The words of  John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, in 1887, when the historian and moralist, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, wrote “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts obsoletely”, appears to be playing itself out in Nigeria and the Union Bank of Nigeria, UBN, Plc, where the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN appointed Group Managing Director/Chief Executive, Mrs Funke Osibodu, in a show of ignorance and absolute power, a week ago,  announced the proscription of the senior staff umbrella body, the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance, and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFI, in the bank.

Among the reasons for the laughable action by the GMD of the bank were that the workers embarked on strike to right perceived wrongs and that the workers’ body was operating unlawfully.

The bank in a statement last Thursday said  a letter had been forwarded to the Central Bank of Nigeria, respective security agents, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC,  and the affected trade unions on the withdrawal of the bank from UBASS and ASSBIFI.

Ex-workers of Union Bank protesting at the management recently at the Marina Head office of the bank. Picture: Victor Ahiuma-Young

Osibodu said, “following the unlawful operations of UBASS and ASSBIFI, Union Bank has withdrawn its recognition of the above trade union bodies with immediate effect. We have looked at the books and we know that our action is legal. Of course, we expect the parties involved not to be comfortable with it.

The best option should be for them to go to court. If they decide to disturb the operations of the bank, we would not take it easy with them. Our customers who are beginning to be concerned about our services are our concern. We need to significantly improve on our services despite the fact that we have started recording some improvement.”

The best way to described this action is that the GMD of UBN is simply hallucinating.

First and foremost, one wonders the books she looked into and discovered that such an unconstitutional and unilateral  proscription of a union which in itself is an assault on the nation’s labour statute, is legal. The only  books where such action could be legal would be the hand books she wrote and used to enure that union never existed in Eco Bank while she was at the helm of affairs.

Madam GMD, Union Bank is not Eco Bank. Have you bothered to look at Section 40, of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on freedom of Association as well as the Fundamental Human rights as enshrined in International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions especially Convention 82,  Decent work Agenda among other international codes as domesticated by Nigerian Government?

Madam GMD, come down from your Mountain Everest height and take time to read through  Trade Unions Act No 22,  Chapter 437, third schedule,  Part B (7) of 1978 as amended. If you have bothered to check, you would have discovered that only the workers can opt out of a union, even this, according to the Labour Law, has a procedure.

GMD, retrace your steps before it is too late. When the fire start burning, neither the CBN that appointed you nor the security agencies that you have reported to, can save you. It is about the law, not about your desire. You are a GMD in UBN because there are workers. If the brief by your employers is to “rescue” the bank, while acting like an undertaker or involve in union’s politics?  In all you do, one thing should be clear to you, UBN is not your property. You are just an accident of history.

NLC threatens to shut bank’s operations

As expected, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has issued a seven- day ultimatum to the management of Union bank to reverse its decision to proscribe the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance & Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) in the bank or organised labour would descend on it.

The Chief Executive Officer of Union Bank, Mrs Funke Osibodu, had  Thursday announced that the bank was withdrawing its recognition of the local chapter of ASSBIFI, named the Union Bank Association of Senior Staff (UBASS).

President of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwahed Omar, after an emergency meeting of NLC’s Central Working Committee, CWC, threatened that should the bank remain recalcitrant, labour would take any necessary action to ensure that the management respects the rights of workers.

According to him: “We will fight this to finish and we would ensure that the bank does not operate until it reverses the decision, this is a threat to the existence of all labour movements”

Its illegal, says Otobo

Condemning the act, a renowned industrial relations scholar, and Dean of Faculty of Business Administration, University of Lagios, Professor Dafe Otobo, described the action as illegal, unconstitutional and must be rejected by all right thinking persons.

According to Prof. Otobo who is also the President of Nigeria Industrial Relations Association, NIRA: “It is illegal, unconstitutional and should not be tolerated by any decent human beings. There is no two ways to it, Mrs Osibodu has no such powers to decree a union out of existence.”

Labour should put its house in order

While labour should do all within its powers to bring Mrs. Osibodu and her likes to key- into the decent job agenda and international best practice, this assault on labour is not but a challenge to the leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and their Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC.

This should propel them to settle the issue of factionalisation of ASSBIFI which has been on  since 2005. It is painful, but the truth must be told that the senior staff members of both Union Bank and their United Bank of Africa counterpart are the losers. Every day that the senior staff association in the two banks remain factionalised, the rights of members remain in jeopardy.

The Ministry of Labour and Productivity through the registrar of Trade Unions in conjunction with NLC and TUC should at a matter of importance address the issue once and for all.

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