NLC puts workers on the alert

labour*Strategises against Diamond Bank

Eluonye Koyegwuaehi

14 September 2013, Lagos – NATIONAL leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has asked workers in the country, especially Lagos and civil society allies to be on the alert and be ready to take on Diamond Bank for alleged anti-workers and unfair labour practices.

Management of the bank and an affiliate of NLC, the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, NUBIFIE have been at loggerhead for a while over the bank alleged unprocedural sack of workers including union officials without pay.

The matter got to a boiling point in July when leaders of NUBIFIE and civil society allies picketed the bank.
However, the matter took a different dimension on Friday, September 6, not less that officials of the bank unit of NUBIFIE were arrested and detained the Lagos State Criminal Department, CID, till Monday September 9 before they were taking to the court after all efforts by the union to secure the bail failed.

Reacting to the development, visibly angry leaders of NLC in a statement, threatened to deal with the bank.

In a statement released on Friday, 6th September 2013, disclosed that workers of Diamond Bank Plc were picketing the Head Office of the bank in Lagos. The workers, under the umbrella of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE), were protesting to press home their demand for better working conditions, reinstatement of 200 sacked workers as directed by the National Industrial Court (NIC) and their demand for the right to organise and associate freely in the workplace as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution.

“The Management of the bank procured the services of the Lagos State Police Command and deployed the police in the brutalization of some of the workers and the detention of five of them. We are shocked that the Nigeria Police will allow itself to be dragged into what is purely an industrial relations matter, which ought to be resolved through social dialogue. The detention of these workers since Friday violates their fundamental human rights and portrays the Nigeria Police in bad light as a “cash and carry” strike force whose services can be procured.

The Congress condemns the action of the Lagos State Police Command and management of Diamond bank in the strongest terms. Congress will not stand by and allow this violation of workers’ rights. We call on the bank to comply with the directive of the NIC and recall the sacked workers immediately if it is to avoid the wrath of Nigerian workers. We also call on the Inspector-General of Police to ensure the immediate release of the detained workers. We urge him to call the Lagos State Commissioner to order.

We call on all Nigerian workers and in particular, industrial unions and workers in Lagos to await further directives on steps to be taken to deal with the Diamond Bank affront.”

It could be recalled that no fewer than five NUBIFIE unit of Diamond bank were arrested Friday and detained at the State CID, Lagos based on a petition by the management of Diamond Bank Plc .

They were granted bail by an Igbosere Magistrate court perceived harsh bail conditions that the union could not meet for days.
Each of them was asked to pay N200, 000, provide tax clearance among others.

Five of the arrested union leaders were Olalekan Adebambo (Chairman, Diamond Bank branch of NUBIFIE), Eniola Ilesanmi (Vice Chairman), Michael Olajide (Secretary) Benjamin Onyia (Treasurer) and Onyeonoro Favour (auditor).

The bank was said to have accused them of vandalizing its property value at N200 million as well of assaulting its workers during the picketing of the banks on July 10, 2013.

General Secretary of the union Muhammed Sheikh in statement a day after they were arrested petitioned the Deputy Superintendent of the Police, legal Department of the CID, Lagos State Police Command.

According to the petition copied the Lagos State Commissioner, the union demanded for immediate and unconditional release of its members.

The petition read in part “we write to demand for immediate and unconditional release of our members who are also staff of Diamond Bank from your custody today, Saturday September 7, 2013. It is important to bring your attention that diamond bank management had earlier filed a case at industrial court against the union and its members including those you have now detained and, the matte has been mentioned in court and coming up for hearing on September 17, 2013. The petitioner (Diamond Bank) now making claims as alleged in their petition three months after the bank sacked the union executives against whom they petitioned in spite of the pending case in court, is a clear abuse of power and attempt to undermine court process and subvert the course of justice.”

It is perplexing that without prior formal invitation for our members you ordered for their arrest and after taking their statement you refused them bail and ordered for their detention. This is despite all appeals from all our union officials. The national union views this act as act of intimidation against union officials who have been victimized by Diamond Bank management by unjustly sacking them from work and, now wants to break their resolve to pursue their just cause. We hasten to say that the development may create industrial disharmony, not only in Diamond Bank Plc but in the finance industry as a whole.

We are told that the reason for the arrest of our members was because of the picketing exercise ordered by the national union against anti labour practices of the management of Diamond Bank plc. While the matter has gone to several places including the national industrial court where it is currently pending, the same management of Diamond Bank has introduced a criminal allegation against our union executives in diamond bank and has misled your office to execute their agenda.

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