June 23, 2009

Banks swoop on NITEL’s pensioners as biz centre rips them off

By Victor Ahiuma-Young

THE Union Bank of Nigeria (UBN) Sports Complex, Bode Thomas, Surulere, Lagos, has since last week been a beehive of activities as thousands of pensioners, disengaged and serving staff of troubled Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL) Plc, endure the eagle-eye scrutiny of officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), NITEL Corporate Head office in Abuja, anti-graft agencies, among others, to collect vouchers for the payment of the balance of their benefits following the now revoked privatisation of the national carrier to the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (TRANSCORP) Plc.

But that is not the story. The news is that banks have not only deployed an army of marketers to woo the pensioners and others to open accounts and lodge their entitlements with them (banks), but an emergency business centre with one photocopier has sprung up courtesy of a shrewd businessman who has been feeding fat on the hapless pensioners and serving staff who have not received salaries for months.

Among the banks that have deployed marketers to the venue include United Bank for Africa (UBA), Union Bank of Nigeria (UBN), Oceanic International Bank, Wema Bank Plc, Intercontinental Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), among others.

One entering the complex will definitely not miss these banks’ marketers as they are very conspicuous both by their sheer number and their differently branded clothes designed to  out-do other competitors.

Some of the pensioners queuing to photocopy their documents.

Some of the pensioners queuing to photocopy their documents.

Some of the marketers are stationed at the entrance of the complex, some in the open field, some are at the covered stand where some  retirees and staff of NITEL are seated while others are just moving around scouting for customers.

When this reporter approached a female marketer from one of these banks on Friday, June 19, the following conversation ensured:

Marketer: I have been waiting for you since.
Reporter: Waiting for me, why?

Marketer: To discuss about opening an account with us, or do you already have an account with us? We have a lot of attractive packages to offer you.
Reporter: You are from which branch?
Marketer: Surulere branch.

Reporter: Do you know your Corporate Affairs Manager (Name withheld)
Marketer: I have not met him, but I have been hearing about him. Or are you the man?   Ye! mo ti market daran (Meaning, I have marketed myself into trouble).

However, this reporter was able to convince her that though he is not the Corporate Affairs Manager, but if he were the Corporate Affairs Manager, he would have commended her efforts. Some others that approached this reporter applied different tactics and methods in a desperate bid to  meet set targets.  The targets, in most cases, cover  the duration of the two weeks exercise.

Just as the marketers are busy scouting for customers, a one-man- business centre with a  photocopier is busy feeding fat on the hapless retirees and staff of NITEL who are photocopying not less than five documents each as part of the documentation and processes before they are given their pay vouchers by officials of the Ministry of Finance.

Unlike what obtains elsewhere where business centres charge Five Naira (N5.00)  per an A4 paper, the businessman charges Ten Naira (N10.00)  per  copy.

Despite an obvious inflation of the price, most of the retirees and staff of the troubled national carrier, are seen queuing to photocopy their documents.

A pensioner, Mr Gregory Ogbuji speaking to Vanguard Metro, lamented that though they are aware the price was inflated by the owner of the photocopying machine, they have no choice but to patronise him because, most of the pensioners are old and do not want anything to add to the  stress they are presently going through.

According to him: “Besides that, most of us do not live here or know the environment around this area. We cannot just start looking for a cheaper business centre to do our photocopies. We know that it is N5.00 outside, but we have to pay his N10.00 to avoid worsening the stress we have been going through over this payment. I can  tell you that the man is really feeding fat on us.

You can see the queue in front of him. This is what happens everyday. It is only him and each of us is photocopying at least five documents at N10.00 per document.  These photocopies,  like your letter of employment, your last letter of promotion or increment, your last pay slip, your identity card and things like that. These things are required for documentation. So, we really have no choice”.

Meanwhile, the retirees and staff of NITEL who had been given vouchers since a week ago have started trooping back to the venue of the exercise to complain that they are yet to be paid by their various banks.

They decried the attitude of the banks who, they said, have been telling them to exercise a little patience.
Those who spoke on condition of anonymity, queried the delay in crediting their accounts and prayed that it would not be the beginning of another endless wait.


L.G. boss commissions ITAXI
The Amumo Odofin Local Government Chairman, Comrade Adewale Ayodele, has once again restated his commitment to providing a functional transport system in Amuwo Odofin and Festac province. He spoke on a day he commissioned a new taxi scheme called ITAXI  for the area.

He said with this development, commercial motorcycles otherwise known as Okada will no longer be allowed in the area, adding that at least most people could afford the N50 per drop ride in the air-conditioned taxis. He cautioned those patronising Okada, saying anyone who does so stand to face the consequences of being robbed or having an accident.

He said: “Safety should not be compromised and in case you forget your goods or belongings they can be retrieved”.
He also informed that through the taxi scheme 200 jobs will be created for 200 people and that means, 200 cars will be let out.

He advised the beneficiaries to drive the cars carefully because, on the long run, the cars will be theirs and “if you drive them carefully, you will keep them and if badly driven, you would keep them too and at that time you would wish you took care of them”.