Banks currently are the greatest employers of labour and the best paying job one could find in Nigeria today. With their branches springing up like churches all over, there is a daily requirement for man power, this has made bank exams and interviews an every day thing. On the other hand, their pay-which many have argued is not commensurate with the trouble they make their staff go through or with the kind of profit they declare- is by Nigerian standards the best except perhaps for our political office holders who increase theirs at will. So it is not usual that giving the very high level of unemployment, every graduate aims to work in a bank, your sincerely inclusive. The best part is that it doesn’t need any form of professionalism, what ever course you studied, you are welcomed to the bank. But it’s not all rosy. Beyond the fitted suits, ID tags, air conditioned offices and flashy cars are different tales that are not so good. Ever cared to listen to a young banker complain about the job? It might change your impression about bank jobs forever. For a greater majority of those who banks recruit, their job description can be summarized in one word: Marketing. In simple terms, this describes the sum total of activities aimed at raising money for the bank. Usually, you are recruited, trained and then pushed out into the streets to do what ever you can to raise money for the bank-to meet a given target. In this job, all is fair. Here, ethics or morality doesn’t count. Many writers and commentators in the past have complained about the lucid and suggestive dressing of bankers especially the female bankers. In fact it now seems a conscious policy of some banks to have their ladies dress in a way that will help them secure and keep male customers or how else does one explain coming into a bank and all the ladies you meet-both married and un married- are wearing shirts/blouses that give a more than generous view of their mounds. Many women are forced into prostituting in order to meet targets that are simply out of this world. When you hear the figures involved, you would begin to wonder where they are expected to raise this money from. Raising these outrageous sums are often tied to the security of their jobs. While in the Ivory towers it’s a case of “Publish or perish” here it is “meet your target or leave”. Well I guess all this is not news. Guess we are all familiar with our commercial banks. What however provoked this piece is what I see as attempts by a different kind of bank-a Micro Finance Bank- to even out do the commercial banks in the Marketing craze. Yesterday, I met a friend-an acquaintance really-who I first met in camp during the three weeks NYSC orientation. She had following rejection by the institution she was first posted to ended up in a micro finance bank-arguably the biggest and most popular in Abuja- Fortis Micro Finance Bank. Now, Fortis except for the conspicuous presence of the word “Micro-finance” in their name cuts the picture of a big time commercial bank. Their big office buildings in highbrow areas of the city, flashy cars, smartly dressed staff with suits and all, for me negates every thing micro finance banks stand for. I can’t help wondering how a shoe cobbler or a tomato seller –those who these banks were meant for, will confidently approach such a bank without being heavily intimidated. I had once joked with some friends that Fortis seem undecided about their status-whether Commercial or Microfinance. For all purpose and intent, they are using a Microfinance license to operate a purely Commercial Bank so to speak. Evidence to support my claims emerged after my chance meeting with my old corper friend yesterday. A look at her and it was obvious all was not well, her well fitted trouser suits not withstanding. In fact I felt she looked awkward in that suit under the hot Abuja sun. Her story?, Fortis MFB gave her an unimaginable target of twelve million to be raised before the end of the month or she looks for some where else to continue her national youth service. While it might fall within the modus operandi of a bank to operate in any way that suits her, I think it is something else entirely to subject a fresh graduate-a youth corper- to such degree of stress in a city she is not so familiar with. Twelve million is no mean amount of money and you don’t just pick it up on the streets. Like my friend was willing enough to volunteer, she had been harassed sexually by men who would want her in bed first before depositing their mostly stolen money with the bank. Her resistance thus far has left her many digits shy of twelve million and hey, it was already month end. The way she was looking, I doubt how long that resistance will last. Some one may say ‘why did she take the offer?” well if such a person had the remotest idea of what serving in Abuja could mean, you will begin to understand. Here some corpers work as bar men just to qualify for the monthly platy FG allowance. It is important to note here that Fortis MFB is not alone in this exploitation of corpers. But for a handful, all commercial banks are guilty of the same crime and other Micro finance banks as well. The question is, is it right-morally and corporate wise-to ask young people to do next to the impossible just to keep their job? I feel strongly that it was high time perhaps the International Labour Organization and international human rights groups began to look into this issue since our local equivalents seem just unable to address it. The pressures and demands of working in banks have simply gone out of hand. No need talking about the enactment of laws because our legislature doesn’t seem to know her job. But most importantly, I feel the National Youth service Corps should spell out terms to any organization that wishes to engage corpers. It is simply unfair to place such a demand on a corper. Outside all this, the Central Bank must do something about banks and their target ultimatum on staff.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters