Axed Workers Go On Hunger Strike, Seek Jonathan, N/Assembly’s Help
Seven years after the banking recapitalisation initiated by former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Charles Soludo, in 2005, over 14,000 Nigerians, under the umbrella of Ex-Staff of Non-Consolidated Banks, are on indefinite hunger strike, in protest against non-payment of their terminal benefits. Mr. Olubiyi Odunaro, a former staff of Hallmark Bank Plc, speaks on what he describes as injustice to the axed bank workers, calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene.
Can you tell us why you are embarking on hunger strike?
To start with, the banking reform, implemented by Soludo, was unprofessional, ineffective and in-human. It was unprofessional in the sense that he just said he wanted to consolidate banks without wide consultations with relevant stakeholders in the sector. He had another motive behind what he did. For instance, it was not up to four years after his consolidation exercise that the banks started facing problems, and there was a need to re-consolidate the banks again.
You can see that what he did was a total failure. His implementation strategy was disgusting. He did not even follow the national policy on what the nation needed in terms of economic growth and development, increase of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment generation, increase in positive economic indices and poverty reduction. He just threw thousands of Nigerians into the labour markets without transforming the banks for greater growth.
We decided to go on indefinite hunger strike in pursuance of social justice and redress to the denial of the right of 14,000 Nigerians after seven years. In 2005, the CBN initiated a monetary policy on banking reform for consolidation of the commercial banks to a minimum capital of N25billion. While that process was on, Soludo gave options of acquisition and merger to enable the banks raise N25billion.
It was erroneously believed that at the end of the exercise, banks that could not raise the required capital could be acquired by bigger ones. Merger or acquisition is like marriage. For instance, you cannot force people into marriage when the whole thing is not working out well. When the recapitalisation process commenced, due diligence was done. Those were official excuses. I do not want to go into the political undertone of the entire exercise.
The reality is that some banks were not merged, they could not raise N25billion and were not acquired at the end of the exercise. Some of the banks include Hallmark, Trade, Allstate Trust, Gulf, City Express and many others, making a total of 14 non-consolidated banks.