Ikeja — FOUNDING members of Newswatch Communications Ltd, publisher of Newswatch weekly news magazine, Messrs Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and Soji Akinrinade, have expressed fears that the magazine now faces uncertain future in the hands of Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, who controls 51 per cent shares in the outfit.
They expressed their concerns at a briefing held at the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ,Lagoscouncil secretariat to intimate newsmen over recent developments concerning the magazine.
Speaking on behalf of other 49 per cent shareholders of Newswatch, Mr. Ray Ekpu said, "we fear that the magazine now faces uncertain future in the hands of Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim. We, and the other eight investors in the company who together hold 49 per cent equity were greatly shocked to learn of the major decision affecting the future of the company and its loyal staff who have remained committed to the company through the most trying times, in the press. You are, no doubt, aware that on August 6, 2012, the chairman of the board of directors of the company, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim announced an indefinite suspension of publication of the magazine.
"He (Jimoh Ibrahim) said that the decision is taken to reposition the magazine and make it relevant to modern development, and as such, the magazine is due for corporate surgery."
According to Ekpu, "the decision came to us, as indeed to millions ofNigeria, as a big shock. Newswatch has faithfully kept faith with its readers and the Nigerian public since its debut as the pioneer weekly newsmagazines in the country on February 28, 1985. In all of that time, through good and bad times, except for its proscription for six months by the Babangida administration, the magazine has hit the newsstand every Monday."
Continuing, Ekpu said, "Decisions as weighty as these are matters for the board of directors of the company. Mr. Ibrahim has, ironically, told the world that the 51 shareholders approved these decisions. We are more than baffled by this, and our worries are that since he took over, the company has not moved from where we left it."
He added, "we are astonished that after nearly 15 months, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim is now talking about "corporate surgery". What happened to the turn around, which was to have been completed within one year by the new management? What has, therefore, led to the deterioration of the company since May 5, 2011 that the NUJ Newswatch chapel now says no value has been added to the company and that the staff are owed four months salary?"
"These decisions break the spirit and letter of the understanding and agreement we had with Mr. Ibrahim concerning the future of our beloved Newswatch.
We believe the decisions to be illegal and clearly counter-productive. We ask Mr Ibrahim to rescind them in the interest of the company, its staff, the advertising community and the reading public.
We urge him to pay the outstanding salaries and allowances of the staff and inject the funds promised into the company. We are now consulting the other stakeholders on the next steps to take to ensure Newswatch is not destroyed and that it continues to be a strong and viable news magazine."