FORMER vice president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has come under attack from the government for owing foreign staff who worked for his agency Gotel Africa Media months of salary arrears that runs into thousands of dollars.
Alhaji Abubakar, who ran for the presidency against President Muhammadu Buhari in last February’s elections, is said to be facing the prospect of legal suits from former foreign workers of his Yola based media outfit. These staff who were recruited from CNN, NPR, CNBC and other reputable networks between 2014 and 2015 accused Alhaji Abubakar, of breaching a year’s contract they had with Gotel as consultants.
According to the affected journalists who include the likes of David Guinan, Ebong Udoma, William Chu, Devon Petley, Susie Iliyan, Teddy Vuong, Hannington Osodo, Kostas Sergiadis and Richard Spiropoulos, they are owed several months of salaries arrears. In 2017, Mr Osodo sent a demand notice Alhaji Abubakar through law firm Olumide Aju, demanding $38,100 as his outstanding salary but the letter was ignored.
Taunting the former vice president, a Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) spokesman said: “Atiku’s failure to honour his agreement and pay these media contractors is just one straw in the hay of his bad character. It is also not the first time that he is in the news for failing to honour agreements with his staff and not paying their salaries and allowances.”
BMO further challenged Alhaji Abubakar to show integrity, honour and discipline in his contractual relationships, either with individuals, groups or corporate entities. It said recent disavowals of Atiku by the staff of his communication company and consultants hired from foreign media companies does not portray him as a man of integrity.
In the statement signed by the BMO chairman Niyi Akinsiju and general secretary Cassidy Madueke, the group said that it was responding to the multitude of petitions by former staff of Atiku Abubakar who alleged that he had engaged them for media jobs and flown some of them into the country but refused to honour his agreement to pay them, leaving many of them in serious debt. According to BMO, this breach of the agreement was dishonourable, adding that this is least expected of a man who sought to be Nigeria’s president.
“This particular matter reflects on his lack of good principles and his lack of integrity. Atiku has by this established that he does not keep his words but thankfully, the wisdom of a majority of Nigerians prevailed and the enormity of an Atiku presidency that would have brought this kind of character to governance has been jettisoned.
“One of the reasons Atiku sought to be president was to open the treasury to fund his growing debts and also enrich his friends who had provided him liquidation during his political sojourn. He, in fact, had promised to sell the country’s NNPC to his friends,” BMO added.
Apparently, these media workers were to launch an international news channel based in Abuja for Alhaji Abubakar but barely 10 months after they arrived Nigeria, they were forced to leave with major outstanding salaries despite having valid work visas issued by the Nigerian government. Narrating his ordeal, Mr Chu revealed that all the promises made to them by Atiku’s company were never fulfilled.
Mr Guinan, who was hired in 2014 to act as Gotel’s director of television and digital media, added: “I was told to bring my family, my wife and our baby girl, who wasn’t even two years old at the time. My contract promised a three-bedroom house in Abuja and a driver but from the moment we landed, almost nothing promised was delivered and we were immediately placed in sub-standard accommodation, a motel and unfriendly staff.”
Mr Osodo from Kenya and former producer with Reuters, said, “I lost most of my belongings due to indebtedness. My house was repossessed by the bank because of delayed payments by Gotel.