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of Zenith bank's mass IT-staff sack and Nigeria's move to a cashless society

Published: Friday, 29 July 2011

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The news that over 300 IT staff (system administrators) at the Zenith Bank, Nigeria hit me by surprise a couple of days ago when I heard.

No, I am not a Zenith bank staff, neither am I looking for a job in a bank, neither am I writing this in support / against Zenith bank / their sacked staff. I'm just reflecting in my own world: welcome to NairaKbps.

300+ IT staff sacked in Zenith bank nationwide in a single day?, the first thing I thought about was the safety of customer's deposits, what exactly would happen to their computer systems, their intranets, ATMs, authentication systems nationwide, etc. It crossed my mind that ATM scammers in Nigeria would be happy, they could pull a couple of strings before Zenith gets its acts together to notice a fraudulent withdrawal. I confirmed the news through sources like the Nairaland, Naijapals, etc.

The news July 26th said::

300+ I.T staff sacked in In an unprecedented move, management of Zenith Bank Nigeria today 25th of July 2011, sent no less than 350 system administrators into the labor market without prior warning. The system administrators who handle the IT requirements of all zenith branches were all sacked today. In some months past, it was discovered that most of their job functions were being reassigned to Customer service officers and Head of operations, leaving the System admins with little or nothing to do. So it didn't really come as a shock to discerning minds when they were handed their sack letters today. The most pitiful part of it is that these are people who aren't full staff but were hired by an outsourcing firm called PEOPLESPLUS. Most of these sys admins have spent nothing less than 5 years in service of the bank but were today shown the way out with little more than a months salary in lieu of notice. The only IT staff in Zenith bank today are those who are in the Head office in Victoria Island. Our sources tell us that this is just the first stage in the massive retrenchment going on in zenith bank as the people who are the next target are the bulk cash counters who will soon be shown the way out with the sanusi's cashless society as an excuse.

300+ IT staff sacked in Zenith bank nationwide in a single day? I'm not prejudiced, but I'm wondering that if Zenith Bank really needed to downsize for one reason or the other, have they really done their analysis well and discovered that IT professionals had to go?; that their customer care staff can really handle technical issues. The greater number of these customer care staff cannot explain what happens when a computer boots up, talk less of resolving an issue with computer hardware / software / database system. For 2-minutes, my savings at Zenith bank crossed my mind and I wondered if my meagre cash was secure.

By the time I got discussing with my colleagues, some said they heard that the sacked IT staff at Zenith were involved in some fraud issues internally - so I'm wondering: how possible is it that 300+ staff at different branches of the Zenith bank, located in different states around the country, all conspire together to defraud the bank? how long did this happen? who found the rat? - a marketting manager or a customer-care staff? Or perhaps, could we say that the greater part of the sacked staffs got sacked due to negligence in their individual duties? For example: how did the computer monitor you are using at work everyday get lost, and yet you claim to come to work everyday, even on the day when it got lost?

Again, if Zenith Bank needed to downsize, for financial reasons, for example, coz I heard sometime ago that their IT staffs are seriously well-paid; why did they leave out those at the head office (according to the stories I've been hearing). Wouldn't it be better to have weighed pros against cons, identified Zenith bank branches where IT staffs "aren't that necessary anymore", against those branches still had need of IT staffs - as a result a great amount of customer patronage / day?

300+ IT staff sacked in a bank nationwide in a single day?, I read somewhere that these were the staff hired by an HR agency, PeoplePlus; so I got thinking if their sack was related to the agency that hired them or not.

300+ IT staff sacked in a bank nationwide in a single day?, without any warning, notice, pay-offs? Nigeria is a 10th world country with non-functional labor laws, where employers are free to take decisions(depending on the side of the bed they wake up on) against their employees, as long as they pay off some lawyers, the police, a couple of courts, etc., blocking all avenues that staffs may use to vent their frustrations.

300+ IT staff sacked in a bank nationwide in a single day?, there is another school of thought that Zenith Bank's action is in line with the CBN's directive to move the banking sector in Nigeria to a cashless society. I wonder why we like doing things backwards in Nigeria and expect to get positive results.

A little detour:

On the CBNs directive to move the banking sector to a cashless society; imposing charges on withdrawals above NGN150,000 (one hundred and fifty thousand Naira only), imposing charges on deposits and withdrawals above NGN1-million Naira per day; can we take a cue from developed nations and see if they moved to a cashless society through brute force, or that first, necessary infrastructure was made available (un-interrupted electricity, wireless telecommunications, reliable mobile telecommunication, state and national intranets / internets; preparedness of the individual banks in terms of IT infranstructure, man-power, internal logistics, reliable backup systems, functioning support units nationwide, etc - all of which aided their(advanced nations) smooth technology change?

Has the CBN done a feasibility study about the possibility of a cashless society in Nigeria: how it works abroad, how it should work in Nigeria, necessary IT / telecom infrastructure needed before such an initiative should be launched, network security, how to combat scammers, technology awareness for users etc? Where is the result? when was it published?

Sometimes, I feel I should be a lawyer / a member of the Nigerian National assembly. I would champion a law that jails Nigerian public office holders for failing to take initiative.

Does anybody ask why graduting secondary school students, bonafide Nigerians residing in Nigeria have to go to the "public internet", just to register for WAEC, JAMB or whatever examination - bearing in mind that that no Nigerian parent in his / her right mind presently located / living outside the shores of Nigeria would want his/her son/daughter to come and study in a University in Nigeria?

Can somebody tell me why do we need to pay for internet access, on a public internet for a service that is / should be local only to Nigerians living in Nigeria? How many foreigners register for JAMB/WAEC, how many Nigerian children in Europe and America are planning to come study in Nigeria? let us forget our educational sector for a while.

Is it not because basic infrastructure is not available in Nigeria, this is why such services(WAEC/Jamb servers) are remotely co-located / hosted?

In a country like Nigeria where electricity is very unreliable, should you be making a transaction while NEPA goes off, it takes a while before the ATM machine comes back to its senses and discharges your card, supposing it has released the cash in the first place. With ATM machines that run Windows XP Professional, what kind of reliabilty can we expect in a cashless society?

Should we rather go into a cashless society or provide 24-hours electricity, even to the new-born baby?

Have the stake-holders of Nigeria's banking industry gone outside Nigeria to see what is obtainable, what has been implemented -at least to take a cue on what to do locally?

I want to request the CBN governor Sanusi and stakeholders in the Nigerian banking circle to go and do a research about why ATMs were invented in the first place. Isn't it supposed to primarily service customers who are in a hurry?

Can someone tell me into whose pockets all the newly imposed banking charges would go to? Will the CBN generate enough funds for the Federal government of Nigeria to enable us see light and water? definitely not.

I rest my case!

Back to Zenith bank: no wonder 300+ IT staff were sacked in a bank nationwide in a single day?. Are the stakeholders individually IT compliant, or perhaps do not see into the long-term.

With the sack of IT staff, what happens to service delivery considering the responsibilities of the IT staff left at the head office might individually be increased beyond 100%, and they might not be able to cope.

I am just thinking out loud, but I rest my case.

You are welcome to make comments and state your opinions, and just in case you have the inside scoop on the Zenith saga, let us hear the full gist.!

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