The whirlwind of financial woes holding siege at the office of the Champion Newspapers crippling the administrative ability to operate in Lagos may have eased owing to frantic moves by the owner of Newspaper to avert the complete shutdown of the national newspaper.
Information available to 247ureports.com through a competent source revealed that the owner of the newspaper, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu opted to intervene into the unfolding financial meltdown of the Newspaper by offering two of his private properties located in Lagos as collateral to First and Diamond Bank in return for a loan estimated atN300million.
The loan, as gathered, was sought to enable the Newspaper defray mounting debit profile. The management of the Newspaper, over the years, had failed to raise the required finances to pay workers’ salaries and newspaper distributors. The reporters/editorial staff are owed a minimum of ten  months’ worth of wages. Vendors responsible for the airlift of the Newspaper from Lagos to other major cities in Nigeria – are owed over N1.8million each. In addition, the Newspaper had experienced mass resignation of reporters/journalists and operations staff. And of recent, the situation appeared worsening to result to a complete halt of operation.
The managers of the newspaper had acted swiftly to avert a complete closure of the news outfit by the National Union of Journalists [NUJ]. It acted to shutdown printing operations for a period of ten  days in order to seek funds to it pay its debt. This was because the NUJ had stepped in to close and/or seal the Champion office – because of the owed salaries. But the managers of Champion – not wanting the compound sealed – [because portions of the compound had been sublet to other tenants] acted to save the situation.
After the paper’s initial closure for 10 days, it opened talks with two banks [Diamond and First] hoping to raise N300million but the managers were not successful.
Nonetheless, the management raised a little money to enable it pay its Lagos staff N10,000 each against the 10months salary owed. The management then sent out a call for resumption of printing operations – as it sent text messages to its reporters and other staff to return to work. But as the reporters arrived for work the following day – they were unpleasantly surprised by the offer of N10,000 by the management. The workers refused the offer and proceeded to walk out – headed for the NUJ. The management of the paper – afraid to have the NUJ visit the Champion premises – opted to shut down printing operations again.
With the second shut down of operations, the attention of the owner was said to have become aroused. He was said to have been disappointment with the state of affairs at the national newspaper. In a move to help revamp the paper, the owner made available two of his private properties to the management team to present to the banks as collateral. It is not certain whether the Bank reached a final agreement with the managers of Champion newspaper but it is certain that the managers – after meetings with the two banks – began recalling the workers of Champion impressing on them to return to work for Monday publication. The workers were informed by text messages by the managers. But the workers have not been told whether their back salaries will be paid.
One of the top journalists with the paper who is also owed back wages expressed doubt at the ability to revive the newspaper – if administrative changes are not made. In his words, “I have my doubts that even with the N300million, as long as the same crop of people are still there at management, nothing much will change”. Many other workers of the paper share similar sentiment towards the managers of the paper they point particular attention to the Executive Director [ED], Sam Ibemere as the bottleneck of the operations at the newspaper. He is said to have mismanaged the paper administratively and may have embezzled monies meant for the maintenance of paper. One of our sources inside the paper told our correspondent that Sam Ibemere began his service at the newspaper as a ‘circulation boy’ without a university degree. He had no experience in management or in journalism but because he shares the same town of origin [Atta in Ikeduru] with the owner of the paper, his rise through the ranks was rapid.
Another colleague of Sam Ibereme opined on his leadership style as lacking in substance. In his words, “He’s not a professional in any way. He doesn’t know jack. But because he felt the company belongs to his town’s man and with the help of a former MD Emma Agu who happened to come from the same place with him, he climbed to a certain level”.
In a shorter time than normal, he was appointed the Executive Director – after a former Managing Director [MD], Mr. Agu assisted in frustrating the immediate former MD, Ugo Onuoha out of office. Since Sam Ibemere ascended to the seat of ED, a source claims that his financial lifestyle took an upturn. He employed his brother in the administrative unit. And within a short period of his brother’s arrival, the duo began the erection of their homes in Lagos and at the village. One of Sam Ibereme’s colleague puts it that “I heard he has finished his house in the village and was about completing the one in Lagos as well as his brother who’s also working at the administrative unit in the Lagos office.”
Meanwhile, the Abuja bureau appears prepping for a showdown with the Lagos office. The head of the Abuja bureau, Malarkey, was quoted recently advising the member of the Champion Newspaper core in Abuja – to consider alternative employment. “This paper may not survive”, he said while addressing his colleagues recently. The Abuja bureau fears that the Lagos office may decide to pay the back wages of the workers in Lagos without paying the wages of the workers in Abuja. 247ureports.com was hinted that should the management decided to pay the Lagos workers without paying those in Abuja – that the reporters in Abuja will stop sending their reports for publication.
As the newspaper management gears to return to print, the workers remain uncertain of their back wages. It also remains uncertain whether the management had been able to source the required funds to continue operation. But it remains certain that the top management that had mismanaged the newspaper remains the administrators of the newspaper.