By Our Reporter
The non-indigenous staff of the Taraba Publishing Company Limited has dragged the Taraba State government to the National Industrial Court, Jos Division over its failure to pay 77 months’ salary arrears of 18 staff, amounting to N73, 257, 715.40k.
In their statement of claim, the workers who are non-indigenes alleged that they were denied salaries since the company stopped operation in 2014 and that they were discriminated against on the basis of their states of origin.
The suit is between the 18 staff who serve as claimants and the Executive Governor of Taraba State (1st defendant), Taraba State Government (2nd defendant), The Attorney- General of Taraba State (3rd defendant), the Taraba State Commissioner of Information (4th defendant) and the Taraba Publishing Company Limited (5th defendant).
According to a witness statement of the first claimant, Hosea O. Yunana: “that I am an employee of Taraba Publishing Company Limited, the 5th defendant employed via a letter dated 13/3/2012 as…confirmed on the 31/1/2014.
“That the 5th defendant, as my employer, is a company wholly owned and controlled by the Taraba State government, the 2nd defendant, and the 1st, 3rd and 4th defendants are officers of the 2nd defendant directly in control of the 5th defendant.
“That the defendants unlawfully withheld my salaries and that of my colleagues who are co-claimants with me in the suit, for 77 months from September 2014 to this very day while I still remain in the service of the 5th defendant.
“That the defendants discriminated against me and my colleagues/co-claimants in the suit on the basis of our states of origin in refusing to redeploy us in its service and this contravened our right to Freedom from Discrimination as protected by Section 42 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“That in the above letter, the Managing Consultant/CEO has confirmed that he has intimate the 1st defendant, the Executive Governor of Taraba State, on our issues and complaint and the governor initiate some steps to address them but it ends there.
“That, through our solicitor, M.Y. Saleh, SAN, we wrote various letters of demand dated 26 January, 2021 and addressed variously to the Executive Governor of Taraba State, the Secretary to the Taraba State Government, the Attorney-General and Honourable Commissioner of Justice of Taraba State and the Honourable Commissioner of Information and Reorientation of Taraba State, and the Managing Consultant and Chief Executive Officer of Taraba Publishing Company Limited respectively”.
According to the statement by the solicitor to the aggrieved staff, M.Y. Saleh, SAN, put forward the following claims.
“That the refusal of the defendants to pay the salaries and entitlements of the claimants is unlawful.
“The sum of N951, 398.90k as their collective salaries for each month starting from February 2021 until judgment is given by this Honourable court.
“The unpaid salaries of the claimants for the 77 months they remained in the service of the defendants without disengagement which is as follows:
The defendants to issue to the claimants official letters of disengagement from their employments and services.
The defendants assess and pay the claimants their full terminal benefits/entitlements.
“The total which amounts to N73, 257, 715, 40k as claimants entitlements from the defendants.
“Damages in the sum of N30, 000, 000.00 for the mental torture, trauma and hardship the claimants have undergone waiting for their salaries to be paid and their plights to be addressed”.
No date has been fixed for hearing yet but according to Lawyer to the plaintiffs, the Taraba State government has been served officially.
Meanwhile, the Taraba Publishing Company Limited is publisher of the now rested Nigeria Sunrise Newspaper, established by the late Danbaba Suntai administration in 2010. It stopped operation shortly after the fatal accident of the then governor in 2014.
However, in 2017, 46 Taraba indigenes of the defunct company were absorbed into the state civil service, leaving out 19 staff who are non-indigenes, a situation that has generated public condemnation and dissatisfaction by the affected staff.