By Babajide Komolafe
It happened in one of the Abuja branches of one of Nigeria’stop five banks. That Saturday morning, a male staff had entered the ATM room to load money into the machine and locked himself as required by standard operational procedure. But when minutes rolled into hours, and the staff refused to emerge from the room, colleagues began to suspect something was wrong.
This was confirmed when there was no response to persistent knocking and banging on the door of the ATM room. By the time the door was forced open they found the lifeless body of their colleague on the floor of the ATM room.
The deceased bank staff was an “ATM Custodian”. ATM custodian have responsibility to monitor ATMs in their branch or branches in the same locality. They must replenish cash into the ATMs, and address any incidence of ATM breakdown. Their jobs are very critical at ensuring that customers have access to their cash seven days every week.
But this bank, like some other banks took things to the extreme. As at the time the deceased staff was working, ATM custodians in the bank worked round the clock, from Monday to Sunday. On weekends, they had to resume by 6.30am in the morning and closed around 7pm. As a result, there was virtually no day to rest . But the management of the banks were either oblivious of this fact or they chose to ignore it.
By the time another ATM custodian slumped and died in a Lagos branch of the same bank, there were increasing reports of serious health breakdown among ATM custodians in the bank. The bank was compelled to review the working schedule of its ATM custodians. Now they rotate weekend shifts, meaning each custodian works two weekends (Saturday-Sunday) in a month.
This however reveals how banks in Nigeria sacrifice human lives in order to generate income. It is the same principle that drives people who shed human blood to make money.
Apart from the wicked work schedule for ATM custodians operated by some banks, others have working hours that is hostile to women, especially their God given role as mothers. In order to maintain the high paying banking jobs, some female bank staff abandon one month old babies to the uncertain care of house-helps/nannies and unregulated day cares.
There was the case of a female bank staff that lost her one year old second child, who accidentally, drowned herself in a bowl of water, while the house-help was busy watching television with the first child in the living room. However, it must be noted that not all the banks operate a system that demands sacrifice of human lives to generate income. For example most of the banks have stopped weekend banking, or reduced it to the barest minimum, due to recognition of its impact of families and long term productivity of staff. Also some banks have created crèches in their offices that allow nursing mothers to keep their babies within reach and under day care.