Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate wednesday asked its Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions to summon the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, for questioning over his threat to revoke licences of banks which defied federal government’s directive by retrenching their staff.
The resolution was the aftermath of a point of order raised by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, during yesterday’s plenary.
Ngige had on Tuesday, in far away Geneva, Switzerland, where he’s attending an international labour conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), threatened that the federal government would revoke the licences of banks which continue to sack workers in breach of federal government’s order.
He said: “The federal government gave the licences to the banks to operate and if its directives are not adhered to, their licences will be withdrawn if the need arises. We will go a step further if they continue. We know what to do. They need to comply. They need to come to the negotiation table. We halted the spate of sack in the oil industry and we succeeded. Even if you are going to lay off, there is a way to declare redundancy, there is a process. Section 20 of the Labour Act says it. You must call the unions and discuss with them.
“You don’t just treat them as slaves in their own country and you want us to keep quiet. We want them to maintain the status quo. As far as I am the minister of labour, I will protect the interest of workers; same to the telecommunications companies, they are also talking about compiling lists without discussing with anybody.”
However, Ibrahim, in his point of order, described the banking industry as a very sensitive sector, arguing that such a misguided statement could worsen the economic condition of a country that is already in recession.
“The ministry gave a directive to banks not to retrench. And now, from what we read in the newspapers, they want to revoke licences for not obeying. Banking is such a sensitive industry and any misguided statement or a statement that has a throwback on the industry should be avoided.
“It can make or create a run on the banks. So, without any prejudice to the position of the minister, we want to as Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, invite the minister, the Central Bank and the banks, to know if they are talking at all about retrenchment and what will happen, noting that all the banks in Nigeria are private companies, quoted companies. So, we want to know the basis of the directive and now the basis of the threat,” Ibrahim
The Senate agreed with Ibrahim and consequently, the motion was passed. No date has been fixed for the summons.