The founding Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY Media, ARISE News Channel and ARISE Magazine Nduka Obaigbena, has been disqualified from serving as a director of a company in the United Kingdom for seven years.
The application for disqualification was made under Section 6 of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 and arose from the compulsory liquidation of Arise Networks Ltd of which Obaigbena was the sole director since its incorporation on October 30, 2012.
According to the judgement, published on BAILII, the company had zero turnover and as of December 31, 2013, it had recorded losses of £3,854,112 and debts of £1,545,883.
Due to foreign exchange restrictions by the Nigerian government in September 2014, it was difficult to “transfer necessary funding to ARISE”.
In December 2014, the company had expense debts of more than £3million. The debt owed to creditors led to increased pressure from late 2014 onwards due to the company’s inability to pay off its debts.
A paragraph of the judgement partly read: “As at 31 December 2014, the total losses were £12,922,174, with trade creditors (which includes those working for the company) of £3,737,445 and associates being £14,407,929. By 31 December 2015, the total losses were £24,913,106 with the trade creditors (which includes those working for the company) in the sum of £5,635,596 and associates being £19,681,779. By 22 April 2016, the total losses were £25,671,167, trade creditors (which includes those working for the company) £5,850,730 and associated companies £20,313,691. The trade creditors rose by £2,113,285 even taking into account that certain liabilities have been discharged. The associated companies’ debt during this period rose by in excess of £5 million.”
With employees not being paid for months, many stopped going to work and arrears kept piling up. An email quoted in the judgement read, “Hi Kevin/Nduka, Happy anniversary, I have been working under contract for SIX months at Arise. I’ve been paid One month’s money. February’s money is THREE months late. Still nothing, When will I get what is owed?’”
The court noted that despite Obaigbena’s efforts to clear some payments, there were still large sums that remained outstanding. With no certainty of when any of the payments would be made, the court took into account that it did not consider the case one of dishonesty but rather unreliability.
“However, this does not mean that the case is any less serious. The public interest is served in this case, in my judgment by disqualifying Mr Obaigbena for a period of 7 years,” the judgement read.