The president of the association, Oyinkansola Olasanoye, said the union identified that the importance of economic empowerment, hence the reason for diversification.
She speaks more on the union’s business tentacles and how it has impacted on the union and its members.
We pride ourselves as the union in the financial sector of the nation. As the nerve of the nation, we realized that being the nerve with modern-day digitalization and modern-day management, there’s tendency for unionism yes to be recognized, but for lesser people to be willing to be members. So, we tried to prepare in advance by being proactive to see a situation where we would not need check-off dues to run the secretariat. We are also conscious that, with the rate at which leaders and our management viewed unions from the negative side, when we seek something and it is not given to us as at when due, not only remuneration, not only salary but for some other things, and we decide to go to the extreme. The extreme being either strike or sit at home or walk out, or lock out. If there’s tendency that management may not pay our members for that period, we decided to be self-sufficient and we are also conscious that for us to be effective and to be seen as a global player both in the national economy, sectoral and the international body, we need empowerment and empowerment can either be economic or political. So, we looked at it and the easiest of it was for us to have economic empowerment. That was why we decided to diversify beyond the check-off dues.
Inspiration from outside
No! We don’t. Yes we have so many affiliations, but what encourages us is the fact that whatever will happen to unionism will affect the financial sector more. So, in the process of preparing to counter this, there’s no reason for a policy coming out that we will not be involved. We want to ensure that we have the independence and the economic power. That’s what really propels us into going into all these.
I want to appreciate all the past leaders before me. Sincerely, I’ve not done anything than to keep all these businesses going. What was handed over to me. I met on ground, when I became the president, 74 hectares of land in Abuja for farm processes. I met also 60 plots of land in Abuja, that we planned for housing projects. Although I was part of the deputy president that commissioned it, I was the chairman of the project committee. I also met on board a resource centre, an event and resource centre, where we planned to have offices; we can have rooms to let out. But the reason why most of these these things are not known is that when we were trying to construct this secretariat, which was commissioned prior 2007, we always asked our members to pay outside their normal check-off dues. But we realised that we were still bothering our members. So, what we did was to encourage our members to pay as little as N1,000, N1,300 every year extra. So, we now collect this N1,300 every three years, which is N4,000 every three years. So, all our properties, all our assets, it’s this N4000 every three years we spent on it. We don’t take loans from any institution, we are not owing anybody. We don’t owe any contractor, we don’t owe anybody. If what we gathered this year, where it finishes is where we will stop the projects, pending when we will get another one. Or at times, if the association has money from back to the union. The secretariat is four storey, and to the glory of God we have four tenants, three of the floors, the ground floor, first floor and the second are leased out to tenants that are paying rents. Then our Abeokuta farm, we have some little issue there because we have planted a lot of things and our challenges are with people who want to poach into the farm. We have a cocoa farm that was set ablaze some years back, though ministry of agriculture in Abeokuta came to our assistance. We have to replant and now we have added palm trees to it. This year, we planned to have 10 hectares of cashew nuts. We are doing industrial plant, cash crops. It is a futuristic things, but in between every year, we plant corn, pepper, cassava and plantain. Last year, upper year, we made money from our cassava, last year, there was a slug in the price of cassava in the country, when we realized that we are not going to make profit, we made garri from the cassava and distributed it to all our units. At least they are the ones bringing in the money, let them also have a taste of what we are getting from it. Most of these assets, the money we are getting from them is enough to run them. For example, our office in Abuja, we have a duplex in Abuja, the boys’ quarters was turned into an office and the other floor, it’s a five bedroom flat, turned into accommodation. Now, going to Abuja, we don’t pay for accommodation and we manage it in such a way that what we were supposed to pay for our accommodation is sent into an account to run the building, so that, at the end of the day, when we look at how much we have spent on the building and how much it would have cost us on accommodation in a hotel, the difference we term as income over expenditure. We don’t want to call it profits because we are not into profit making.
Paying members on strike
Late 2018, in October, when there was strike on minimum wage, some of our Employers felt that the minimum wage affects only public sector and not private sector. So some of our members who didn’t turn up for work, their salary were deducted. So we had to pay back those deductions. ASSBIFFI runs based on the fact that we are at the nerve centre of the economy so we hardly go on strike except when we are pushed to the extreme.