Ex-banker on two weeks hunger strike goes home

Mr. Odunaro, Mr. Odunaro had been on a hunger strike since November 12.

The banker went on a hunger strike to protest the nonpayment of his terminal benefit

A former employee of the now defunct Hallmark Bank Plc, Olubiyi Odunaro, who had embarked on a hunger strike to protest the nonpayment of his terminal benefits has called it off “temporarily.”

Mr. Odunaro, who took the decision on Monday, the day he clocked 53, said it was to listen to the Lagos State Government’s plea to mediate on his and other’s behalf.

“The members have agreed to give the government agencies the benefit of doubt, for that reason I will suspend it,” said Mr. Odunaro.”I will listen to them since the fight is not about me.”

He was, however, taken by officials of the Lagos State Ambulance Services to the Lagos State Teaching Hospital for a “comprehensive” medical checkup.

A hunger strike

Mr. Odunaro began his hunger strike on November 12 on behalf of the more than 14 thousand employees of the 14 banks who failed to meet the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s recapitalization policy in 2005.

The former bank employees say they have not received their severance benefits from either the CBN or the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC, since they lost their jobs.

All efforts to get the attention of both government agencies have not been successful, according to the bankers.

“In a meeting that ended so amicably, we were told to write to the presidency; but up till now, nothing,” said Magnus Maduka, President, Ex-staff of Non-Consolidated Banks.

“A lawyer in NDIC told us to our face that we will not get any money that this is Nigeria,” Mr. Maduka said.

Mr. Maduka said that some of them had put in 25 years of their lives to their jobs before they were asked to leave.

“We wanted to go to court but we don’t have the funds, that has been the greatest challenge we have,” said Okey Igwe, Chairman of the Publicity Committee,

Lagos to the ‘rescue’

A lawyer with the Public Complaints Commission, John Ogunniyi, had earlier pleaded with Mr. Odunaro to go home while the agency looks into their complaints.

He said the agency was an independent organization set up by the federal government to investigate administrative injustices emanating from the action of the government.

“We’ve listened to the complaints and we are going back to report to the honourable commissioner and see the best we can do concerning it.

“Because of your health and the importance of what you are doing, we implore you to go home. I assure you, the honourable commissioner has given us the authority to ensure that the matter is resolved,” he said.

Mr. Odunaro, who had become physically frail with lack of food, however, refused.

But the appeal of the Lagos State Government was welcome.

The Senior Special Assistant to the state governor on Judiciary, Lanre Akinsola, who was accompanied by medical personnel and lawyers, stated that the Lagos State government would take up the former bankers’ fight.

“Immediately the governor read about Mr. Odunaro’s plight, we were mandated to set up an inter ministerial body to take care of the matter,” Mr. Akinsola said. “Our first concern now is to provide medical services to him, somebody who has been on hunger strike for the past 15 days, we believe that there is an urgent need of medical help.”

The Lagos State Government also offered to provide free legal services “if it gets to litigation.”

“We are going to work with their lawyer and we are going to work as a team to ensure that justice is done and they get whatever is their entitlement from the appropriate authority.

“Give us time to dialogue with all the necessary people,” Mr. Akinsola said.

While expressing their appreciation to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Maduka stated that they would co-operate with the state.

“We have persuaded him (Mr. Odunaro) to press a pause on his hunger strike button now because we believe in the Lagos State Government,” Mr. Maduka said.

“We have been snubbed, we have been treated like lepers by the CBN and NDIC. We want to leverage on the Lagos State government’s clout to get results,” Mr. Maduka continued.

“In two weeks, if nothing is done, all the members will come and join the hunger strike.”

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