The Managing Director of ARISE TV, Ms. Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, has called out banks for their decision not to open all branches during eased lockdown, saying that such would exacerbate the situation on ground.
The media guru in her Monday column on Thisday Newspapers urged banks not to endanger public life because of selfish interest.
According to her, banks had justified their action on protecting their staff and branches from getting infected, while in reality were trying to save cost and increase their profit.
“I had communicated my concern to corporate affairs officials at GTBank and United Bank for Africa Plc and tried to convince them to plead with their management to reopen all their branches, hoping that this would force other banks to follow suit. But they all rebuffed the notion on the pretext that they needed to protect their staff and branches from getting infected. I found their excuses ridiculously implausible because by exposing bank customers to Covid-19 community spread through their congested banking halls, they were not keeping the larger community safe, including their personnel.
“It took me a few days after those phone calls to figure out that the banks were playing games, notwithstanding the health crisis that they were helping to exacerbate. It occurred to me that the banks were using the cover of Covid-19 to cut costs and reduce their losses by keeping commercially unviable branches shut during this period. With this as a strategy, they will be able to increase profitability without a care in the world of the consequence of their irresponsible action. This is unacceptable and should not be sanctioned by the CBN or the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19.”
The Arise top staff suspected that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, might be a party to banks’ partial work for not calling financial institutions to order.
“First and foremost, no bank in the country is allowed to close down any of its branches without an impact assessment and the approval of the CBN. The central bank should have by now seen the result of the banks’ actions and inactions and met with their CEOs to review the protocol on branch reopening”.
Instead of partial resumption, Nwogwugwu suggested that CBN and all commercial banks should have revisited the protocol on banking services within days after restrictions were lifted, by reopening all branches.
“Of course, this should have been complemented with physical distancing measures, provision of hand sanitizers at their entrances, carrying out temperature checks, and regular disinfection of their premises,” she opined.
She added that in an ideal situation, banks should be categorised as essential service during lockdown as it was in other same climes.