By Babajide Komolafe
An atmosphere of fear and pity has descended on the banking industry following the retrenchment of 3500 staff by three banks within one week.
On Monday, Oceanic Bank sacked over 1000 while the previous Friday Intercontinental Bank and UBA PLC sacked 1500 and 1000 respectively.
This development has occasioned an atmosphere of fear as most bankers now approach each day with trepidation not sure if that would not be the last day at work. Also bankers who were formerly the other of professionals have become the object of pity in the eyes of the public.
“You know our industry has become an industry of pity. Banking job is no longer the dream job in town”, said a banker in reference to the recent decline in the fortunes of Nigerian banks and bankers.
In deed there is no better way to capture what has befallen the banking industry since August 14th 2009, when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sacked the chief executives and executive directors of five banks. Suddenly an industry that is famous for declaring jumbo profits and mouth watering dividend declared loses amounting to over a trillion naira.
And an industry that is noted for generating employment in thousands suddenly began to sack en mass. As at the last count five banks have sacked 5000 staff while others are preparing their sack list.
Across the industry and among bankers there is palpable fear, anxiety and apprehension. “Everybody is afraid”, said Tope, a staff ofÂ Â First Bank Olowu branch in Ikeja. “We hear the bank wants to sack again and it might be up to 1000 this time around”, she said adding that the problem is that we don’t even know the criteria. We have been asking what the criteria are but no answer.” “I have stopped worrying”, Chinyere said , “I won’tÂ allow retrenchment fever kill me. I still have my certificate so I can still get job elsewhere.”
But for most bankers the challenge is more than getting another job,Â that is even if there is a job waiting out there. The unemployment situation is scary with millions of graduate yet to secure job years after they left school.
The challenge for most bankers is that they are used to a high standard of living courtesy of high remuneration in the industry and the easy access to cheap loans. Most of them drive posh cars, live in high brow areas where the rents are quite staggering. Many of them have taken loans to finance various forms of asset acquisition from cars to houses. It is not their fault.
Credit is the commodity of trade in the industry and hence patronising their banks also means taking loans or buying credit from the bank. The result is that every banker has one loan or the other to repay. “You know we bankers live on credit”, a manager with Oceanic bank said. On top of these areÂ the many relatives and friends that depend on bankers for sustenance. Many of them have junior ones whom they assist to pay their school fees up to university as well as parents and elderly relatives who depend on themÂ for economic support from time to time.
That is why unemployment to a banker is a colossal misfortune not only to him but to his family.
Kwara State_born Mustapha is a former staff of First Bank. He was employed on February 4, 2008, confirmed in March 2009 and appraised in April 2009 and to his surprise, he was one of the 485 staff retrenched by First Bank on October 16. His father, a retired UBA staff was dazed.
Mustapha’s employment has brought lots of smiles and hope to him and the family who looked up to him as the bread winner with the added responsibility to sponsor his sibling’s education.
The story of James is even more pathetic. He was one of the over 1000 staff sacked by Oceanic Bank on December 21st, two weeks after his wedding. The his new wife wept uncontrollably upon hearing the sad news lamenting that her in_laws would accuse her of bringing misfortune to their son.
Kunle was also among those sacked by Oceanic Bank. He sobbed like a baby when he got to the office that morning and like other affected staff discovered he couldn’t log in to the banks’ computer system, indicating he has been disengaged.
He is the sole provider for his family of three children and wife. His wife used to be gainfully employed. But due to the demands of taking care of their three children they both agreed she should resign and she did. Now both of them are unemployed.
One of the most frustrating thing aspect of the mass retrenchment and which made it very painful for the affected bankers is that for most of them they were not sacked because they were incompetent or did not perform. They were just sacked.
Kemi was one of the 300 sacked by Stanbic IBTC in October. In fact five of them were sacked at the Elephant House branch of the bank in Alausa in Lagos state. The five of them she said were the most hardworking of the 15 staff in the branch, a situation which devastated not only them but also the branch manager who could not understand the criteria used by the management that made the five of the most dependable staff to be included in the sack list.
This makes their sack veryÂ painful for the affected bankers. They had laboured and even slaved for the banks. Most of them especially those that live in Lagos leave for work 4.30 am in order to bit traffic and be in the office by 7.30 am, work till 7.00pm and most times don’t get home till 10.00pm.
Some even work on Saturdays and Sunday and as a result don’t have time for family and friends and even for religious programmes . Many of them have subjected themselves to humiliating experiences in order to meet the impossible deposit targets constantly given them by the banks, and they have borrowed against future income to finance high taste induced by the banking environment.
And despite all these sacrifices they found themselves rejected by the banks which they had once proudly and painfully served.