not allow him to breach the agreement and walk away. He has told the Newswatch staff that he is ready to spend more than a billion naira on journalists and judges and tie us up in court for a long time. We say to him: good luck. But why doesn’t he spend that money to grow Newswatch?
He says in his publication that someone should tell us to stop shedding crocodile tears. There are no crocodile tears, in factno tears at all. We are just disappointed that a man who went to Harvard could only run a company for 15 months and shut it down when people who never went to Harvard could run it for 27 years without putting a knife through its throat.
Ray Ekpu Dan Agbese Yakubu Mohammed Soji Akinrinade
For and on behalf of the 49% shareholders of Newswatch Communications Limited