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Sad tale of Nigerian bank workers

Waiting to be employed

…How they suffer loss of dignity to meet outrageous targets

DECENT Work Agenda, DWA, according to the  International Labour Congress, ILO, covers the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for productive work, fair income, security in the workplace among others.

Many feel that banks in Nigeria are far from observing these given that employees are made to get outrageous targets. Getting targets has continued to unsettle the workers because such targets are believed to be always unreasonable.

The result is that it  has produced desperate men and women who would go to  any length to raise the money needed, even if it means doing unimaginable  things.

THAT he spent eight years for a four-year Biochemistry course, was enough to make him jittery on what awaits him after graduation. But he wasn’t bothered.

The only thing that disturbed him is the prospects of getting a good job. Indeed, when Emeka Lebechi finally secured a job after a long search, it turned out to be a bank job. And his joy of working in bank was boundless. But unknown to Lebechi, that marked  the beginning of his troubles.

Faced with the task of meeting unrealistic targets, about 25 million monthly, his only source of happiness could have been his monthly salary, but even the N25,000 he receives can rarely pay his bills.

Today, he has left the job for another in a micro finance bank, were he believes he can cope.

But Lebechi is not walking this road alone. Many graduates, who are employed by banks are  constantly given unrealistic targets with stiff deadlines.

“It was hellish working in the bank. I hardly slept because apart from thinking about how I would meet my target, it was a nightmare getting 10 accounts opened in a month. My friends would tell me how unkept I was then, even though I was working.

For someone like me, who did not grow up in Lagos, where do I get the contacts to meet that type of target,” Lebechi said relating his experience to this reporter.

These targets range from  100 to 160 million Naira ($1.28 million) every month. And there are grave consequences for those who do not meet their targets.

Except when the miraculous  occurs rarely do these marketing executives  get a customer who can deposit such an amount.

Vanguard Features,VF gathered that most banks have the same objectives- feeding their hunger for deposits and setting the same ridiculous goals for their marketing executives  to ensure the continual profits of the bank. It was discovered that the banks  do not care how these employees meet their targets and would ‘axe’ any employee who constantly falls short of meeting the targets.

For instance, further investigations revealed that  female bankers are recruited with clear instructions to generate between N150 million and N300 million within three to six months. While those in the operations department have specified targets, like a million  Naira per month, two savings accounts in one week or three in a month, depending on the branch head and stability of the branch.

While VF observed these targets were not in themselves  wrong in any organisation, what was however  faulty is that  target is  generally believed to be against the International Labour Oganisation, ILO, Decent Work  Agenda,DWA.

And it has increased concerns about questionable labour practices in the banks.
“For  us it is immoral, illegal and absolutely unconstitutional. Every body knows about the immoral aspect of it. It is illegal because it is against the conventions of the ILO.

And if you look at our extant laws in terms of labour relations, you do not give a condition a worker can not meet,” Comrade Danga Yakubu, Assistant Secretary of Nigerian Labour Congress, told VF.

While Yakubu’s position, is a reflection that banks in Nigeria still give their employees ridiculous targets, General Secretary of National Union of Banks, Insurance and  Financial Institution Employees, NUBIFE, Segun Olashei told this reporter that no member of his union is confronted with the challenge of getting outrageous targets or be ‘axed’.

He said, “ So far none of our member has been affected or been a victim of facing the consequences of not meeting any target, none of our members has been disengaged for that.”

Qualification for bank employement
Segun’s position has led to questions on what makes an employee like Lebechi, who was given employment letter as a  bank worker? And what qualify’s people of his standing as members of  the Bank union?

Explaining this, the NUBIFE scribe said:  “Those who were victims, are those who were primarily recruited to carry out marketing functions, they are marketers and they are not our members, they are recruited for marketing purpose”

But Mr. Bitrus Okegwale, disagreed with the practice of not having the marketers as union members.

The Executive Director of Committee For Good Governance and Accountability, queried thus: “What kind of union is that? Why can’t they make case for these people.

What they are marketing is  bank products and they flaunt the identity cards of these banks, they are the properties of the banks. These people needs to be called to order. You need to encounter one of the target hungry employees to know what I am talking about.”

Gbenga Olaitan, a former banker, who was rationalised at the last downsizing exercise  agrees with Okegwale that bank unions should consider the interest of the marketers.

“For crying out loud, whed whether marketer or not, you automatically become a bank worker, while the male bankers in this category regret taking the job, their female counterparts market their bodies, that is why female marketers perform more than their male counterparts. They are just using people as slaves. I just wish the Central

Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi can even look into this aspect of banking because this is a  regulatory role,”Olaitan said.

But Olashie is not  convinced that members of his union are also victims of this, stressing that,“You have to help us in educating the people that none of our members has been affected. We protect the interest of our members along labour rules. No body in the far East, North or West has been a victim.

“We are now saying that perhaps, there might be a compliant about this, the individual involved  should bring it to our notice by making an official report, then we can follow up with the matter. We had a stakeholders meeting last year on the issue.

It was a public hearing on official practices in the banks. All the stakeholders were invited, including our union and the chief executive officers of banks. And the issue of target was prominently discussed.

They are going to do Nigerian workers a lot of service if they can fastrack the passage of the bill to regulate such practices. And it would checkmate employers who are colonising our people in the name of making profits.”

National Assembly and the bank bill
Though, the NUBIFE and NLC’s position showed enthusiasm about a bill to regulate the practices of banks, investigations revealed that commercial banks are against a bill seeking to prohibit  exploitation of female employees in corporate organisations particularly in the insurance and banking sub-sectors.

And that played out when, the Minority Whip of the House of Representatives,  Femi Gbajabiamila sponsored the bill.

He argued that banks have  converted their  female marketing employees to sex-slaves, setting targets in excess of N25 million worth of depositors funds for these employees per annum.

Stanbic IBTC was reported to have  expressed support for any legislation that would enforce the human rights and dignity of all Nigerians irrespective of their gender, but observed that there are various factors that could influence an individual’s decision to engage in illegal and immoral acts which could include but not limited to prostitution at the work place.

The Company Secretary and Legal Adviser, Stanbic IBTC, Angela Omo-Dare said “In our opinion, the title of the bill is misleading and should be amended to reflect the true purpose, which apparently is to curtail employers from setting unfair and unrealistic monetary targets for employees.

Nowhere in the bill is the issue of prostitution or exploitation of women mentioned. If the bill is designed to prevent employers from forcing their employees to commit illegal or immoral acts for the benefit of the employer, then there might be a need to re-word the Act to address this situation.”

Slavery and harassment
For Mr. Gbenga Bamkefa his years with a new generation bank in Ibadan, was a harrowing phase in his life. Although he has what he described as a “good job now,” Bamkefa’s body language while speaking to this reporter, indicated a disgusting detaste for the management of the bank he worked for then.

“Looking back to the years I spent in that Bank(name withheld), I have come to the conclusion that those were terrible years in my life, because I was earger to live up to the expectations of my dependants, that was when my thoughts of a better job was turned to slavery and harassment, he recalled.

Giving a breakdown of the kind of work he did at the bank, he said, “I worked as a marketer in the business development unit of the bank, as an employed marketer. I was given targets akin to madness.

Or how do you describe a situation where I was asked to go and search for N40 million as deposit for one month? My branch Manager used to tell me that I have to meet the target whichever way I could. I know of a female colleague then who told me she even used charm on her wealthly clients in order to get the deposits.”

But this female colleague refused to speak to this reporter for  fear of the outcome of this report. Even when she was told her identity would be protected she would only related skteches of incidents she would rather leave in the dark corner of her mind.

“I worked as a customer sales officer with one of the new generation bank, which does not have branches every corner like others. My experience was bizzare and one of such was the one that happened during my last days before my premature sack. Most of my customers usually know that commercial banks are in dire need of deposit, so they capitulate on this,” she said, adding that, “It is a long story that I would rather forget.”

“That incident contributed to my exit, I lost everything and got queried and my Branch Manager did not see things from my position.”

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