Sexual Exploitation at Skye Bank Plc: Speaking of Women’s rights – by Ike Apia
If Mrs. Ekwunife L. Akabogu failed in her duties as a Priority Sales Support Officer for Skye Bank Plc, it was not for lack of effort. But if anything, she indeed succeeded in her new found role of hell-raiser with a sexual harassment and exploitation lawsuit against her former employers that have been giving the management of Skye Bank Plc white nights, as they grapple with damage control over what now seems to be a public relations disaster for the bank.
Love or hate her, there is no denying that her story exposes the hellacious ordeal of several Nigerian women who are coerced into engaging in shameful dehumanizing sexual escapades in a desperate effort to break the glass ceiling to meet unrealistic goals and expectations set for them by heartless mean-spirited men without any moral scruples.
The facts of her story as contained in her lawsuit against Skye bank Plc make for interesting reading, but she is not alone. Mrs. Akabogu is amongst the hundreds of thousands of Nigerian women who face workplace discrimination and harassment simply because they refuse to put their bodies at the disposal of their employers.
Imagine hiring someone simply because you intend to exploit her physical attributes in your unbridled quest for financial gain. If this sounds familiar, then consider a married woman, who is being pressured to employ her “bottom power” to rein in big clients like contractors and politicians for Skye Bank Plc. She is seeking N1 billion in general and punitive damages from Skye bank and some of its top executives who are named as co-defendants in the suit.
The end justifies the means, some might say, but not when an institution like a bank; in this case Skye Bank is so desperate to build its market share, to the extent that it should be indulging in such unorthodox and perverted practices.Upon being hired as Priority Sales Support Officer for Skye Bank Plc, in May 2009, Mrs. Akabogu was posted to the Enugu branch, ostensibly on a six-month internship.
Because the terms of her job description were vague and ambiguous, the bank sought to use her as a sex bait for its potential high value clients like local PDP bigwig, Chief Christian Uba, who was on the bank's radar screens as a potential target. It did not help that Mrs. Akabogu had a personal relationship with the said Chief Uba which Skye Bank attempted to exploit in their grand scheme of “capturing” the man at all cost, including forcing Mrs. Akabogu into bed with him, in a quid pro quo arrangement involving sexual patronage by Mrs. Akabogu that will open the door for Chief Uba to become a Skye Bank client.
The Skye bank retaliation was predictable when Mrs. Akabogu rejected the indecent proposal by her boss. She was relegated to a more inconsequential position within the bank, where she was maligned and sidelined and treated with scorn and subjected to all kinds of humiliation from her superiors and co-workers, simply because she stuck her guns and upheld her dignity.
Even though she had succeeded in bringing in sixteen new genuine clients worth an estimated N6 million, management of these accounts were assigned to other colleagues and she was given no credit for her efforts. As if that was not enough, she was denied even the basic requisite facilities to effectively carry out her duties – no office; no work station; no computer; no vehicle and was permanently under stress and pressure, as he bosses missed no opportunity to remind her that she was an under-achiever, who was virtually on her way out of the job for failing to do what is expected of her.
According to Skye Bank policy, Mrs. Akabogu's refusal to exchange sexual favors to meet the bank's target client benchmarks was seen as an act of betrayal by Mrs. Akabogu, whose decision to uphold her matrimonial vows was viewed as an act of disloyalty by the Skye bank hierarchy. The message Skye bank was sending to Mrs. Akabogu as clear: he who pays the piper calls the tune and if you want to work here, better play by our rules or quit. Otherwise stated, her loyalty should be with Skye bank, and not her husband.
She was subsequently assigned to manage a new campaign of proximity banking; taking the services to the customers wherever they may be found. To which end, she was urged to go to certain local hotels frequented by the rich and wealthy, where Skye bank hoped, she would entice some of the men with he beauty. Mrs. Akabogu, according to the lawsuit, was directed by her boss to wear expensive perfumes, short skirts and other sexually inviting outfits to arrest public attention. To crown it all, she was given an open check to use the Zodiac hotel, as part of contingency arrangements, should the need arise.
The pressure to deliver and the stressful nature of her work environment had a huge impact on her health, which began to degenerate, until she suffered a nervous break down and passed out on two occasions and was rushed to the hospital. But Skye bank officials were heartless and refused to acknowledge that her blackouts were the result of stress, arising from emotional devastation and the psychologically traumatizing pressure deadline driven assignments she was being forced to undertake, against her own valuesb.
When she eventually returned to work from the hospital, it appears, Skye bank officials had come to the conclusion that they hired the wrong horse for the job and decided to force her to quit. It was therefore a contrived policy by Skye bank to make her working conditions so unbearable; she was the target of all kinds of unrestrained vituperations and snide remarks and when matters came to a head with an ultimatum that she opens ten new accounts every week, Mrs. Akabogu was forced to resign her job.
She has proceeded to file a lawsuit No. E/386/09 in the High Court of Enugu State of Nigeria between (Plaintiff) Mrs. Ekwunife L. Akabogu vs, (Defendents) Skye Bank Plc, Nkolika Okoli, Chinedu Oguejiofor, Donatus Ugwuoke, Dr. Charles Udeogo, Maureen Okoye. Mrs. Ababogu seeks N1 billion in damages from Skye bank.
She has also petitioned the Nigerian Human Rights Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), asking for an independent investigation into the practice by banks and other service industry institutions wherein women are being forced into involuntary prostitution as a condition sine qua non to keep their jobs. It is a shame.
Speaking about human rights, for Mrs. Akabogu, it has been hell on two legs. She was taken on a jolly ride to the realm of moral degeneracy by unscrupulous Skye bank bosses who suffer from incurable money-mindedness and will stop at nothing in their quest for personal gain. Fortunately, she will get her day in court where Skye Bank Plc will be made to face their own music.