Aggrieved workers of Today’s Telegraph, a free daily newspaper that lasted barely three months on the new stands, have accused a Lagos-based project development firm, CBO Capital Partners, of violating contractual agreements and owing five months of salaries.
Today’s Telegraph was launched in September 2013, three months after its website – www.telegraphng.com – kicked off. The paper, which operated a free model, ended its short spell of print version in November 2013 in unclear circumstances. The paper was published by a new media firm, Oberoche Limited, which is said to be owned by CBO Capital, an investment advisory and project development firm which claims that it aims to service and support business growth in Africa.
CBO Capital is run by three partners, Chuka Mordi, Bex Nwawudu and Olamide Akpata. Messrs Mordi and Nwawudu are former bankers and investment analysts while Mr Akpata is a lawyer. CBO Capital recently acquired 41 million ordinary shares of Union Dicon Salt Plc in a deal valuing the company at N8.4 billion. Union Dicon Salt is chaired by T.Y Danjuma, a retired general, and was Nigeria’s largest salt producer.
The aggrieved staff of Today’s Telegraph accused CBO Capital of keeping them in the dark following the abrupt stop of the print version of the newspaper and their salaries. They also accused CBO Capital of insensitivity to the welfare of workers, particularly after a member of staff of the newspaper lost his life in the line of duty.
A staff of the paper, Sylvester Awenlimobor, was involved in a car crash on his way to cover a story in Ekiti State in late January. He died on February 4, 2014, from injuries sustained in the crash. His colleagues allege that CBO Capital did not pay hospital bills incurred, showed no interest at his funeral and are yet to pay Mr Awenlimobor’s widow the wages owed her late husband.
“CBO Capital owns Oberoche Limited, among several other companies, and have been owing us since November 2013,” said one of the staff who asked that his identity be protected. “We don’t understand what they had in mind by launching a paper and then cutting off funds after a few months of operations. They have not communicated to us since this time and what makes this situation worse is that most of us left other jobs to come and start this paper which we worked day and night to birth only to be rewarded with this.
We have been patient enough and have decided to explore every means to get them to honour agreements. We will be using the courts, the unions and other legal options available to us to ensure that they pay us. If they are no longer interested in running a newspaper, then they should pay us off and close shop honourably. I have never seen where a company invests in a project and then just stops after three months. It is absurd.”
In what many industry analysts have alleged as a brand tussle, New Telegraph, a new weekly newspaper owned by former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, was launched a few months after Today’s Telegraph. Mr Kalu, who also owns Sun Newspaper, was said to have been miffed at the launch of Today’s Telegraph as his company had reserved the brand name of Sun and Telegraph. It is not yet clear if CBO Capital pulled the plugs as a result of the threat from Mr Kalu, who is rumoured to have deep pockets.
A call to one of the principal investors of the company by Newswirengr to confirm if staff salaries are owed or not. Chuka Mordi clarified that he is a partner but the management of the company at the moment is raising money but staff members have not been fired, the company is under going re-organization and the salaries owed will eventually be paid.
When asked when the staff will be paid, he said that will be answered by management and that the company at the moment is going through tough times.
“I don’t think they don’t want to pay people, we will help them go through this hard time, we will help them and support them”.. Chuka maintained.