Fidelity Bank Plc under the leadership of Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe has reportedly sacked over 200 staff amidst the economic crisis rocking the country.
The development is however in defiance to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s order directing money deposit banks in the country to stop further retrenchment of their staff. The CBN had issued the directives in December 2020.
A report by The Foundation for Investigative Journalism revealed that the bank has been silently sacking staff a few weeks after they were invited for “training” across the federation through an email message, with the subject “Services No Longer Required”.
One question on the lips of many Nigerians is that why should a bank which recently declared an impressive result disengage its staff? Recall, the lender declared a 53.9 percent growth in profit before tax, to N10.1 billion in the first quarter of 2021, ended March 31, 2021. Specifically, the bank said it grew its PBT from N6.6 billion in 2020 to N10.1 billion for the corresponding period of March 31, 2021. Similarly, the bank disclosed that its net revenue in the period also increased by 13.4% from N30.3bn in Q1 2020 to N34.4bn in 2021.
This newspaper learnt that the sacked Fidelity Bank staff received their disengagement letters with N200,000 as compensation (regardless of years of service) after attending a regional training.
According to the email sent to each of the laid-off employees, they were required to attend a training on the designated date and at a location based on their workplace’s region. Workers from the South West gathered in Lagos for regional training, while others gathered in Abuja and Kano.
“None of us had any idea what the training was going to be about. We went since it was from the bank, and we were taught how to be POS operators. I took the course at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce in Ikeja.” one of the retrenched employees simply identified as Tola said.
After the training, Akeem Odion, Head of Operation, Fidelity Union Securities Ltd (FUSL), addressed the participants and informed them that they no longer worked for the bank. He vowed that the bank would compensate them in some way, but he had no idea how much.
Another of the fired employees identified as Patricia claimed she had to travel while pregnant, experiencing the agony only to arrive at training and be told verbally that they had been fired.
“As indicated in the correspondence, people from various branches attended the training. I traveled to Lagos from Ado-Ekiti with a three-month pregnancy, only to be informed that I had lost my job during the training. Why didn’t they just send an e-mail instead? We could have saved a lot of time and effort if we had just sent the mail directly,” she explained.
After the verbal announcement, they received emails advising them of their disengagement a few days later. The email, however, left a sour taste in the mouths of the employees because it said that they would be paid an ex-gratia rather than severance pay, as many of them expected.
The message, which ended the careers of over 200 Nigerians in the bank and added them to the ever-growing rank of jobless persons in the country read:
“We regret to inform you that your services are no longer required effective August 4, 2021.
“Please be aware that you will be given first consideration for future roles with any of our various clients should the opportunity arise. However, you shall still be held accountable for any act of omission or commission traceable to you and relating to the time you spent with us and/or our clients.
“Kindly ensure that all documents/property belonging to our client are handed over to authorized personnel before your expected payment.
“We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavour.”
“Rather than telling us we had been fired, they organized a workshop to educate us how to become independent POS operators who could still produce money for the bank even if we were fired,” Idowu says (not real name said).
“We know we won’t be able to work for Fidelity indefinitely, but all we want is to be paid what we’re owed.
However, some of the aggrieved staff argued that they had dedicated a significant portion of his life to the bank and, as a result, deserved a fair severance payout rather than an ex-gratia payment.
Tola said he began working with Fidelity Union Securities Ltd (FUSL) in 2007 as a staff member with an Ordinary National Diploma (OND).
He and many other note counters were promised that if they sought and submitted their Higher National Diploma (HND) or undergraduate degrees, they would be promoted to full staff.
Tola isn’t the only FUSL employee that has spent that much time with the company.
The retrenched employees’ efforts to ensure that they receive a fair remuneration that is commensurate with their contributions to the bank have been fruitless.
According to reports, this isn’t the first time Fidelity Bank will break employee’s hearts, something like this, prior to the tenure of Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe as MD/CEO, drivers were in a similar situation in 2017 and 2018, and they protested and argued.