The quest to survive in the uncertain labour market has pitched female bank marketers between meeting their targets and immoral activities. In this report SINA FADARE x-rays the contending issues
Ogechi Obiora studied Economics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Naturally, she was full of hope of getting a good job after her youth service, having attended one of the best universities in the country, but after staying at home for about three years, reality dawned on her. The jobs just weren’t available. She became desperate and ready to take any job, just to keep body and soul together.
She was introduced to a consortium that offered her a contract job in one of the latter generation banks as a marketer. At first, she was happy; at least she would no longer be a burden on her relations, whom she was leaving with in Lagos.
But after two years on the job, the zeal and enthusiasm seem to have disappeared, and she is desperate for another job. Sharing her story with The Nation, Ogechi who thought this reporter might be of help judging by his appearance at a friend’s office said, “My brother the job is no longer interacting.”
Pretending not to understand her plight, this reporter probed further the reason Ogechi, who obviously works with a reputable bank, going by her corporate appearance and posturing, would want to abandon certainty for uncertainty. But she looked straight into this reporter’s face and said, “This marketing job has not met my expectation.”
According to her, she was given a huge target to meet in terms of customers, whose accounts she was expected to attract to the bank, a situation she says always puts her on her toes; and which has also made a lot of men to see her as a sex object.
More frustrating, Ogechi said, is the fact that some of her contemporaries on the job, who ‘know their ways’ have exceeded their targets and have been given permanent employment status in the bank on the recognition that they ‘are hard working’, not minding what they have gone through. She said a lot of her colleagues go through a lot at the hands of Casanova corporate guys and businessmen, who just want their backs on the bed before they even considered opening an account with their bank.
Bolu Adeola (not real name) is so popular among her colleagues in one of the banks on Broad Street; although no-one could say it to her face; she has a reputation as a go-getter when it comes to attracting huge customers to the bank, ranging from big time senators to top oil chief executives. Tall, fair skinned and a paragon of beauty, this reporter leant that Adeola uses her assets maximally to her advantage, hence the bank cannot afford to lose her.
Said one of the regulatory officers in her bank, “She can penetrate any corporate world and come out with a good result.” Her success is so unprecedented that many of her colleagues and superiors have concluded that there certainly is more to her success story than she’s telling. With the aura of luxury around her and the sleek, exotic automobiles at Adeola’s possession, many simply conclude that the Business Administration graduate of Delta State University is deep into corporate prostitution.
A dependable source within the bank told this reporter that she was even promoted twice within a year, a situation that has turned her into an object of jealousy and envy among her marketing colleagues. “She used what she has to get what she wants, that is what the banking industry has been become.” The source said.
To Uche Okoro, a marketer with an old generation bank in Ikeja, Lagos however, the argument that successful bank marketers are into corporate prostitution is neither here nor there. “Do you want to tell me that you journalists are not the worst culprits?” He asked pointedly, “Particularly broadcast reporters who are warming the beds of top executives of blue chip companies to get advertisement. So why are you crucifying us?” She queried.
Uche who did not confirm or deny whether as a marketer she has been a victim of corporate prostitution emphatically said, “There is no university that will teach you how to be an efficient marketer; when you get to the field, you are going to navigate your way to get your desired goal whether by sleeping or not sleeping with anybody.”
She however does not rule out the fact that most of the banks deliberately recruit pretty ladies to attract customers. “Seven years ago when l joined the banking industry, it was obvious that they had hidden agenda because they did not mince words. ‘Go over there and woo new customers with all that you have’ were the words from our supervisor, who told us that we were lucky to get the job because it was competitive.”
“More agonising was the fact that some of us who were sent to Abuja at the inception of the 7th National Assembly, were specifically briefed to woo senators and members of the House of Representatives to open accounts with our bank. Before we knew it, it became a rival race with other banks with similar motive, and some of us soon found ourselves on their beds in desperate attempts to secure good bargaining.” She explained.
Though she did not confirm the extent of her involvement, she pointed out that the members of the National Assembly then felt their presence so much so, that “most of them saw female bankers as preys they must sleep with before being convinced to bank with us.”
“Some of our colleagues eventually became second or third wives to some of these politicians, when the chips were down. That is why you’d see most of them with kids; but they could not sustain the relationship because most of the ’emergency husbands’ went back to their bases after the Abuja sleaze.” She explained
Nkiru Obiano’s (not real name) case was not only funny but pathetic; she got a third class at the University of Port Harcourt in Business Administration and was happy to be given a job as a marketer in one of the old generation banks in the port city university. She was however shocked to find out that her sustenance on the job depended largely on the number of customer she could attract to the bank.
Against this backdrop, she vowed to work aggressively hard and make sure she met up with the expectation of her employers. But on getting to the field, she realised that it was a different ball game entirely.
Speaking in an emotion-laden voice, the pretty ex-marketer said she got the shock of her life on the field because virtually all the targeted clients, who were mostly oil magnates, wanted to sleep with her before having anything to do with her bank.
“Out of frustration, coupled with the fact that I was running out of time on my target, l decided to give in to a young guy, who introduced himself as an IT consultant to one of the oil companies. He took his time after more pressure from me to agree to move one of his accounts to our bank. Before l knew it, l was warming his bed for almost a week, with a promise that as soon as he was off shore, he would give me a cheque to open a new account with my bank.
“I almost fainted when l realised that he had issued me a bounced cheque. To make matters worse, l could not get him on phone and by the time l got back to his hotel, he had given a standing order that I should not be allowed in, that l was one of those disturbing him. Now to how many people would l tell my story and not look stupid?” She lamented.
Obiano who is now a teacher in one of the private secondary schools in Lagos pointed out that it was a turning point in her life and an experience that will remain green in her memory for life.
The above are just a few of the unsavoury experiences of female bank marketers whose task it is to market their banks’ products and services and attract customers or get sacked with ignominy for under-performance.
The Nation’s investigation also revealed that some commercial banks deliberately sent marketers, mostly females after the newly-elected senators and members of the House of Representatives in Abuja during last year’s induction of the 8th National Assembly, a situation that had majority of them flooding the International Conference Centre, venue of the ceremony.
Most of them were smartly dressed and offered loan opportunities which their bank can guaranteed with minimal interest.
The Nation gathered that over 290 members of the House are newcomers, out of the total of 360. In the Senate, about 69 of the 109 senators are also newcomers.
Some of the marketers had arrived Abuja even before the lawmakers, with specific instructions to get as many lawmakers as possible onto their list of clientele, since some of them would need soft loans from any quarters to sort out their logistic problems before accessing their allowances.
A legislator who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity said the marketers did not give the lawmakers any breathing space, as they were all over the Congress Hall of the hotel for quick business.
One supervisor in one of the new generation banks, who simply identified himself as Tony, said the banks are not doing anything unusual, because some of the lawmakers have a duration of four years to spend in the nation’s capital. “Therefore, they can be granted quick loans to enable them sort out their logistics and pressing needs. By so doing, they can be wooed to open an account with us.”
Tony pointed out that banks are only strategising, not only to have new customers but to catch in on the fact that some of the new lawmakers might have spent a lot of money in the process of their electioneering campaign and “therefore are likely to have accommodation challenges before their official quarters are ready. Some will also need to buy new vehicles that befits their new stature, so they need our services, just as we need theirs.’
Lawmakers to the rescue?
Perhaps irked by the dangerous trend the situation was attaining, the House of Representatives late last year accused banks in the country of encouraging prostitution by setting unrealistic targets for their female marketers.
Hon. Segun Alexander Adekola, who sponsored the motion entitled, “Urgent Need to Curb Unwholesome Practices of Banks in Nigeria,” said staffers who don’t meet the largely unrealistic targets are summarily dismissed.
Adekola who represents Ekiti South, West/Ikere/Ise/Osun in the green chamber said: “A critical assessment of the targets being given to these employees to meet, show them to be unrealistic, unreasonable, ordinarily unattainable and irrational.
“But these banks resort to unethical means to ensure that these targets are met by either explicitly or impliedly (sic) encouraging their staff, especially the female ones to engage in illicit behaviour.”
Contributing to the motion, which culminated in a long debate, Hon. Rita Orji said in some cases, bankers who failed to meet targets were sacked through text messages.
House Majority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, recalled that he made an attempt to stop the practice with his Corporate Prostitution Bill presented in the Sixth Assembly, saying that the bill got to the stage of a public hearing, but some bankers shot it down.”
Gbajabiamila, who expressed disappointment that top female bankers equally raised objections to the bill, noted that some of the international affiliates of the local banks wouldn’t attempt to send their staff out to solicit for funds in their home countries.
Citing Section 34 of the constitution which protects Nigerians from inhuman and downgrading treatment, he said the motion was timely, as it would draw attention to the undignified treatment bankers are being put through.
The Majority Leader lamented that “Marriages have been wrecked and homes destroyed because of this practice and I am sure that none of us here will allow our daughters to be involved in this.”
Speaking in the same vein, Senator Suleiman Nazif who represents Bauchi North in the senate regretted that the economic adversity in the country has turned female bankers into chippies just to survive, adding that these have resorted to numerous unethical practices in a desperate bid to enhance their capital base.
Nazif pointed out that there is an urgent need to unleash an earthquake of unprecedented stringent policies from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the banking industry, to mandate commercial banks to stop this immoral marketing strategy and also impose fines on banks that default.
Corroborating the fear of the lawmakers, a director in one of the latter generation banks who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity, regretted that the banking sector has degenerated to such a level.
According to him the situation became uncontrollable when the Central Bank raised its deposits by banks, a situation that forced majority to merge and employ various strategies to outwit others, “since we are all in the open market where competition is very high.’
Nazif also said “Both married women and single ladies were forced into this corporate prostitution. They either complied or stood the risk of losing their jobs. These bank staff, especially the ladies turned the whole business into a personal affair and ‘business-love’ relationship as they sleep with one client after the other. They were all given financial targets to meet individually; failure in which they lose their job. It is not a funny thing and this form of prostitution brought problems into lots of relationships and marriages.”
If the lawmakers are worried about the ugly trend, human rights activists are in sober reflection.
CEO, LEAH Foundation and first lady Kwara State, Mrs. Omolewa Ahmed who condemned the act regretted that the aim of recruiting these female marketers is to serve the selfish interest of their employers.
According to her, “These ladies are given unrealistic targets to meet. In a bid to meet the targets and particularly keep their jobs, these ladies are consequently forced or led into prostitution with potential customers.”
She pointed out that all hands should be on deck to salvage the ugly trend, adding that likes minds should provide a panacea to preserve the woman from losing her dignity on the platform of employment.
Stakeholders however believe that the situation on ground can be salvaged if all hands were on deck. At a recent seminar organised by the section on Legal practice of the Nigerian Bar Association, in Lagos on the theme, “The Reality of Women’s Rights in Nigeria’, the conference agreed that women should wake up from their slumber and confront the ugly trend holistically.
Speaking at the seminar, an executive director in Access Bank, Mrs. Titi Osuntoki argued that there is no bank that would go all out to recruit marketers for prostitution. She added that there are lots of organisations that do not have a clear-cut policy on sexual harassment of their female workers.
She argued that “The loss of moral values in the society has led to erosion of our cherished culture that protects our women in all ramifications. Therefore, if you have an environment that does not place limits or boundaries on exploitation, this is the type of thing you are bound to witness.”