(By Chuks Valentine Augustus)
“At the beginning of my days of ignorance, I also found myself in this category of people who by all means wanted to be in the banking sector. As a spectator then, I believed it was the best place to be – you just sit in a fully air conditioned office, wearing expensive suit and a pair of shoes which you probably bought on three instalmental payments, rolling right and left on an executive chair, doing some paper and pen works, then at the end of the month you get your tens or hundreds of thousands naira salary. That was the mindset then, and that, almost unfortunately, is the mindset of some onlookers today.“
THE words of J. J. Roseau “man is born free, but everywhere in chains” are still very potent and ever present in almost every activity of human existence. Even when one has every right to freedom, the factors and circumstances surrounding him/her always make sure the freedom is denied or greatly and unjustly limited – especially in Nigeria, and more especially in the banking sector.
Many years ago, the banking sector was the envy of every undergraduate, student and pupil of Nigerian institutions of learning. Everybody wanted to be a banker – their looks, their jumbo pay and the respect they commanded were loved and wanted by all. Those were the good old days of banking in the country; these days those factors are characterized by the popular Nigerian saying “the more you look, the less you see”. At the beginning of my days of ignorance, I also found myself in this category of people who by all means wanted to be in the banking sector. As a spectator then, I believed it was the best place to be – you just sit in a fully air conditioned office, wearing expensive suit and a pair of shoes which you probably bought on three instalmental payments, rolling right and left on an executive chair, doing some paper and pen works, then at the end of the month you get your tens or hundreds of thousands naira salary. That was the mindset then, and that, almost unfortunately, is the mindset of some onlookers today.
Sometime ago, I came across a group of graduating students of a particular higher institution, who in celebration wore vests with the inscription “Unstoppable Banker”, then I said to myself “if only they knew better.” If only they had wished to be “unstoppable bankers” when in-depth capitalism and corporate slavery were not present in the banking industry; those were actually the good old days when nobody was overlaboured more than their salaries; when casualisation of staff was nowhere to be found in the sector’s dictionary; when you got promoted when you were due for one. Ironically, these days, even many people in the banking sector are looking for a way out, whereas the ignorant ones out there are desperate to go in.
Today, the banking system is majorly divided into two – the mainstream and the contract staff. Sadly enough, able bodied, highly productive and intelligent graduates and youths of highly recognized Nigerian institutions are been employed as casual staff, used in most cases for the same jobs the mainstream, otherwise called “core staff” would do, yet they are highly underpaid, never promoted, no salary increment, they are highly and unjustly marginalized in all ramifications, and as if that is not enough, they live everyday in fear of losing their jobs, since there is no job security.
Another worrisome situation is the sector’s lack of interest in the welfare of these so-called contract staff. A certain driver of a bank got shot on duty while on cash movement, but luckily survived, yet he was summarily dismissed because the bank felt he could no longer discharge his duties effectively – there was no compensation, no health care, absolutely NOTHING! Another was hospitalised for some weeks while still in the services of the bank, yet his sack letter was delivered to him on his sick bed. He eventually lost his life as a result of the shock of his sack. As a casual staff in some banks, when you are ill, you are totally “On Your Own” as there is no health scheme made available for you.
In my five years experience in the casual stream of the banking sector, I discovered that the sector is one of the biggest mis-users of human capital. A good number of the casual staff are either first degree holders, HND holders, holders of MBA, PGD, some before entry into the system, others on the job; nevertheless they are neither converted to the mainstream nor promoted in the casual stream – they are rather stagnated for years, without recognition to their hard earned academic qualifications – such that-is-your-own-business attitude. This lack of reward for academic achievements certainly does not encourage self development. More endemic is the fact that casualisation has now taken a worse dimension. B.Sc. holders are now been employed as casual staff; some of these even hold M.Sc. degree, with total package not worth writing home about – just salary, no leave, no leave allowance, no bonus of any kind.
The banking sector has created big desperation in her staff, especially those in the marketing department who want to do everything possible to meet up with the heavy targets given to them by their employers. Women are mostly the victims of this activity, as most of them have resorted to “corporate prostitution” in order to meet their targets and avoid being sacked. Initially, I had the impression that there is a level you get to in the banking sector where you would be untouchable, but this impression was allayed when I was discussing with some of the branch heads in my zone who confessed that if they could get Federal Government jobs with even lesser pay, they would quit the bank. That was when I realized that not only the casual staff, but almost everybody that works in the four walls of the sector needs deliverance; but the question yet unanswered is: WHO WILL DELIVER THEM? Is it the government who has paid deaf ears to the enslavement of the youths and citizens of this great nation on their own soil? Or is it the capitalist owners of these banks who are only interested in using and dumping their staff with impunity? Is it the labour leaders who are only active when the issue of hike in fuel price arises, and inactive to issues of casualisation in the country? Who will deliver these our brothers and sisters in the banking industry? Who will put an end to these donkey years of stagnation, where even when you eventually leave the system after several years of active and dedicated service, you are asked to pay the bank some money for leaving instead of the bank paying you off in appreciation of your dedicated service and loyalty?
GOD bless the day and hour, which that deliverer shall come.
• Augustus, is a Writer, Researcher, Business Support Services Provider
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”