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Bankers warn over external reserves

By Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAGOS — BANKERS in the country, weekend, said there was no justification for the nation’s external reserve to plummet from US$62 billion in 2008 to the presentUS$34 billion at present, warning that the trend portended great danger for the economy.

The bankers, under the umbrella of Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Financial and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFI, also said they would confront managements of banks and other financial institutions who had penchant for unfair labour practices, especially contract staffing and casualisation of workers.

In a New Year message to Nigerian workers, President of ASSBIFI, Comrade Salako Sunday Olusoji, lamented that the greatest catastrophe that had befallen the country was the squandering of the billions of dollars accruable to the nation as proceeds from sale of crude oil.

He expressed disgust that since 1960 when the nation got independence till date, there had been brazen looting of the public treasury, approximating US$450 billion (more than N285 trillion) was lost to corruption.

Olusoji said: “Beyond these hostile economic policies imposed by the Bretton Wood institutions like World Bank/IMF, Paris Club, and its agencies like the World Trade Organisation, WTO, the greatest catastrophe that has befallen the country is the squandering of the billions of dollars accruable to the nation as proceeds from sale of crude oil.

“Since 1960, when we got independence till date, there has been brazen and zenithal looting of the public treasury, approximately US$450 billion, more than N285 trillion, was lost to corruption. Our foreign reserve which stood at $62 billion as at October 1, 2008 has now been depleted to $34 billion with no manifest investment or development to justify it.

Rather, the political office holders continue the ‘settlement’ culture institutionalised by the military regime by awarding bogus and scandalous emoluments to themselves at the detriment of the nation.

“As the Central Bank governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has revealed recently, the National Assembly is serviced by 25 per cent of the Federal Government overhead cost budget. ”

The Senate President goes home with $1.75 million every three months, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives takes home $1.45 million, while huge resources are being expended as overhead expenses to maintain ministers, permanent secretaries and personal/special advisers than anywhere in the world.

Mindless economic wastage
“This amounts to profligate and mindless economic wastage in a country where her average citizen subsists on a dollar a day and the workers are clamouring for minimum wage of N18,000. Contemporary experience in the financial sector in the country has shown that after any shake-up, the first casualty is usually the employees and depositors.

Since the Prof. Charles Soludo Central Bank of Nigeria consolidation reforms of 2005, most managements of the surviving banks have been notoriously hostile to workers’ and unions’ rights.

“The Sanusi shake up also triggered an era of unprecedented mass retrenchment in the industry with conscious steps to liquidate union structures. The situation is more pathetic in the insurance industry, micro finance banks and other financial institutions. These organisations that ought to be the flagship of professional standards, ethics and values, have become odious purveyors of varied types of gross misconduct and corporate social irresponsibilities.

Industrial action
“It is time that all stakeholders sit down as social partners to guarantee fair labour standards in the sector as a sine qua non for the corporate survival of the sector and the nation. If this fails again, however, the onus is on the unions to organise a full scale industrial action that would checkmate the unrepentant and uncooperative managements that are vehemently opposed to best industrial practices in the sector.

“All our members and other workers in the industry must, therefore, gird their loins and be prepared for the clarion call. In Nigeria today, many employers of labour subject their employees to working conditions that are far from human and against the provisions of our extant labour laws and international labour conventions, especially in the factories where there are high incidences of casualisation and industrial accidents.

“This is even worse with the red carpet treatment that government offers to some foreign direct investors under the guise of Export Processing Zone, EPZ, to turn their workplaces to modern day wage slave camps. In the banks, insurance and allied financial institutions sector, the workers’ jeremiad is the same as with workers in other sectors, private or public, they are all victims of unfair labour practices.

“For instance, the Nigeria Employers’ Associations of Banks, Insurance and Allied Institutions, NEABIAI, has refused to re-negotiate existing industry wide collective agreement that has been due for review since 2005. The Ministry of Labour and Productivity, its agencies and all other pertinent regulatory bodies have a role to play in exercising their statutory power to enforce compliance by recalcitrant employers to the laws of the land on fair labour practice.”


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