Banks lay-off 2,477 staff during lock-down

Banks in Nigeria laid off about 2,477 of its employees in the second quarter of 2020, as key Nigerian cities complied with the lockdown directives of the Federal Government to contain COVID-19.

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, the banking sector reduced its total headcount to 94, 498 as of June 2020 from 96, 975 in March of the same year. Total banking sector employees was 103, 610 at the end of 2019.

Banking sector employees took to social media in the height of the COVID-19 lockdown to complain about the threat of mass sack, as banks looked to contain increasing overheads across board. Personal expenses make up about 21% of commercial banks operating income, and is typically the first port of call for massive cuts.

In the data, contract staff, which represented 43% of total bank staffs, constituted the most affected of the job cuts, making up 2, 239 out of the 2, 477 losses recorded in the period. Since December 2019, banks have laid off a total of 6, 408 contract staff. Staff designated as contract have always been an easy target for lay offs, as their contract do not provide them with the condition of service enjoyed by permanent staff.

In the wake of the Access Bank threat to downsize staff in April, the CBN issued a press release confirming that it had agreed with banks to suspend the sacking of bank staffs.  In the press release, the CBN maintained that, “in order to help minimize and mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families and livelihoods, no bank in Nigeria shall retrench or lay-off any staff of any cadre (including full-time and part-time).”

It also went further, requiring banks to first obtain its approval before any staff is laid off in the event that it was absolutely necessary.

“To give effect to the above measure, the express approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria shall be required in the event that it becomes absolutely necessary to lay-off any such staff.”

Bottom Line: It appears the over two thousand staff laid off might have been effected under the approval of the central bank, or carried out before the circular was made public.

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