When Herbert Wigwe, managing director of Access Bank, donated N1billion to the federal government to fight the coronavirus pandemic, no one was sure of what he had in mind. Everyone must have thought the bank had so much money in its kitty to have released that huge amount to the government of Nigeria. No normal organization would ever think of sacrificing its hard working staff for a government that may not be of help to it in times of distress.
But in a blink of an eye, in the midst of the pandemic that is crushing national economies and families are barely getting food to eat, Access Bank came up with sack letter to 800 hardworking staff, laying them off without benefits for them. One now wonders what motivated the managing director Wigwe to dole out as huge as N1billion to the federal government at the detriment of the staff who have been with him over the years.
It baffles every right thinking Nigerian to read how a bank would prefer to spray money on the government that has so much money in its kitty, with donations and grants from international bodies like the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and others and push away families that have no one to fall back to in the midst of this pandemic that is shaking the entire world. Wigwe was bold enough to give reasons why he took the action, even saying that the few ones left will go home with half salary every month.
Does it make economic sense? You know your bank is bankrupt you still went ahead to empty your money to a government that has so much in its kitty. One billion could pay so much salary of these middle level and low level income earners that Wigwe has thrown into the Nigerian market at this critical period of time. The staff have so much dependents who rely on them to get their daily food. They have children who are in different schools, they have house rents to pay. They have projects which they must have conceived to execute and now they have been embarrassed with an uncaring bank management.
If any sack at all is even supposed to be done, this is not the right time to do it. This period of coronavirus pandemic where people are begging for food to eat, the little one some persons have is taken away from them, I see it as a very wrong decision at this critical time. I wonder how the managing director is feeling at this time. I wonder how other management staff are feeling now. I wonder the state of the bank at the moment. I wonder the state of the sacked workers at this time.
After sacking 800 staff, almost a thousand, 340 branches across the nation were shutdown. This is very unfortunate. Although we understand that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed the banks to stop sacking workers at this time, those already sacked by the Access Bank managing director will they be called back following the directive of the CBN? If so, that will be good news. But if not, the harm has already been done. The directive has only saved others in other banks from suffering the same fate as those of the Access Bank.
But it will be heartwarming of the central bank will direct the Access Bank to recall the sacked staff and re-engage them again. This will be a welcome development. There should be a discussion on this as the bankers should not be thrown out of jobs at this critical period where no firm is ready to engage anyone. A pay cut will be better appreciated than out right termination of appointment.
The central bank should call the managing director to order. If he had no money to pay workers he would not have doled out a whooping N1billion to the government of Nigeria. Yes, the CBN must wade in and save the situation. It is very unfortunate and should not be encouraged in any system. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) had warned against sacking workers for no just reason. The action of the Access Bank is condemnable, unjust, wrong and must be reversed.