By Charles Okogene
Another one bites the dust, so goes a popular song of the I980s.
That is the exact way to describe the death of Xavier Ndayongmong, who kicked the bucket last month. Before his death, the crime editor was one of the many employees on the staff list of the Independent newspapers Limited (INL), that have been surviving without their monthly pay.
Aside him, many others had died leaving behind months, if not, years of salary backlog.
Today newdawn brings you the long list of journalists/employees in the newspaper’s enclave that have died leaving months of salary arrears for their loved ones to begin to pursue for payment.
Was the papers’ Edo State Chief Bureau who was transferred to Lagos in the mid-2000s. No accommodation was provided for him and he was made to be squatting with friends, and colleagues when the one month accommodation provided for him at AY Hotel Ogba, Lagos State, a place that is close to the company’s head office, ran out. Tired of the situation, he threw in his resignation letter not minding the fact the that he was owned thousands of naira as salary.
Luckily for him, he was appointed the Chief Press Secretary to Enugu State Governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi but before the end of the governor’s first four years in office, death snatched him away. It is not clear if INL has paid those he left behind what it is owning him.
This was another brilliant journalist that died leaving behind his unpaid salary and entitlement. Entitlement in the sense that before he died of diabetes complications, he, like Abugu, had left the company.
However, before then, Maxi, as he was fondly called by colleagues, was one of the pioneer staff of INL. He, with the likes of Bolaji Tunji, Sebastine Ebhuomhan, were the founding staff of BreakingNews, an evening paper flouted by INL in the wake of the Gulf War.
Odita also covered political beat and law page for the paper with Barrister Onyema Omenuwa as his page editor. Legend had it that weeks before he died, he visited the company begging the management headed then by Mr. Ted Iwere to pay him so he can take care of his health that was fast failing him but all his pleas fell on deaf ears. Those who saw him on that day, said that he was a shadow of himself as the diabetics had eaten deep into his system and flatten his once bulging tommy. He died few days later.
Again it is not clear if Odita who was not married nor had children as at the time he died in 2015 at over 40 has been paid. And it is not clear if his relations are even aware he was been owed.
He crossed over to INL from Daily Trust and was saddled with the crime beat with Alex Oni, Femi Ogbonikan, who is now with the Ogun State Government, as his co-reporters.
He at a time covered the labour beat before handing over to Sylvester Enoghase, the current business editor of the paper.
Though, as at the time Patrick died, he had left the paper in protest over the non payment of salary. One thing that is very clear as at September 2017 when he died was that his backlog of salary and entitlement remained unpaid and it is not clear as at today if his young wife and three children, two girls and a boy, have been paid.
She joined the company as a typist and rose to become one of the company’s graphic artists.
Odukoya, an ever effervescent lady with no dull moment, could not bear the weight of coming to work from her Shasha, Dopemu resident to Ogba base of INL any longer and decided to thrown in the towel; she joined Mr. Mojeed Jamiu, an ex INL staff, in his Upshots online outfit before she died of a leg aliment days after the All Progressives Congress’ Abubakar Audu, died. Like Odita, Odukoya died single at 40 with no child and it is not clear if her relations knew whether she was yet to be paid months of her salary arrears including her severance benefit. Like Odita, she was said to have visited the company to ask for his salary but got bagful of promise that was never fulfilled till she died.
Fabian Ozor/Anario Okorie
Perhaps, the most pathetic case was the death of these men.
Ozor who was the education correspondent of INL died in 2010 in an auto accident in Ile- Ife on his way to Abuja to cover the grand final of Cowbell Mathematics Competition.
Though, Ozor, was mobilised by the organisers of the competition to go to Abuja by air but decided to ‘cut corners’ and go by road to make extra dole for his family’s upkeep since the company he worked for was owing him several months of salary; and on his way, the accident happened and story had it that he was the only passenger that died in the crash. He died leaving behind a young wife, a 10-year-old daughter.
Though, it took months before his benefits were paid to his loved ones whether complete or not. The fact, however, remained that he was paid after his death.
Okorie’s case was akin to that of Ozor. He died in an accident at Ogere enroute Abuja to cover an energy beat assignment. Before his death, Okorie was the papers’ energy editor. He took over from Adeola Yusuf who joined the New Telegraph Newspapers at its inception.
Like Ozor, Okorie had opted to go by road instead of air to conserve some money since he was owed months of salary.
And like Ozor, he died leaving behind to mourn him a wife and a daughter and it is still not clear if he has been paid to the last kobo by INL.
He was the papers’ IT reporter that took over from Emma Okonji that crossed over to ThisDay.
The lanky, easy going dude reportedly died in his Ikorodu residence after a meal of ‘boli’ (roasted plantain) he bought from the roadside at Ojota on his way home from the office on that fateful day. He died early December 2016 and was buried on the last day of the same year.
Like others before him, he died without personally collecting his backlog of unpaid salary
Both were copy boy and typist respectively. They both died unpaid. And it is not also clear if their loved ones have been paid.
All these deaths occurred in the days of Iwere and Akpandem James as the top bosses of the company.
Until his appointment was terminated in 2016, he was the company’s advert production staff. He reportedly slumped and died in his Ijoko, Ogun State residence while hoping and praying for the payment of his outstanding salary and severance.
Before joining INL, Ogunkanmi had worked for Daily Times Nigeria Plc in the days of Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi as the MD, Punch Newspaper and others.
However an attempt to ascertain officially from INL if the relations of these fallen journalists have been paid met a brickwall. Even an SMS sent to Mr. Steve Omanufeme the managing director of tge establishment to know if the company was indeed indebted to the deceased staff members as at the time they died and if their next of kins have been paid, was not responded to.
Below is the full text of the message ” Good morning sir. I write for Newdawnngr. I like to know what plan the company has for some staff of the newspapers who died but were owed salaries. Is there any plan in place to pay their families their outstanding salaries and entitlements?”
The SMS remained unanswered till date.