Olubiyi Odunaro, the 53-year-old former employee of Hallmark Bank Plc., protesting against non-payment of his terminal benefit, on Monday suspended his 14-day hunger strike.
The suspension of the protest followed spirited appeal by a representation from the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, and officials from the Lagos office of the Public Complaints Commission.
Senior Special Assistant to Fashola on Justice Sector Reforms, Lanre Akinsola, who led a team of legal, welfare and medical officials to the tent Odunaro had turned to his home on Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, Lagos, promised to intervene.
Akinsola said, “The attention of the Lagos State Government was drawn to the various media reports about the protest being embarked upon by Odunaro and it’s quite pathetic.
“Governor Fashola who was worried about his state of health formed an inter-ministerial committee comprising medical, legal and welfare officials and directed me to lead the team to persuade him to end his hunger strike.
“As a responsible government we don’t want a dead casualty in our hands as a result of this protest. Once he ends this protest, we would first provide him medical service while the Lagos State Directorate of Citizens Rights would engage the authorities concerned in a comprehensive dialogue.”
Akinsola said the Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye, had given him his word on free legal services to Odunaro and other ex-workers of non-consolidated banks seeking the payment of their entitlements if the negotiations become unfruitful.
“We will mediate and talk to the right people and we believe reason will prevail in this matter and if not, lawyers from the Lagos State Ministry of Justice will work in conjunction with the lawyer of the group and ensure that justice prevails and everyone of them gets their entitlement,” he added.
John Ogunniyi, who led a legal team from the Public Complaints Commission, implored Odunaro to end the hunger strike.
He said, “The Lagos Commissioner of the Public Complaints Commission, Funso Olukoga, sends his word that you end this protest and go back home while we look into your complaints.
“We’ve listened to the complaints and we are going back to report to the commissioner and see the best we can do concerning it.
“We are making this appeal because of your health and the negative consequences it may have on you. The commissioner has given us the authority to ensure that the matter is resolved.”
After persuasion and engagement by the state officials and consultation with members of the Association of Ex-Staff of Non-Consolidated Bank, who had gathered at the site which lasted for about three hours, Odunaro who clocked 53 on Monday announced the suspension of the protest.
He said, “This struggle is not only about myself; it’s about the right of over 14,000 ex-workers of non-consolidated banks who are ably represented here today.
“The Lagos State Government and the PCC have given me and my people their word and I would hold on to it. My other colleagues too have appealed to me to give the state government the opportunity to play their part in this matter.
“In view of this, I announce the suspension of my hunger strike for two weeks to enable me to go for medical treatment and allow the state government play its part in this debacle.”
President, Association of Ex-Staff of Non-Consolidated Bank, Magnus Maduka, said, “We will be leveraging on the clout of the state government and the promises of the Public Complaints Commission to get our entitlements which we have been fighting for for about seven years.”
As soon as he announced the suspension, the medical team from the Lagos State Ambulance Service who had been waiting for hours led him into an ambulance marked LA 167 A08 at about 3:09pm and took him to the Medical Emergency of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital for medical attention.