Home Business Liberian authorities threaten prosecution, as police arrest GTBank MD for assault

Liberian authorities threaten prosecution, as police arrest GTBank MD for assault

Bejide (left) and Freeman

Liberia Police have arrested the Managing Director (MD) of Guaranty Trust Bank (GT Bank) in Liberia, Mr. Ayodeji David Bejide,  on a charge of physical assault against an employee of the bank.

Document from the Liberian Ministry of Labour seen by CITYVOICE states that due to the severity of the wounds inflicted on Mr. Edward Freeman by Bejide, the ministry would prosecute the latter under the Liberian Decent Work Act.

In the statement, signed by James Wabo for the minister, the Liberian Ministry of Labour threatens to pursue the ‘severest sanction’ against the Nigerian banker.

The statement states in part: ‘The Ministry of Labour condemns and terms as unacceptable the alleged action of Mr Ayodejai (sic) David Bejide, Managing Director of the Guaranty Trust Bank for allegedly assaulting and humiliating a Liberian Employee, Mr Edward Freeman at the Bank’s Head Office on 13th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia on Tuesday August 28, 2018.

‘’We are not only concerned by this alleged action but have also contacted the Ministry of Jusitce through the Liberia National Police . The Police have already taken the suspect into custody considering the possible criminal nature of this case.’’

The Ministry further said that in keeping with the relevant procedural laws of Liberia where criminal actions take precedence over civil actions, the ministry will be informed by the outcome of the ongoing criminal investigation in the matter.

The ministry emphasizes to all employers and employees that the Decent Work Act of Liberia in Section 14.3 (d) reserves its most severe sanctions for persons who breach the fundamental rights of another employee or attacks, batters, threatens, or intimidates his or her co-workers.

The ministry said that they will not hesitate to effect the utmost penalties on persons who flagrantly violate the Decent Work Act, and calls on all employers and employees to behave in keeping with law.

A video was also released on Facebook, showing Mr. Freeman bleeding from his lips in Bejide’s office after Bejide reportedly threw a calculator at him, therefrom wounding him on his lips.

After allegedly meting out the injuries on the employee, Bejide was heard in the video telling him to calm down, threatening to dismiss him if he made any further comment. Mr. Freeman then walked out of Bejide’s office at the end of the video.

The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) also issued a statement Tuesday night announcing that Bejide had been suspended indefinitely from the bank, with immediate effect and without pay, “pending a thorough investigation by the Board into the allegations.”

The CBL subsequently announced Amazu Nwachukwu, GTBank’s (Liberia branch) Chief Operating Officer, as Acting MD until the investigation is concluded.

The statement quoted Nathaniel R. Patray III, Chairman of the Board of Governors and Executive Governor of CBL, as saying that, “the appointment of Mr. Nwachukwu will remain in force until the conclusion of the investigation; submission to the CBL within 48 hours of the Board’s intended course of action to address “this grave matter.”

The CBL said the GT Bank Board has conveyed its deep regrets for the alleged incident, and has further informed the CBL that a senior executive from its parent company, GT Bank Nigeria, will arrive in Liberia to assist in the investigation.

GTBank in a release signed by Alexandra Zoe, Company Secretary, said: “We have received with total reprehension a report about the assault of one of our members of staff and wish to inform the public that we have immediately commenced a thorough investigation into the matter in accordance with professional standard and international best practices,” the GT Bank said in release late Tuesday evening.

“We do not condone any form of assault in the workplace nor do we compromise on our principle that every staff should be able to come to work without fear of violence, abuse or harassment from any member of our staff.

“Indeed, at the core of our value is the premium we put on the welfare of our members of staff and their safety in the workplace.

“As a law abiding organization and corporate citizen, GT Bank Liberia maintains a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude towards violence or assault of any kind and we will not hesitate to take action against any staff who is found to be in breach of the bank strict code of conduct, regardless of their position in the organization.

“The bank also maintains very active structures to provide all necessary care and assistance to any member of staff who is a victim of assault.

“Once again, we wish to reassure all members of the public that the bank remains committed [to] ensuring a safe and conducive environment for its staff and providing best-in-class services to its customers.”

The Liberian Human Resources Professionals also joined the call for a prosecution of the Nigerian official. The group, in a statement said:

‘’Our attention has been drawn to the recent alleged assault incident at the Guarantee Trust Bank in which an employee was physically and mentally abused by the managing director of the bank. We have also obtained additional reports from bank employees of bad labor practices, unjustified dismissals, retaliation, and the creation of a hostile work environment.

‘’On Tuesday, August 28, 2018, it was alleged that GT Bank’s managing director, Ayodi (sic) Bejide, threw a desk calculator at Edward Freeman, a senior manager, causing injuries and bodily harm.

‘’The members of the Association of Liberian Human Resources Professionals condemn this barbaric behavior of a supposedly professional managing director. Under no circumstance is it acceptable for anyone to physically or psychologically abuse an employee who is under his authority.

‘’We are alarmed about the numerous complaints that have been reported to the Ministry of Labour and the Central Bank of Liberia by employees of GT Bank about the GT Bank management team. This confirms that this behavior is embedded within the bank’s culture.

‘’As we keenly follow the prompt interventions of the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia National Police to conduct a full investigation of the alleged assault and other allegations reported by employees of GT Bank, we are of the conviction that justice will be served, and the appropriate penalties will be levied upon those in violation of proper workplace governance.

‘’We hope that this incident will serve as a deterrent to heads of institutions who are in the constant act of dehumanizing the workforce.  We also request that any staff facing similar situations should report the matter to the Ministry of Labour or the Association of Liberian Human Resources Professionals for full investigation according to the Decent Work Act.’’