John Chiahemen, the man accused by Nigeria’s ex-Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, of disappearing with the N150m meant for the operation of his Gotel media and salaries of foreign consultants, has denied the allegations.
According to Chiahemen, who was Chief Executive Officer of the organisation at a time, Atiku’s claims were false and libellous, adding that they were full of misrepresentations.
Recall that SaharaReporters had published an exclusive story on January 9, 2020 where expatriate workers accused Atiku of breaching a one year contract they had with Gotel as consultants.
The workers, who claimed they are owed several months of salaries, revealed that they left Nigeria hapless and with only promissory notes instead of monies owed them by Gotel.
The affected persons include David Guinan, Ebong Udoma, William Chu, Devon Petley, Susie Iliyan, Teddy Vuong, Hannington Osodo, Kostas Sergiadis and Richard Spiropoulos.
They were all hired between late 2014 and early 2015 by Atiku’s company based in Yola, Adamawa State.
According to the team, their mission was to launch an international news channel based in Abuja for Atiku but barely 10 months after they arrived Nigeria, they were forced to leave with major outstanding salaries despite having valid work visas issued by the Nigerian Government.
But one week after SaharaReporters’ story, Atiku came out to accuse Chiahemen of being behind the non-payment of the expatriate workers.
However, denying that claim on Tuesday, Chiahemen stated that he never absconded with anyone’s payment and that Atiku was in fact owing him several months of unpaid salaries.
He said, “Contrary to the publication, I did not bolt and refuse to make myself available to account for the (alleged) huge resources put in my charge. I was away on sick leave. The Chairman of the Board was notified of my trip and acknowledged my notification.
“In my absence, a Board meeting was held in Yola during which I was unceremoniously removed, and an acting Managing Director named to take over. The assertion that I had bolted is totally false and malicious as key Board members knew exactly where I was and were in written and telephone communication with me throughout.”
Speaking further, Chiahemen disclosed that funds for the organisation were never put in his care, adding that money was handled by the financial controller or group financial director of the company.
He said, “The allegation that funds meant for the payment of salaries of both local and expatriates staff of Gotel were made available to me is not only false but also malicious.
“To be clear, funds dedicated to the payment of salaries of staff were not in my custody. The Group Financial Controller was the paymaster in all matters of funds relating to the Gotel Africa Project. Payroll and operational funds were provided on a month-by-month basis, when they were, by the Financial Controller and my management merely disbursed them.
“The Financial Controller and the Company Secretary have made repeated promises to these former staff since mid-2015 that the arrears would be paid, and my physical presence has never been necessary to verify any payments.
“Indeed, I am in the same class as the other members of staff hired to launch Gotel Africa international news channel as I am also owed salary in arrears of several months.
“Relatedly, I am unaware of any petition written to the FCIID (Interpol) against me as I have not been invited by any law enforcement agency on any of the false allegations levelled against my person.
“All Gotel Africa Management’s financial transactions were made through the bank and the bank statements are available.”