Aggrieved staffers sue bank, move to cripple its operations nationwide
For Polaris Bank Limited, it’s a story of one day, one trouble as the bank, which is currently being troubled over its controversial sale, is in the news again for the wrong reasons.
It was reported that ahead of Nigeria’s anticipated political transition, with president-elect Bola Tinubu’s inauguration scheduled for 29 May, speculation is mounting over the fate of the bank, as the incoming helmsman, is said to be gearing up to reverse its controversial sale.
Recall, that in October 2022, the CBN sold the bank for a paltry N40 billion under controversial circumstances, after sinking over N1.2 trillion into it. Predictably, it triggered a wave of allegations: lawmakers, trade unions, and other opponents of the deal all cried foul. The apex bank, it was gathered, sold the bank to Strategic Capital Investment Limited (SCIL), said to be promoted by Auwal Lawan Abdullahi, a son-in-law of Ibrahim Babangida who holds the Sarkin Sudan Gombe traditional title from the north-eastern state, despite his limited credentials in banking and finance. The sale meant that Nigerian taxpayers lost around 97 per cent of state investment in Polaris. As of December 2020, AMCON investment in the bank stood at N848 billion, per company filings, with insiders saying an additional N350 billion was poured in between January 2021 and July 2022.
As the crisis continues to bedevil the bank, some customers of the bank especially small and medium enterprises are reportedly taking their money out to safer banks over fear of imminent distress.
According to inside sources in the bank, lately the bank has lost some customers (depositors) who are edgy about their deposits and have lost trust in the bank because of huge job losses and unethical industrial practices currently going on in the bank.
Investigations by this newspaper revealed that for the second month, over 100 branch managers of the bank are placed on suspension without pay for having non performing loan ratio above 5%.
However, it was gathered that these loans were duly approved and interests earned by the bank. Some of the managers told our correspondent that they did not book most of the loans but the loans were referred and booked by other senior staff who are walking about freely.
According to labour laws, suspension of a worker without pay should not exceed two weeks but the bank initially issued letters of suspension for 30 days. After the expiration, the suspension without pay continued for two months without further advise to the staff.
According to our sources, management has insisted that staff on suspension must come to work daily and are drilled for performance review on a daily basis with the managing director presiding over the weekly meetings which last late into the nights.
Industry watchers insisted that the move by the management of the bank showed that all is not well within the system and the managers may have been victims of scapegoats’ due to imminent distress in the system.
Our investigations revealed that because of the obvious signs of distress in the bank, a number of individuals and SMEs have closed their accounts with the bank and moved their deposits to safer banks.
Some aggrieved staff of the bank have sued the bank before the National Industrial Court in Lagos and Abuja. Some of the aggrieved staff have also declared a mass protest against the bank next week. They have also threatened to cripple the bank’s activities nationwide from next week.