Nduka Obaigbena, editor-in-chief and chairman of Thisday Newspaper is in the news for the wrong reason again.
The flambouyant publisher who is known to owe his staff has done it again in his London based media outfit, a television channel Arise and because of this, the TV channel suddenly vanished from the airwaves just before 5 pm on Thursday, January 14, 2016.
The message beneath logo of the station, which is broadcast on Sky channel 519 simply read: “Normal service will resume as soon as possible.” But the staff are said to know otherwise, the station has more than transmission problem.
Obaigbena is said to have employed many senior British journalists and is being pursued over a trail of debts estimated at £3m and including nearly £1m owed to the station’s own workers.
Arise now faces a High Court winding up petition brought against it by a British television company, having only settled a similar action brought by a British publisher last summer. It also owes money to global news agencies which supply its pictures, including Reuters and Associated Press. It is also alleged to have breached its license with Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, by failing to pay its annual license fee by the required date.
The watchdog is facing calls for Arise, which broadcasts on Sky to be stripped of its license.
Arise first went off air late last year as 62 Arise workers, supported by the NUJ and Bectu media unions, began collective legal action for £825,000 unpaid wages but a skeleton team returned to work on 11 January after receiving cash advances of around £250 a day.
The staffs are now lamenting their plight, David Lee, who resigned as a production editor and claims he is owed £20,000, said: “It’s disgusting, now I’m faced with a tax bill that I can’t pay. Two staff in the New York office has lost their houses because they were unable to make their monthly mortgage repayments.”
Obaigbena has explained why he is indebted to is staffs hinging his financial problems on “the collapse of oil prices” and the subsequent restrictions in Nigeria on foreign exchange. He also alleged a scam on the part of the staffs when he said that almost all Arise workers were freelance and claimed to have uncovered a wages scam. He noted further: “We are in dispute…with some who made invalid claims which we discovered during a routine audit,” he told The Independent. “The courts may have to determine this. Some saw Arise as a gravy train to take advantage of. They are wrong.”
Despite all these, Obaigbena said his TV station is still in the soft launch phase of five-year launch plan and thus is in its teething stage. He said: “As a new business still in investment stage the revenue generation stage takes time and stability. We are in a marathon and not a sprint.”
Last year, Nduka Obaigbena's Thisday Newspaper was picket by the NUJ over several months of unpaid salaries owed his staffs.
Meanwhile, Obaigbena's name was mentioned in the ongoing investigation of the $2.1billion arms deal. He was alleged to have collected N650 million from Col. Sambo Dasuki.