Legal Drama

Nollywood LEGAL Drama: In the Matter of Kelvin Keshi v. Nollywood’s Monalisa Chinda, Lanre Nzeribe et al.

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I read, almost over a week ago, Nollywood actress Monalisa Chinda’s explanation for the issues she had with her former staff Kelvin Keshi which I discussed with you all here, and found it to be ridiculous. You claim your staff had no experience,  you claim he forged documents, yet you kept him on staff because he was “good at writing?” Good at writing is more important than the integrity of your publication? I think Monalisa needs to fire herself, first. Then I think she needs to go enroll or obtain the necessary training to operate her magazine. Indeed, I  anticipated the former staff would make his move with the actual filing of his threatened lawsuit, if he had not done so already, after reading the ridiculous statements. Needless to say, here we are with a lawsuit on our hands.

First, all Nigerians reading this, please we need to stop with the very bad habit and shocking rudeness of referring to grown adults who provide services for us as “boy” “boys” “girls” or any derivative other than their names. Second, we should absolutely understand that our employees ARE NOT OUR SLAVES! Talk to and treat them with the dignity and the respect they deserve while having and fostering an environment where there is a clear delineation of who the boss is. The comments allegedly made by Monalisa Chinda to City People Magazine where she refers to Kelvin as a boy is ridiculously rude and shows a glimpse into why there was probably the kind of breakdown that occurred in their business relationship.

An excerpt follows of Monalisa’s alleged statements made to the City People regarding her fallout.

The case was a very sad one. Kelvin as a matter of fact was a mistake. He is (a) boy we tried to help even though we knew deep down he wasn’t well qualified but we needed to get someone who has expreience because other staff are fresh graduates. So we just told him to come on board and when he came, he had his CV doctored, his address doctored and he said he was the assistant editor in that publication but he wasn’t. He lied about so many things that we didn’t feel was necessary for him to have lied about. 

He was good at writing and so we said as long as you are good at writing, it’s not a problem because we need a very good person who can head the editorial department. His disposition was very laid back but we said come on board, we need people to be groomed. Well he came on board but started having an affair in the office.

We didn’t realize he was having an affair with the same lady in the other publication house where they came from. He came down here and started off from where he left off. I didn’t know and there was so much commotion going on. He couldn’t head his department nor meet his targets, and in the midst of all that, there was another girl working with them who they also frustrated. So we told him to go away for a while, we didn’t even lay him off and the next was that he went on crazy on the internet, He started publishing company intellectual property. So we had to change a whole lot of thing. We had to change the title of the magazine, some text and lots more.

To our utter disappointment, he has a brother who is a lawyer so he came and we had a meeting with them and he was totally disappointed. He said this was just a disgruntled brother who feels he wasn’t treated well. I said how because we were always talking on the phone and I kept asking him what the problem was. It was much later after we laid him off we realized this affair he was having was affecting him. That was just what happened”.

“We have documents to prove there is nothing like that (not owing him any money). All the while he was meant to meet up his target but he was concentrating on his job and we asked him to go away for two weeks. Perhaps it’s the two weeks pay he is asking of and that is not done anywhere, you can’t go and release company property just like that, it’s not done. I pray wherever he is right now, may God forgive him”.

As stated, Kelshi has recently filed a suit against the actress and her ex-boyfriend for a breach of an employment contract; and I would add, rightfully so, given the explanation Monalisa gave the public.

Details of the lawsuit released by his attorneys follow, I have bolded/highlighted some of the important facts that I believe will or should come to play in this case:

“Compliments of the season. We are solicitors to Mr. Kelvin Keshi and write on his behalf. In view of the unbalanced report of City People Magazine not verifying information before publishing, in disregard of some of the sacrosanct principles of journalism of balance, fairness and objectivity, we hereby state our client’s case.

On Friday, our office, Megafield Solicitors filed an action against Monalisa Chinda, Lanre Nzeribe, his company, Lantana International Ltd., the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State and two police officers, whom Monalisa and Lanre have been using.

Background: Kelvin Keshi, who my office represents, was a staff of Genevieve Magazine. He joined the company in 2008 as a Staff Writer, rose to the position of Senior Staff Writer and later rose to the position of Assistant Features Editor. In April, 2013, a former staff of Genevieve Magazine, one Isaac Oladipupo recommended Kelvin Keshi to Lanre Nzeribe, MD of Lantana International Lltd. Lanre said his Company wants to go into lifestyle publication and wanted Kelvin to resign and be the editor of the magazine. Kelvin resigned in April, 2013, did the foundational work, including recruitment of staff and gave general editorial direction to the proposed magazine.

On the 3rd of June, 2013, Lantana International Ltd, through Lanre Nzeribe issued him a three months provisional employment and unilaterally changed the agreed negotiation to Assistant Editor. He had also deliberately delayed the appointment letter until Kelvin had started work to reduce the chances of rejection of the offer, which was a breach of their verbal agreement. In trying to cover up his gimmick and betrayal of trust, he promised to make the employment permanent after three months.

But in the second month Lantana International, publishers of Monalisa Magazine started owing salary and after extracting enough editorial contents from Kelvin Keshi, announced to workers that the magazine was suspending its editorial unit. That was late August. Two months’ salary was owed as at this time. No termination was made. Kelvin demanded for his salary arrears and the company made payment of July salary with a promise that August salary will be paid later. Monalisa and Lanre then cut off communication with him, consequent on him going online to report the injustice meted out on him by the company.

Monalisa and Lanre, in particular felt offended and using Monalisa as a front as usual, wrote a letter to the Lagos state police command, alleging that Kelvin stole the company’s identity card, flash drive, internet modem and laptop (the laptop Kelvin uses belongs to him and was bought by him with proof of receipts). It was obviously a crooked and calculated ploy to turn the disagreement between both parties on its head and make it appear as a criminal matter so he could involve the police to harass Kelvin.

He reported, and one DSP Thompson, whose action and body language portray a man that has been bought by the ‘couple’ called Monalisa and Lanre ‘my clients.’ He declared Kelvin guilty while investigation was still on-going, ordered him to be detained for over 36 hours. As a condition for his release and payment of his August salary arrears, the said DSP Thompson instructed retraction of the publication, return of the company identity card, internet modem and flash drive. All the conditions were met. But Lanre Nzeribe and Monalisa vowed that the salary will not be paid. They kept instigating the police to arrest and charge Kelvin to court for a matter that police have no business with. IF THERE WAS NO TERMINATION, KELVIN CANNOT BE SAID TO HAVE STOLEN IDENTITY CARD, MODEM AND FLASH DRIVE THAT WERE GIVEN TO HIM BY THE COMPANY. 

What was done was suspension of the editorial department and not termination of his employment. Monalisa and Lanre also doctored his C.V and claimed that Kelvin lied that he was the Editor of Genevieve Magazine before he joined them. Kelvin has never lied about his qualifications or experience; he lets his work do the rest for him. And why would Monalisa lie so brazenly and hollowly just to cover her guilt tracks? What reason does Kelvin have to lie about his qualifications or CV? Genevieve Magazine’s staff list and the corresponding position is published on the team list page in every edition. The publisher of Genevieve Magazine is her friend and adopted mentor, so DID THEY (she and Lanre) NOT MAKE THEIR INDEPENDENT FINDINGS BEFORE EMPLOYING HIM?

Lanre and Monalisa also doctored the employment letter as published by City People Magazine when they removed the name of LANTANA INTERNATIONAL LTD and published an employment letter without a letterhead. WHAT IS LANRE NZERIBE HIDDING? IS LANTANA INTERNATIONAL LICENSED TO GO INTO PUBLISHING?

In view of the fact that the police is delving into a pure civil matter and the failure of the police to act on our petition of 22nd October, 2013 to the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, against the actions, conduct and utterances of DSP Thompson, leader of the investigating team, we went to court for the court to determine if the matter is a civil matter or a criminal matter and whether suspension is the same thing as termination. The matter comes up on the 16th of January, 2014.

Monalisa also granted and interview to City People last week where she alleged amongst other that Kelvin Keshi is not a qualified journalist. While we will address the defamatory angle next year at the high court, we want to also make clear some facts in response to Monalisa’s malicious but comical and empty lies in the said interview.

Kelvin has a degree (HND) in Mass Communication from the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi; and has distinguished himself in his field of expertise since his undergraduate days. While at school, he was the editor of a campus magazine. At the NYSC camp after graduation in Obubra, Cross River State; he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Orientation Broadcasting Service (OBS). With an excellent track record at the camp, the NYSC state secretariat ensured he was posted to the Cross River Broadcasting Service (CRBC), Calabar strictly on merit. He was the President of the Publicity CDS Group and Editor-in-Chief of the NYSC Passing Out magazine.

On completion of NYSC, Kelvin worked as Reporter/Researcher with the News Magazine;was Editor of Genexx Magazine; and was Staff Writer, Senior Staff Writer and Assistant Features Editor at Genevieve Magazine in less than three years. He has authored two novelettes, Bukky and Friends; and Agu, the son of the gods – which are both highly rated and gradually making inroads in the literature market. So what qualifications was Monalisa talking about?

Lastly, she made an amusing claim when she said they ‘helped’ Kelvin by hiring him. That was the height of clannishness. On the contrary, it was Kelvin who ACTUALLY did Lanre and Monalisa a huge favour by agreeing to lend his knowledge, skills and experience to them in laying the foundation of the place. Kelvin insists Lanre and Monalisa had no clue about how to achieve what they wanted until he gave the blueprint, editorially and administratively.

Monalisa Chinda ordinarily ought to be a role model to her ‘fans.’ Why would she delve into fabrication of documents, criminal distortion of truth by giving police false information, and defaming on the pages of the media the reputation and integrity of a well qualified journalist by calling him half-baked and unqualified? The courts will decide.

Let us also state here that with regard to the ‘office romance’ Monalisa kept harping on in her desperate attempt to clean up her mess, the lady in question was only a colleague and is still a friend of Kelvin Keshi. Kelvin has a fiancée who is also a close friend of the lady. That is where it ends. Monalisa attempts on this are too tame and inconsequential. No need to dissipate further energy on this point.”

 

-Uduak
Press release via Lindaikeji Blog

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
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