The Nigerian Bankers’ Committee at their 327th meeting in Abuja on Thursday has finally agreed to halt the spate of recent mass sack in the industry. They were also briefed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that framework for the much awaited flexible exchange rate would be released very soon.
In addition, representatives of the bankers and CBN who briefed reporters at the end of the meeting equally disclosed that modality for the establishment of National Collateral Registry has been completed by the apex bank and it will soon be published.
Those who briefed the press included Mrs. Tokunbo Martins, CBN Director of Banking Supervision; Bola Adesola, Managing Director of Standard Chartered Bank; Philip Odozua, Managing Director of UBA; Emeka Emuwa who is Managing Director of Union Bank and Isaac Okoroafor, acting Director of Communications of the CBN.
According to Adesola, “obviously, banks understand the implication of people not being in employment especially with what the situation is like in the country. And we are looking at ways we will ensure that we minimise exits from institutions. “There will always be exits. People will exit the institutions. As a matter of fact, it is something we have discussed in the past with the CBN Governor prevailing on the banks to minimise any exits from the institutions. “We have noted the market sentiments and am sure that going forward, it will be different but as I said, we must recognise also that there would be reasons why people would leave and it is not just in the banking industry- telecoms and other sectors have had this type of situation before but it is something that we would manage.”
Speaking on the flexible exchange rate, which the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) resolved to introduce at their last meeting in May and which President Muhammadu Buhari endorsed in his Democracy Day broadcast on May 29, Odozua said CBN was being deliberately meticulous in preparing the framework.
“The exchange rate issue has been problematic and the CBN is determined to get it right this time. That is why they are taking time. It is the reason central bank has called for inputs from so many stakeholders and they are distilling these inputs. I believe that is going to be ready in a very short time,” he explained.
The UBA boss, however, warned currency speculators to perish the idea of taking undue advantage of the delay in releasing the details of the policy in hoarding hard currencies. “Whoever is involved in currency speculation as we are waiting for the model and as such is hoarding the currency should know that he is likely going to be deceived at the end of the day because once this policy model is released they will find out that a lot of the issues that have been affecting foreign exchange in Nigeria would be dealt with. I believe that people have to be very careful,” he stated.
The bankers also agreed to stimulate economic development to by increasing lending to the private sector.
Adesola of Standard Chartered said the meeting discussed the successful anchor borrowers programme and how that framework could be replicated to other industries. “We are working on how we can stimulate SMEs growth and development right down the value chain whether it is agric, telecom, power, education and so on.”
Explaining how the National Collateral Registry would work, Okoroafor said, “the essence of the Collateral Register is that with your phone, refrigerator or any other property, you can take a loan and still retain the services of those assets once they are properly registered.
“This is being introduced to ensure that people who have been constrained by lack of collateral from taking loans can now use those movable assets. You can use your car as collateral for loan and you will still be driving it once it is properly registered.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), declared on Thursday that they would picket banks that indulge in further mass sack of their employees, saying that the Federal Government was right to have warned the erring banks with withdrawal of their licenses if they refused to halt the gale of mass retrenchment of workers.
Addressing a joint press conference at the venue of the on-going 105th International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland, the two Labour groups stated that just like the banks disobeyed the laws of this country, when it comes to retrenching their (unions) members, “we will picket them to show them that they do not have monopoly of law of disobedience.”
Both the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba and the TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama, who frowned at the refusal of the banks to allow their workers to unionise, said the pronouncement of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige was expected.
Also, the Comrade Ajaero faction led of the NLC has given a 21-day ultimatum to the banks that have engaged in mass sack against the rules of engagement to reverse the decision or face the wrath of the workers.
“If it however after correcting themselves desires to insist on sacking the affected workers, it must comply with the laid down procedure for embarking on such unfortunate exercise. Congress will be forced to take all necessary steps to assist the banks see the need to comply with the laws of Nigerian if after 21 days of this release the illegally sacked workers are not recalled by the affected banks. We advise all affiliates and state councils to start immediate mobilisation against these banks as we work with other segments of the society to compel them to work within the ambits of our laws and the traditions and ethos governing Industrial Relations Practice in Nigeria.”
He commended the Federal Ministry of Labour for urging the banks not to lay-off their staff and the proposed penalty “but we demand that the Ministry anchors their request on the illegality of such actions which we hope was the basis for such call without which it could be meaningless.”
He said: “On the basis of this, Nigerian workers demand that the Ministry goes beyond the call and seek a reversal of the illegality. This is to avoid a dangerous precedence from being set where an employer can just wake up and sack hundreds of its workforce without recourse to the laws of the land.”