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.
Apart from Esoimeme, Dare Kafar, its only ever Nigerian Marketing Director resigned in March following heated arguments and unresolved power struggle while its Head of Public Relations, Israel Bolaji left in June 2017.
It was also gathered that both HabeebSomoye, marketing manager and AyokunleIdowu, 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, OlumideOlawuyi-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.