Public sector employers in Ondo state Tuesday picketed the Alagbaka, Akure branch of the Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTBank) over allegations that the bank was withholding N706 million that was deposited by the state government in the ‘Staff Matters Account.’
THISDAY gathered that the bank withheld the money because some workers that took loan from the bank in 2008 allegedly did not pay back. The loans were said to have been guaranteed by the government in agreement with the workers’ union.
The account is meant for the purpose of paying workers’ salaries and other emoluments in the public service of the state.
The alleged withholding of the money in the account, it was gathered led to a protest by the workers, who besieged the Alagbaka main branch of the bank and disrupted activities of the financial institution.
Demonstrating the seriousness of their action, the workers under the auspices of the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), blocked the entire premises of the bank with three waste disposal vehicles loaded with waste.
The workers vowed not to remove the vehicles and their contents until the bank yield to their demand. The action of the workers at the main branch led to the closure of another branch of GTBank also located at the Alagbaka area which is primarily for electronic transactions.
As a result of the activities of the protesters, several customers of the bank were prevented from carrying out their transactions.
But GTBank in a statement yesterday maintained that the Ondo State government had guaranteed “a facility to a related party in April 2008 and the bank only exercised its rights under the terms of the agreement by setting off outstanding sums against the state government funds with the bank.”
The bank also denied holding on to any civil servants remunerations, saying that it acted in conformity with the highest corporate governance standards in a professional and transparent manner.
However, speaking to journalists on the matter, the Chairman of the Ondo State Chapter of the JNC, Mr. Oluwole Adeleye said it was true that some workers in the state took the loan from the bank in 2008. He said the trouble started in December 2012, when the government sent vouchers for payment of workers’ leave bonus to the bank but the bank refused to pay because some workers were indebted to the financial institution.
Adeleye said the JNC had moved into the matter and requested that the bank should compile the list of all workers that were yet to pay back the loan so that their names would be sent to the Accountant General office. The process, according to him would have led to direct deduction and remittance to the bank instead of holding all the workers to ransom. The chairman, said all the pleadings of the JNC to the management of the bank were not accepted, insisting that the bank refused to release the money.
Adeleye also alleged that the bank refused to release the money for the payment of the workers’ January salary when the State Accountant General wrote it to release the money. According to Adeleye, the government while preparing the January salary had urged the bank to transfer the sum of N706.8 million to another bank which the government now wants to use for payment of salaries of all state workers.
He also explained that the state government took the decision to use just one bank for payment of workers’ salaries in view of the delay and alleged illegal bank deductions being experienced by some workers.