About 51 staff of Gotel Communications Limited, an Adamawa State-based radio and television service owned by a former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, have been sacked.

Gotel Communications is one of the investments of Mr Abubakar.

Mr Abubakar was the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general elections.

Gotel Communications had in 2016 carried out a mass retrenchment after which it placed others on renewable contracts.

This week, Gotel Communications axed more staff.

The sacked workers, who are mostly contract staffers of the local TV and radio stations, said “no reason was given for their sack”.

One of the sacked workers confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES on the phone that he was among those sacked.

He said “no clear reason was given by the management for their sack”.

He, however, said the action was linked to the recent merging of all the businesses of the opposition politician.

Mr Abubakar had last year merged all his businesses into a single group known as Priam Group.

He explained that Priam Group would bring all his investments under “one brand and one common management.”

Priam Group was expected “to take over assets and liabilities of the existing companies including staff emoluments and other welfare.”

Meanwhile, the source said since the merger, which included Gotel Communications, “some Indians were brought in to take over the management.”

“Perhaps it was part of their business strategy to reduce the workforce,” he said.

“Whatever it is all about, it is unheard of to have a big media outfit without any single permanent staffer,” he added.

The source said after a mass retrenchment in 2016, some of them were retained but later made to sign a five-year contract with Gotel.

According to him, “the sack came halfway into the five years contract engagement they signed with Gotel Communication.”

“The sacked workers were in the middle of executing the five-year contract when the management decided to shift the post in the middle of the game.

“Suddenly we were served letters terminating our appointments with an instruction that we return every property that belongs to the company while leaving, and that our entitlements, including payments due to us in lieu of the sack notice would be computed and paid into our accounts.”

PREMIUM TIMES obtained a copy of the sack letter issued to one of the workers.

The letter signed by Muhammed Elyakub reads:

“The management has decided to discontinue your service with immediate effect.
Consequently, please be informed of the following:
1. Your entitlements, including stipends lieu to the notice, will be computed and paid into your account with immediate effect.
2. That, while leaving you are expected to return all documents, assets, and properties of Gotel Communications Limited in your possession (including your ID card)
Management acknowledges your service in the company and wishes you all the best in your future endeavors.”

Gotel reacts

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the management of Gotel Communications, the General Manager of TV and Radio, Yola, Mr Elyakub, in response to a Whatsapp message sent to him by our reporter said the mass sack was a result of an ongoing ‘rationalisation policy’ of the company under the new management.

Mr Elyakub said all the former vice president’s businesses are now under the Priam Group, “and it is the new policy thrust of the management to shelve the workforce.”

His statement is reproduced below:

“The rationalisation of staff at Gotel Communications Limited, a company under the umbrella of Priam Group, is a culmination of the restructuring process in the companies under our Group.

“The founder of companies under the Priam had announced that many of his business concerns will be aggregated under the Priam Group. Priam Group had embarked on a restructuring exercise which led to a merger of many companies under its umbrella.

“Other components of the restructuring include rationalisation of the workforce and thus some members of staff of the group would be laid off, with their full disengagement benefits paid to them. The press statement of December 24, 2019, stressed that owing to the restructuring exercise and merger of companies, some personnel may have to be disengaged.

”It is also not unexpected that a restructuring procedure of this size and nature would come with some likely job rationalisation especially since each of these entities has its own finance, admin, marketing, HR and ancillary support operations which would now be consolidated and undertaken at the group level”, Paul Ibe, Media Adviser to the Founder and former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar had said in the statement unveiling the Priam Group.

“It should, however, be noted that the current decision to right-size the workforce in Gotel Communication Limited is the climax of the on-going restructuring exercise which was initiated last year. It will, therefore, be out of context to ascribe any mundane presupposition for being responsible for the decision to lay off some of the workforces in Gotel Communication Limited.

“Following the unveiling of Priam Group last year, Atiku Abubakar ceased to be involved in the running of the affairs of his companies. The decisions are taken so far, and especially as it relates to the rationalisation of staff, is solely a management decision.

“It needs to be restated that we shall, as a responsible organisation, discharge every obligation to the laid-off staff and any other staff that may be involved in the rationalisation exercise of any of the companies under the Priam Group.”