By Hamilton Nwosa(Head, The New Diplomat’s Business and data tracking desk)
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has blocked Access Bank and other banks across the country from sacking their workers. The apex bank which issued a statement on Sunday evening disclosed that the decision to arrest growing plans or moves by banks to lay-off bank workers was reached after a special meeting of the Bankers’ Committee.
A statement by CBN’s Director of Corporate Communications, Mr Isaac Okoroafor was quite categorical on halting plans by banks to lay-off workers. According to the Statement no sack of either permanent or Adhoc staff can be implemented by any Nigerian bank without the approval or authorization of the CBN as the industry regulator.
Recall that Group managing director of Access Bank, Mr Herbert Wigwe, had said a few days back that his bank was planning to sack 75% of its workforce in a mass retrenchment exercise that was imminent over what he attributed to the shocks and stress arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. The young CEO who spoke via a podcast in what seems to be a town hall meeting with the bank’s staff, had said those to be affected by the mass retrenchment are 75% of the bank’s staff, most of whom are outsourced and are offering “non-essential services.”
“We probably don’t need as many securitymen as required, even to the fact that we are not gonna have all our branches open between now and December. We don’t need all the tea girls. We don’t need all the cleaners. We don’t need all the tellers etcetera, etcetera,’’ he snapped.
He added: “The second has to do with our professional cost. Now that is one that is very tricky and it is tricky because I do understand and appreciate that its gonna, you know, bring its own pain to staff. We basically have to make the adjustments the same way you sounded when we spoke 10 days ago with respect to basically cutting down cost.
“I will be the first to take the hit and I’m gonna take the largest pay cut, which would be as much as 40 percent. The rest we would have to cascade right through the institution. Everybody may have to make some adjustments of some sort.”
But the CBN in its statement yesterday effectively quashed moves by Access bank and other banks to lay-off bank workers . Mr Okoroafor’s full statement reads: “A special meeting of the Bankers’ Committee was convened on May 2, 2020, to further review the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian banking industry.
“The Committee particularly deliberated on the issue of the operating costs of banks in view of the disruptions emanating from the global economic difficulties and decided as follows: In order to help minimize and mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families and livelihoods, no bank in Nigeria shall retrench or lay-off any staff of any cadre (including full-time and part-time).
“To give effect to the above measure, the express approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria shall be required in the event that it becomes absolutely necessary to lay-off any such staff. The Central Bank of Nigeria solicits the support of all in our collective effort to weather through the economic challenge occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.”