Comrade Oyinkan Olasanoye, first female President, Association of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), in this interview with TAIWO OMILANI insists that government policies are forcing banks to retrench staffs even as she urge the federal government to review policies that might affect the insurance and the banking sector.
What are you doing to protect the job of your members giving the fact that there are reports of mass sack especially in the banking sector as the economy continues to bite hard?
We realized that our members are losing their jobs and it has become a tripartite issue in the sense that it is no longer the fault of the employees or that of the employers, but the policy of the government. The sector we operate on is a financial sector; it is not a manufacturing sector, so the only thing we deal with is fiscal. For example, majority of the banks have been trading with Treasury Single Account (TSA). No matter the advantages of TSA, the government cannot just withdraw all their money from the banks and expect them to survive. We are trying to take a proposal to the government that if they are withdrawing their money from the banks because of TSA, why don’t they loan it back to them as an investment and at lesser interest rate, with that there is still going to be money because with the way we are going, there is no money in the system. Government is the highest spender of money and now they are not spending and the little from government parastatals and agencies that we can work on in the banks are being withdrawn to the warehouse. This is really affecting our members, majority of our employers have issues because the policy is making business difficult to run.We are tackling the issue this year by going to the government on the monetary policies and also engage our employers in order to save our jobs. It has gotten to a stage that we can no longer be shouting that banks should not retrench when the policies in place are forcing them to retrench. It is not about the government coming out that banks should not retrench, but what are they doing to make it possible for banks not to retrench. We will meet government to know what they will do for us alongside with our employers.
Are you saying TSA came at the wrong time?
What I am saying is that for every policy, there should be a human face. TSA is a very good policy for those that are overspending. For the federal government that is not directly in control of their income, TSA is perfect, but putting TSA in place is like the government is trying to throw away the baby with the birth water. That we are trying to save government expenses and income does not mean it must totally collapse the banking sector. When the government was bringing TSA, they should have considered so many things. People are saying banks are no longer doing their core business, but that they run after government investment, yes we should go into retail banking, but before we get into that stage, there must be a foundation. Things should be done gradually; the government should have considered the human factor.The government should allow the banks to take loans, do not forget that before the introduction of TSA, banks had loaned out some of these monies to individuals for some periods and in the cause of trying to get the money back, businesses will collapse.
What should be the step by step approach to manage this?
The government should have separated or divided different parastatals into different banks. For example, Skye Bank could be collecting all the TSA involving customs service and Unity Bank could be collecting that of the Nigerian Army. With this, no bank would run out of liquidity, and then may be after some time, in the course of doing this, they will know that they need to go after the masses for retail banking and combine them. Before now, ASSBIFI had been shouting, even when some policies on the banks were not professional, and the government was setting unrealistic targets for our members because once they know that your brother is the Comptroller General of Customs and Excise, you can go there, and this contributed to why bankers were not going through the system. Then you see bankers not rising through the process and professionalism. Our appraisal should be based on the target we are bringing in because most of them are now unrealistic.
What is your view on MMM despite the warnings by the CBN, Nigerians still stake their money in the ponzi scheme?
Everybody has said both the positive and the negative aspects of MMM, but my view is that MMM is of no value to the Nigerian economy because anything that is not assisting production, we don’t need it. It is like we are eating our future today, MMM is not adding any value to the country. When we set our priority on just spending without bringing anything in, such is not an investment to me.
MMM is just a matter of money changing hands. For an economy that is on recession, it is of great disadvantage to us because the money we are getting is still purchasing the same thing. If we are not careful, there will be liquidity problem.
Does it have a negative impact on the banking sector?
Yes it is. Although, the money is still within the bank. MMM does not have a face, and they use the banks to transfer money. The banking system is being used, but savings are affected because the amount somebody supposed to have saved in his own account is being transferred because the person wants a quick return on it and at the rate it is going, it will get to a stage that no other person is transferring money. That is where it is going to affect the masses. Initially, people are very smart, they are able to get their interest and their money back, but those that started late will be in for it. Now, people are now asking for help, but it is not coming. There is no way it will not affect banking sector, but it will affect individuals more than the banks.
What Is Your Blueprint For ASSBIFI?
I have been part of ASSBIFI national executive since 2007 and I have been behind the scene since 1993. I have few things to do to keep the flag of the association flying. I want this association to have more visibility and to have a cordial relationship with the government.However, some of our members have apathy for the union; they believe that the union is just there to collect their check-up dues and would not come around until they are retrenched. I don’t believe in fire brigade approach. I want the people to know what our objectives and aims are. There will be more training and seminars for our members, and we would be more innovative in the way we run the union.
Do you have any gender challenges, being the first female President?
I keep telling people that leadership or the position of ASSBIFI President is not gender sensitive. It is about who is there and your ability to deliver, the intelligence you are bringing on board, and the relationship you have. So, I have never had any challenge because of my gender. I have not had any intimidation or violence from anybody since the past 10 years. Though, I am very conscious that I operate in an African setting and if you say women first, it will always be after men and I know that in the cause of doing my job, men have cooperated with me and they have learnt to respect me and my view. I also reciprocate by respecting them. It is not about individual but superiority of argument. They call me ‘Mr. President’ because the constitution of the association says so, may be it would change before I leave.
Source : Leadership