Our own front door….
Just over two years ago this month I returned to news presenting after a very long absence. I began my career in broadcasting at Sky News as one of the founding anchors after leaving the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday where I had been a staff reporter. I spent five happy years at the channel before moving to Asia as a foreign correspondent for Fox News and then ITV as a current affairs reporter on the Tonight program.
A lot of blood had passed under the bridge when I returned to the studio. I was twenty years older, had given birth to three children, lived and worked all over the world and – of course – there was the worrying introduction of high definition cameras.
Surprisingly, everything went smoothly. It was as though I had never been away – thanks mainly to a team of supportive and talented producers, editors and technicians.
The channel was called Arise News.
Arise News was a new channel focused on Africa but putting to air a diverse mixture of news, sport, business and entertainment from around the world. My gallery producer was Rob Beynon, my former executive producer at Sky News and other presenters included Mike Wilson, Sky’s former Business Editor and Heather Scott another colleague from Sky who went on to CNBC. I met one producer who had been my contemporary on the Thomson Regional Newspaper training scheme when we were very, very young. There was loads of experience and loads of credibility.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience and when I conducted media training – particularly with some of the bigger international companies, I could honestly say I was currently on air and that I had interviewed a range of influential and international experts, politicians and businessmen known to my clients.
All was going smoothly.
I had been warned that Nigerians could be tricky when it came to payment but for a while this seemed just empty talk. Then the delays came. There was little or no explanation. The delays grew longer and longer. This led to divisions and an atmosphere of fear and speculation. I got my chance to ask the owner of the channel Nduke Obaigbena what the explanation was during a staff meeting. I also asked about his business strategy for future revenue. The answers were unsatisfactory.
I worked on but at the end of last year U decided to cap the amount I was prepared to be owed at £22,000. Some of my colleagues were owed as much as £100,000 apiece. The production company responsible for half the channel’s output was owed in excess of £600,000. The other production company is owed a similar amount. People were too scared to pull out because they believed they would eventually be paid but only if they remained in the building.
Three weeks ago – after four preliminary hearings – Arise News was wound up at the High Court in London. None of the debtors expect anything because there were few assets in the UK.
Three days later Nduke Obaigbena called me and told me I was unlikely to get any money because I had made this too difficult by going to court.
Last week he sent out an email asking people to join his new and exciting company. It too is called Arise and is one of the five companies going under this banner that he set up three years ago. Here is an extract from his recent email.
This is your special invitation for an exciting but challenging role in ARISE NEWS LTD, UK who are now offering freelance and staff contracts across all editorial, sales and technical positions for The ARISE NEWS CHANNEL effective immediately in London.
Depending on your qualifications, experience and skills, we are offering pre-paid positions at competitive rates for those shortlisted.
Those willing to sign this week for 30-day, 90-day, 180-day or 360-day agreements may be entitled to joining fees at the sole discretion of Arise News Limited.
All this on the back of debts of more than a million pounds.
Clearly Nduke Obaigbena regards going to the High Court in this country as a mere formality; one of those irritating hurdles to confront pioneering businessmen choosing to operate on the frontiers of media advancement.
So when I listen to David Cameron talking of corruption in Nigeria and Baroness Scotland speaking on the same subject I must say I am in complete agreement and obviously speak from experience. But I wonder why those exact practices are allowed to carry on here…literally in the Borough of Westminster in the shadow of the House of Commons….and ironically at New Zealand House.
Perhaps we need to look no further than our own backyard to find corruption…..and when we find it here, we should eliminate it.