Commercial banks in Benue State, on Friday, joined the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) ongoing strike, which commenced on Wednesday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the strike was to protest the deductions of staff salaries and non-payment of three years’ transport allowances owed them.
They were also protesting against the non-implementation of the full minimum wage by the state government.
NAN also reports that part of the workers’ grievances were the non-implementation of 15 per cent and two and half per cent increment for pensioners in the state.
Customers were stranded at the various banks in Makurdi, Benue State capital, following the picketing of the banks by union officials.
Mr Joseph Nyitar, a customer, told NAN that he travelled from Gbajimba to withdraw his deposits and was stranded over the closure of the banks.
“I came all the way from Guma Local Government in the state to withdraw money only to discover that the banks were all closed.
“You know the whole of Guma does not have any bank. Now I am stranded and confused, I don’t even know what to do now,” he said.
Another customer, who spoke under condition of anonymity, described the government decision to deduct staff salaries which led to the strike as “mere wickedness.”
NAN reports that some of the bank officials, who spoke under conditions of anonymity, sympathised with their customers while insisting that they were handicapped.
“There is nothing we can do; the NLC and TUC have stationed their staff in all the banks across board to ensure that we do not open.
“The only good thing for now is that our ATM’s are functioning effectively and our staff have free access into the banks; so, we will continue to service the machines as much as we can.
“It is quite unfortunate that some of our customers do not have ATM and some wants to deposit huge amount of money and there is nothing we can do. We are losing a lot of money,” they said.
The unions expressed worry over the decision of government to unilaterally deduct salaries of workers despite stiff opposition from the organised labour.
Meanwhile, the Benue Chairman if the NLC, Mr Simon Anchaver, has said that the unions will not relent in their efforts to force the government to rescind the pay cuts.
Anchaver said the state government had shown its non-chalant attitude toward the strike.
He said the union would sustain the strike by making sure that even market men and women participated.
“Bankers in the state had joined the strike today and we intend to close down every functional economic sector in the state to let the government know the seriousness of our stand,” Anchaver said.
The state Chairman of the TUC, Ordue Tartenger, told NAN that the congress was collaborating with NLC to ensure that government reverted to the old salary structure.
“We will not retreat or surrender in this fight against what we consider as injustice against the civil servants,” Tartenger said. NAN