Officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) have arrested Mr. Ayodeji Bejide, Managing Director (MD) of Guaranty Trust Bank (GT Bank) in Liberia on the charge of physical assault against an employee of the bank, Mr. Edward Freeman.
National Observer newspaper (Liberia) reports that due to the severity of the wounds inflicted on Freeman while on active duty, police will subsequently charge Bejide to court.
Yesterday, a video trended on Facebook, showing Mr. Freeman bleeding from his lips in Bejide’s office after Bejide reportedly threw a calculator at him, allegedly 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.
In a swift reaction, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) issued a statement Tuesday night announcing that Bejide, a Nigerian, had been suspended indefinitely from the bank, with immediate effect and without pay, “pending a thorough investigation by the Board into the allegations.”
The apex bank in Liberia also appointed 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 will review the GT Bank Board’s recommendations. Thereafter, it will ensure the strictest implementation of the Bank’s mitigated actions.
According to the Central Bank of Liberia, 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 on Wednesday, August 29, 2018, to assist in the investigation.
At the same time, the Liberian Ministry of Labor (MoL) has also condemned Bejide’s action, terming it as “unacceptable.”
“We are not only deeply concerned by Bejide’s alleged action, but have also contacted the Ministry of Justice through the LNP to thoroughly investigate the matter.
“The police have already taken the suspect into custody, considering the possible criminal nature of this case,” the release said.
MoL 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
Meanwhile, GTBank as a corporate organisation has reacted to the incident via a press release.
The release, which was signed by one Alexandra Zoe, Head, Legal/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.”