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Racism Allegations, Staff Exodus Hit StarTimes Nigeria

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StarTimes, a popular Chinese pay TV company in Nigeria, has come under weighty allegations of systemic racism and anti-labour practices by its Nigerian employees and ex-staff.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations confirmed that five Nigerian senior management staff and numerous junior executives have recently resigned from the company also known as NTA-Star TV Network following widespread discontent between the Chinese handlers who occupy the topmost seats and many Nigerian senior staff.

The ex-staff accused the top echelon, mainly of Chinese nationals, of deep-seated racial discrimination, management highhandedness and widespread discontent.

But, Mr. Henry Eyo, director of Human Resources at the Company in an email Nigeria CommunicationsWeek described the allegations as “very untrue and quite unfortunate”.

However, investigations confirmed that five Nigerian management staff have recently left the company in 2017 with Mr. John Esoimeme, its erstwhile National Sales Director being the latest causality in July 2017.

Recently, apart from Esoimeme, Dare Kafar, its former Nigerian Marketing Director resigned in March over the unsatisfied and awkward leadership style of the management while its Head of Public Relations, Israel Bolaji left in June 2017.

It was also gathered that both Habeeb Somoye, marketing manager and Ayokunle Idowu, content marketing manager had left earlier in very unclear circumstances amongst countless others.

An insider revealed that: “Most of the Nigerian senior staff who left have had face-offs with the most senior Chinese staff, Mr. Justin Zhang, who typifies raw racism and Chinese mafia at StarTimes. He is the mastermind of the reign of terror in the Chinese company.”

It was alleged that “Any Nigerian who confronts Zhang Justin was always sacked. There was a particular sales manager, Olumide Olawuyi-Oke, a very brilliant sales manager who was sacked on the spot for always disagreeing and raising counter opinions with Justin in meetings. Olumide was summoned to Justin’s office on September 18, 2016 after a minor argument with Justin Zhang during a management meeting and that was his last day at StarTimes.”

A middle aged female employee in the Dealer Sales Department who craved anonymity lamented thus: “Since I joined StarTimes in 2002 as a graduate, racism has remained an endemic problem here. Only a few Nigerians who can spy on others are promoted. Please check the records, 80 per cent of Nigerians have received no significant promotions or pay raise for the last 5 years in the company’s 7 years operations in Nigeria.

“It is an issue we have been battling for years and even the Nigeria Labour Congress has once picketed StarTimes Lagos office over anti-labour practices. Nigerians are really treated poorly here compared to their Chinese counterparts. There are terribly sharp differences in salaries, working conditions, and benefits such as insurance policy and promotion; arbitrary demotion of Nigerians is also a common practice and no corporate governance.

“But most importantly, the Chinese are like mafias here. No Nigerian employee dare argue or make comments when they talk. They are like the typical Chinese imperialists in traditional Chinese movies. You can tell from the air of arrogance they carry around here. They see and treat Nigerians like second fiddle no matter the office.  Strangely, the Chinese bosses have lesser qualifications and experience compared to Nigerians, but as soon as they spend a few months they are appointed director over many senior Nigerians.

“It is pathetic but because of the economic hardship, people cannot help the situation. Those of us who are junior are suffering in silence but they have been having running battles with the senior Nigerian employees most of whom were employed few years ago. That explains why many senior enlightened bright minds are leaving in anger. In fact, the Chinese often boast about Nigeria’s worsening unemployment rate which they consider an advantage. Justin Zhang usually says there is always another local guy who will do your job for a lesser pay so I can fire you, ” an insider source said. 

According to the Source, Esoimeme left in anger after he was recently demoted from his post of national sales director to regional director and transferred to Kaduna to pave way for two new Chinese employees both of whom joined the company less than a year ago – Mr. Thunder Lei and Mr. Boby Wang. Both were appointed national sales directors following Esoimeme’s unceremonious ouster. Both Lei and Wang were junior employees who earlier reported to Esoimeme before the Chinese pulled the plug on him.

It was alleged that the move was again spearhead by Justin Zhang, the former Vice President of marketing and general manager of Lagos who was just promoted to be CEO.

“Mr. Justin is known to all in StarTimes as a die-hard sadist and racist who has held sway for years. As against the practice of two-year tenure as GM, he was in fact rewarded for his highhandedness on Nigerians by the Chinese headquarters with his promotion to the post of CEO recently. The former CEO, Jack Liu was said to be too soft”, said a former staff.

A former employee of StarTimes, Charles Imomo expressed dismay over what he described as the “growing catalogue of atrocities of Chinese companies in Nigeria.”

He said, “StarTimes like many other Chinese businesses in Nigeria is full of fraud and Nazi behaviours. It is just like a Nazi detention camp where Nigerians lament in silence. I have been here since they started. No promotion and no single increment for 5 years, yet different Chinese bosses come and rise so fast within months to become directors. For instance, to our greatest surprise many of the Chinese bosses are either fresh graduates or those with much lower experience compared to their Nigerian subordinates.”   

“Racism is so rife and pathetic that Nigerian senior managers merely carry big portfolios without requisite powers as only Chinese staff call the shots. For instance, every February, the Chinese bosses usually travel to China for their New Year festivity. Before the Chinese bosses travel, they would announce a junior Chinese staffer who takes charge of the company in spite of having Nigerian directors.

“No structure, no hierarchy, only Chinese and Nigerians. That’s all. For example during such trip in December 2015, Mr. Berlin, the logistics manager in Lagos was announced as the acting GM of Lagos office by then vice president marketing, Justin Zhang, in the presence of two Nigerian directors – Dare Kafar and John Esoimeme who watched in utter disbelief. There is a pervasive air of superiority and crude arrogance that the Chinese carry around the company. They order Nigerian staff around and threaten to sack at the slightest provocation.

“We once had a Chinese boss in Lagos office called Mr Stone who was so notorious with a violent temperament, so much that he was fond of slapping Nigerian staff at will. When his excesses became unbearable, the NTA, our partner company, having received so much complains from the Nigerian staff came to the rescue. NTA insisted Mr Stone be banished to China. He was smuggled out of Nigeria overnight. It was that bad.

“The Chinese are fond of cutting corners and engaged in sharp practices. Many of them have neither the required immigration papers for residence nor the professional licenses or locally required certificates to perform their local roles in Nigeria. For example, Mr. Justin Zhang, the new CEO was the Vice president Marketing for over three years without any APCON certification, license or membership (Find attached letter to him from APCON) When queried by APCON, he denied and continued his role with impunity. Such is the behaviour of the average Chinese.

“The practice at StarTimes is that while Chinese staffers are treated like royalty most senior Nigerian staff are contract staff, even directors. The trick is to offer employment to Nigerians with a clause that the contract is renewable per annum. This makes it easy to ease out stubborn Nigerians. They simply refuse to renew your contract when you argue with any Chinese. Nigerians no matter how highly placed are fired at will or frustrated to resign. Government should deploy undercover intelligence to unravel the underhand deals in StarTimes. On the average, no fewer than 10 Nigerians resign from StarTimes monthly.

There’s definitely an impending implosion if nothing is done. NTA is aware and has tried hard to wade into this matter but with no results. That Nigerians are enslaved on their own land is absurd,” said another ex-staff.

StarTimes Responds to Allegations
When contacted, Mr. Eyo told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek that the allegation of racism in organization was very untrue, quite unfortunate, “and it is disturbing that anyone would make such an allegation. Like every other multinational organization with employees from different nationalities (i.e. Nigeria and China) , it is impossible for you not to have misunderstandings, and occasional healthy arguments.

“There is no multinational in the world, where cultures haven’t clashed or individuals from different nationalities have not had misunderstandings, either as a result of communication challenges of lack of it; but we constantly ensure such issues are addressed promptly and none of such have been as a result of racism.

Commenting on five Nigerian management staff that recently left-over power struggle, face-offs with the most senior Chinese staff, Mr. Justin Zhang, he said, “As the HR Director, I am quite surprised at the news that five senior management staff had recently resigned. As far as I know, Dare Kafar resigned because he got another job, and was immediately replaced by the next in line in the department who is also a Nigerian.

“Olumide Oke-Olawuyi had a record of poor performance for over a year, in spite of this management still gave him all the resources and support required. Even when he was not measuring up to the expectations and targets set by management he was given over a year to turn around his performance.

“Olumide voluntarily resigned after a series of warning letters.

“As for John Esoimeme, he also voluntarily resigned. The three (3) individuals I have mentioned above are those we consider as senior management staff.

“Justin Zhang the new CEO is an individual with very keen interest in excellent performance, and many of the hard-working staff have been promoted and rewarded financially in recent times under his administration, irrespective of their nationality.

“Our current acting Marketing and Branding Director, a Nigerian is one of the beneficiaries of Justin Zhang’ s reward for performance policy. We also had two new Zonal Director positions created and the positions are currently filled by Nigerian’s who had shown a track record of excellent performance. Also, we just recently promoted one of our hard-working Nigerian female staff to the position of Assistant Director in charge of our Business Halls and all these have happened within the few months of Justin Zhang taking over the helm of affair of StarTimes Nigeria.

“It is quite unfortunate that anyone will dub StarTimes or Justin Zhang as being racist. As a country, it is important for us to continually imbibe the culture of excellent performance to ensure we achieve major feats; and that is a culture we are not ashamed to promote in StarTimes Nigeria.

“Finally let’s not forget that StarTimes Nigeria also officially known as NTA-Star TV Network Limited is a joint venture between NTA and Star Group of China, and the Chairman of the board is the DG of NTA. NTA will never close its eyes and allow any form of racism or malpractices”.

He however admitted that Mr. Justin Zhang introduced new policies that could have let loose the fury in some of the staff.

“We do have policies in place to ensure that our staff members respect each other and are well protected. These policies cut across all staff without

“Under the leadership of Justin Zhang, we have extended Life Insurance cover for our contract staff, we have created over 30 managerial positions at State levels as a reward for our excellent performing sales people. We have extended health cover for our contract staff members. We also recently introduced an education and professional development policy for all our staff, to help them further their education and become better at what they do.

“As an organization, we provide direct employment for over 1,310 Nigerians, and we have over 3,000 individuals employed nationwide by our dealers and various vendors and partners who rely on us for business.

“We do not and have not in anyway gone against any labour regulations. As a matter of fact, a Nigerian HR Director (in my person) was employed for close to 3 years now, and this was due to management’s interest in ensuring that someone knowledgeable about the Nigeria Labor practices should handle the affairs of the HR department”.

Speaking on the alleged flouting of APCON regulatory orders especially by Zhang, the Director of HR said, “As for the APCON issues I am not aware of this. But Justin Zhang respects the rules and laws governing business practices in Nigeria.

“On a final note , we trust that you would provide a well-balanced information considering your track record as a respected news reporter”.

 

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world.

So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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NFVCB Confiscates Pirated Materials Worth N150m in Alaba Market

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The National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) has seized pirated materials worth N150 million at Alaba International Market in Lagos and arrested five suspects.

Mr Adedayo Thomas, the Director-General (DG) of the board disclosed in Lagos on Thursday that the seizure was made between May and October.

He said that the pirated materials seized include: CDs, Videos CDs and literary works.

Thomas mentioned that the seizure followed the information the board gathered from some people at the market, regarded as the hub for piracy.

“We have our informants that spy the market on a regular basis, once they notice any form of piracy operations going on there, they inform the board.

“The seizure of the N150 million worth of materials is a result of the information giving to the board on the mass productions of some films that are yet to be made public.

“When our anti-piracy squad assisted by some police men got to the market, we saw pirated copies of films yet to be produced littering the whole environment and were being sold at cheaper prices.

“By Nov. 30, the board will start the court proceedings of those arrested for piracy,’’ he said.

The Director-General likened piracy to a murder case, robbery or economy sabotage where the suspect wanted to reap where he or she did not sow.

He said that the legitimate owners were usually subjected to huge debts and loss.

“The board is going hard on piracy. We are working seriously to reduce piracy to its barest minimum in our environment.

“ The board will go on street campaigns and to secondary schools to enlighten them not to patronise pirated materials and explain the implications of doing so on the rightful owners,’’ he said.

Thomas also said that the board also frowned at nude movies adding that it was not part of its culture.

He added that nude movies always had negative impacts on the lives of the masses and an abuse on the society.

“We are not going to accept that as we had not done in the past. We are going hard in banning such movies from being shown on air,’’ he said.

Thomas said that the board was also looking at reviewing some of its policies and laws to suit contemporary situations.

He advised Nigerians not to buy pirated materials on the streets or from any unlicensed people selling such works.

The DG said that the industry was worth billions of naira, and urged government and stakeholders to utilise the opportunity in the sector judiciously.

“The industry is generating billions but losing more to piracy.

“Actors, actresses, producers, marketers and other stakeholders are not happy with the loss to piracy.

“The board is doing all it can to sanitise the industry for producers, film makers and other relevant stakeholders to enjoy the fruits of their labour,’’ he said.

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MultiChoice Nigeria Gives #12GoodReasons in Festive Season Promo

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By peter oluka

Nigeria’s leading Pay TV operator, MultiChoice Nigeria, has revealed its festive promotion for consumers across the country with the #12GoodReasons goody bags.

From Friday,  24th  of November 2017 until 18th March  2018, subscribers on both the DStv and GOtv platforms stand a chance to win free subscriptions and kitchenware whilst gaining access to new and exciting content at no extra cost.

The #12GoodReasons promotion covers the spectrum of DStv and GOtv offerings and gives new and existing customers the chance to amongst other things win big and enter a raffle draw.

Martin Mabutho, the general manager, Sales and Marketing for MultiChoice Nigeria, said: “As 2017 draws to a close, we are rewarding our loyal customers and dealers, whilst also providing an exciting opportunity for new subscribers to get on board. For the festive season, you can now pick up a HD decoder and dish with one month compact subscription for just N9, 900.

“You can also get a DStv HD decoder and dish with two months’ Family subscription for only N10, 900. Our GOtv subscribers can enjoy our ‘GOtv Chop Life’ promo which has something for everyone. New GOtv customers only have to pay N4, 300 and they get a GOtv decoder plus one month GOtv Plus subscription. If you also pay for an additional month’s subscription you automatically enter a raffle draw where you stand the chance of winning exciting prizes, including 1.5KVA generators, a set aluminum cooking of pots and 6kg Camp gas with Stainless Steel burner”.

Furthermore, from the 29th of November to the 31st of January, DStv Premium customers can enjoy ShowMax, MultiChoice’s Video on Demand service which supplies an extensive catalogue of world class TV shows and movies. DStv & GOtv subscribers will be treated to exciting entertainment content including all the footballing action from the Premier League, Champions League and Spanish La Liga including the highly anticipated “El Classico” match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. The kids are not left out with the special Animania channel just for them. Nigerian Festival lovers and followers also need not travel as they can watch the coverage of the biggest festivals including the Calabar Carnival, Experience, Miss Africa, Miss Universe and the One Lagos festival all LIVE on the Festivals Pop-Up channel.

Speaking further, Mr. Martin Mabutho said: “On the first of December, viewers can also tune in to catch the live draws of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on SuperSport, and we are also delighted to announce that the tournament will be broadcast LIVE, with our exciting commentary, analyses and magazine shows ensuring that the SuperSport channels remain the only destination for lovers of football.”

 

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Interswitch Announces Appointment of Kenneth Olisa OBE as Chairman

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Interswitch, the leading Africa-focused integrated digital payments and commerce company, has announced the appointment of Kenneth Olisa OBE, FRSA, FBCS, as its new Chairman, succeeding Adedotun Sulaiman, MFR.

 

This appointment follows the recent minority investment by TA Associates in Interswitch in March of this year, a landmark transaction being TA’s first ever investment into the African continent.

 

Helios Investment Partners, which invested in the company in 2011, is majority shareholder of the company.

 

Kenneth Olisa is a British businessman with a career in technology that commenced at IBM and spans well over 40 years.

 

He founded and led the technology merchant bank Interregnum and is also the founder and chairman of Restoration Partners, an independent boutique technology merchant bank, reputed as architects of the Virtual Technology Cluster model.

 

He is currently a Director of Thomson Reuters.  In 2015, he became the first black Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London having been appointed by Her Majesty the Queen.

 

 

Mitchell Elegbe, founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of Interswitch, stated that, “Ken’s inspiring business leadership, vast experience and professional expertise will be great assets to Interswitch as he comes on board as Chairman at a defining phase in our journey of transformation and international expansion.

 

“We are delighted to welcome him on board, in succession to the visionary and highly successful tenure of Adedotun Sulaiman, who as country CEO of Accenture, played a key role in the formative years of our company and upon assuming the role of Chairman, oversaw the successful transition of Interswitch to private equity ownership”.

 

Kenneth Olisa commented that, “Interswitch is a shining example of financial technology entrepreneurialism at its best.

 

“Unlike many of its global competitors, Interswitch is not only a fast growing and powerful innovator, it is also profitable.

 

“This is a testament to the skill and drive of its founder – Mitch Elegbe – and I am delighted to be joining him and his team.

 

“As the son of a Nigerian father I am particularly honoured to have been elected to fill the shoes of my distinguished predecessor – Mr Sulaiman – whose steady hand has helped steer Interswitch’s journey so far.  They are big shoes to fill.”

 

About Kenneth Olisa

 

A native of Nottingham, England, with Nigerian roots, Kenneth’s technology career, spanning well over 40 years, commenced in the 1970s at IBM having won a scholarship from the firm whilst being an undergraduate at Cambridge University.

 

He held various posts at IBM before joining Wang Laboratories in 1981.  Following a period as Marketing Director for Europe, VP of US Marketing and then of Worldwide Marketing based in Boston, he was appointed Senior VP and General Manager of Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EAME) located in Brussels, leading the team which restored the EAME operation to profitability.

 

Kenneth then founded Interregnum, the technology merchant bank, leading it through its early growth; its entry into, and exit from a joint venture with BDO Stoy Hayward as well as the AIM IPO in 2000.

 

At Interregnum, he worked at the forefront of the entrepreneur/technology growth cycle that began in the mid-1990s. As well as serving on the boards of many of Interregnum’s investments and advisory clients, Ken notched up some interesting firsts, including chairing the UK’s first publicly listed Internet Service Provider (ISP), Voss Net, on its admission to AIM and holding a similar position on the board of DMATEK, the first Israeli technology company to be listed on the junior exchange. He retired from Interregnum in 2006 and now runs Restoration Partners.

 

Ken was the first British-born black man to serve on the Board of a major UK public company (Reuters) and remains a Director of Thomson Reuters (where he is a member of the Audit Committee).

 

He was also a Director (and Chair of the Remuneration Committee) of Canada’s largest independent software developer, Open Text Corporation. More recently, he served as a Non-Executive Director of FTSE100 company, Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), as it made its debut on the London Stock Exchange.

 

Today he serves on the Board of, or is an adviser to, several privately held and innovative companies including the UK’s leading corporate governance advisor, Independent Audit. He is committed to social inclusion and has served on the Boards of various charities.

 

Today he is Chairman of Shaw Trust a national employment and well-being charity with a turnover of £100+m.  In 2010, he was awarded an OBE for his services to the homeless of London and he is an honorary Fellow of his old college, Fitzwilliam, Cambridge.

 

On a more personal level, he describes himself as a keen skier and bad golfer. As a former IBM scholar at Cambridge, and reflecting a lifelong passion for information technology and education, Ken, and his wife Julia, donated money to build the new Library and IT centre at Fitzwilliam College.

 

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