On Wednesday, November 21st 2012, Nigerians were greeted with the sad but unusual news of a 53 year-old man who had embarked on a hunger strike to protest the non-payment of his terminal benefit. Olubiyi Odunaro, a former employee of Hallmark Bank Plc., began the hunger strike on November 12th 2012, and took to sleeping on the street to protest what he called “the insensitivity of the Federal Government to pay the terminal entitlements of over 14,000 employees of the 14 banks that failed to meet up with the recapitalisation policy”.
Thankfully, 14 days after he embarked on the hunger strike, he has suspended it following a spirited appeal by a representation from the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, and officials from the Lagos office of the Public Complaints Commission.
Punch reports that yesterday, a team of legal, welfare and medical officials went to the tent Odunaro had turned to his home on Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, Lagos led by the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Fashola on Justice Sector Reforms, Lanre Akinsola. Akinsola said the attention of the Lagos State Government was drawn to the various media reports about the protest being embarked upon by Odunaro.
John Ogunniyi, who led a legal team from the Public Complaints Commission, implored Odunaro to end the hunger strike adding that the Lagos Commissioner of the Public Complaints Commission,would look into his complaints.
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 announced the suspension of the protest.
“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,” he said. “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.”
As soon as he announced the suspension, a medical team from the Lagos State Ambulance Service who had been waiting for hours led him into an ambulance and took him to the Medical Emergency of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital for medical attention.
We are glad the Lagos state government listened to his complaints and has taken him off the streets. We only hope that his reason for embarking on the hunger strike would also be addressed accordingly so he doesn’t have to return to the streets after the two weeks suspension.