Herbert Wigwe, the group managing director of Access Bank, has mulled the bank’s planned mass retrenchment of its workforce over what he said was the outcome of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The bank boss who spoke via video conferencing in a town hall meeting with the bank’s staff said those to be affected by the mass retrenchment are 75% of the bank’s staff, most of whom are outsourced and are offering “non-essential services.”
“We probably don’t need as many securitymen as required, even to the fact that we are not gonna have all our branches open between now and December. We don’t need all the tea girls. We don’t need all the cleaners. We don’t need all the tellers etcetera, etcetera,” Mr. Wigwe said in a video obtained by The Trent on Thursday, April 30, 2020.
“The second has to do with our professional cost. Now that is one that is very tricky and it is tricky because I do understand and appreciate that its gonna, you know, bring its own pain to staff. We basically have to make the adjustments the same way you sounded when we spoke 10 days ago with respect to basically cutting down cost.
“I will be the first to take the hit and I’m gonna take the largest pay cut, which would be as much as 40 percent. The rest we would have to cascade right through the institution. Everybody may have to make some adjustments of some sort.”
Mr. Herbert Wigwe, one of the principal conveners of CA-COVID, a coalition of Nigeria’s private sector against COVID-19 said the proposed measures are aimed at keeping the bank afloat in the face of the economic realities of COVID-19.
CA-COVID which is led by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, is credited to have raised about N30 billion, feeding up to 1.7 million Nigerian, ordered 400,000 coronavirus test kits, and building isolation centres worth over N500 million isolation.
Access Bank has been giving its involvement with the COVID-19 intervention a strong PR push, sending out regular emails to news platforms, including The Trent. The running thread of the press statements from the bank’s publicist is that Mr. Wigwe is leading the coalition.
Industry watchers believe that Mr. Wigwe’s retrenchment policy affects the most vulnerable of his staffers and will be counter-productive for many families especially the poor if the books of the bank truly show just as his philanthropy does, that it has the capacity to cushion the effect at such a precarious moment in history.
President Muhammadu Buhari had placed a one-month partial lock-down in Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun States. A measure that was intended to check the spread of the coronavirus is due to be lifted on Saturday, May 2, 2020. The president, however, announced a nationwide 8pm to 6am curfew and a lockdown of Kano, the new epicenter for COVID-19 in Nigeria.
Beginning on April 28, 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria lifted the suspension of cheque clearing effectively unlocking the banking industry which had been placed at the end of March.
Experts who spoke with The Trent, said that Wigwe’s announcement may be an indication of subsisting financial distress in Access Bank. They believe that the one-month partial lockdown of Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun States should not call for a mass retrenchment in a healthy bank.