Religious Discrimination: Customers Troop to Close Accounts in Polaris Bank

Polaris Bank was established by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on September 21, 2018 to offer commercial banking services to the Nigerian public. The bank commenced services on the same day, having purchased the assets, and assumed certain of the liabilities, of the defunct Skye Bank. Polaris Bank is one of Nigeria’s top financial institutions with over 373 branches and cash centres across Nigeria offering premium financial services. Religious intolerance involves acts denying the right of people of another religious faith to practice and express their beliefs freely. Religious intolerance is expressed in discrimination, repression and religious rivalry, and results in or results from persecution.

After one of the bank’s senior managers allegedly urged Muslim employees in her unit not to pray on Friday, Polaris Bank has recently faced backlash, especially on the microblogging website, Twitter.

It was learned that one of the bank’s supervisors said in a leaked email that there was no bank policy permitting employees to participate in religious activities while at work.

The mail states, “Dear all, it has been observed that on Fridays, you leave your work desks to attend the Jumat service bearing in mind the impact of your absence on the workflow and productivity of Yes Centre.

“Kindly note that there is no provision made anywhere in the bank’s policy for employees to attend any religious activities during work hours. Going forward, such permissions would not be granted on the Yes Centre platform and any infraction of this directive would be dealt with accordingly. You are all expected to acknowledge the receipt of this mail. Thank you.”

Reacting on Twitter, @Biyatife said, “This is a horrible policy by Polaris Bank. Muslims should be allowed to attend Friday Jumat Service. Undebatable!”

“The action of your employee, Damilola Adebara, is nothing other than religious sentiment, bigotry, extremism, and intolerance. Whoever the person is, Adebara must come out and apologise publicly or else we Muslims would close all our accounts with Polaris Bank,” @Damkarwa2 tweeted.

Nigeria’s North is predominantly Muslim. Muslims from Northern Nigeria have escalated the Polaris Bank issue. Today, in a major run on the bank after a memo came out cautioning Polaris employees in the Southwest not to take a short break to observe prayers on work days and with the knowledge of their respective Bank managers, they began purposefully withdrawing money from the bank and then closed their accounts in Sokoto branch. Sokoto is a major city located in extreme northwestern Nigeria. Other bigots in private institutions around the nation will learn a lesson from this.

Situation Analysis

Ibrahiym A. El-Caleel, a reputable social media analyst, stated:

“The Chairman, Board of Directors of Polaris Bank Ltd. is a Muslim, Muhammad K. Ahmad. Most likely, the biggest shareholders of Polaris Bank are Muslims. Of course, the bank has a teeming Muslim customer base. Therefore, Muslims are critical stakeholders in the financial institution.

“Despite the above facts and possible fact, Polaris Bank has one Damilola I. Adebara on its wage bill. She receives a monthly salary which comes from the productivity of Muslims among shareholders and customers.

“Regardless, Supervisor Damilola while seated in an air-conditioned office, has the effrontery to send a caution email to some Muslim employees in that bank on how there is no provision for their obligatory religious activities! The Jumu’ah service.

“This is a prayer that barely lasts 45 minutes. Compare it with how Damilola will be free for 24 hours (1,440 minutes!) on Sunday, to enable her attend her religious activities. The bank has provision for the religious activities of Damilola; but certainly doesn’t have provision for the religious activities of her reports. What could be more ironical!

“Jaiz Bank Plc and TAJBank Ltd. are Islamic banks. They have Christian customers, shareholders and employees. Ordinarily, one would expect the Islamic banks to work on Sunday and give Friday off. But then, Sabbath for Muslims doesn’t require them to go off work on Fridays; unlike Sabbath for Christians that requires them to go off work on Sundays, and Sabbath for Jews that requires them to go off work on Saturday. Inconsiderately, these banks, as ”ISLAMIC BANKS” could have made Sunday a working day. But no. They respect the Sunday break. Christian employees are not inconvenienced. So, they will fully attend their Church service.

“Of course I am aware that Polaris Bank has issued a statement, and in their own words stating how “ignorant” Damilola is. But how can the public be convinced that it is not a mere damage control? What disciplinary measure will be taken towards the email sender to serve as deterrence to supervisors who discriminate against their reports on the basis of religion, ethnicity or even gender? Or are we saying this is a minor misconduct that is not so serious for a disciplinary action? Okay, I will give the benefit of doubt that the bank will seriously address the matter as they stated in their press release.

“Civil society groups have been fighting against gender-based violence in schools and organizations. It is a good step. However, religious-based violence MUST equally be taken seriously. The discrimination is getting pervasive and in alarming proportions. The light-hearted among faithfuls are forced to abandon everything they stand for. Secularism has become smokescreen which bigots exploit to visit harassment in schools and organizations. This must be checkmated.

“Nigeria is not China. Nigeria as a state has huge respect for religion. Religious freedom was taken into consideration in the arranged geographical marriage of 1914. Power sharing in the military juntas also took into consideration either religion or ethnicity or both; except for one or two minor cases. But Nigeria has significant regards for religion and will always have it, so long as it remains Nigeria. It is non-negotiable at least to any serious faithful. As far as Muslims are concerned, religion maketh man.

“It is one thing to hate a group of people, and it is another thing to be unjustly malevolent towards them. There is absolutely no offense in you hating someone. You might have a good valid reason. And that is completely acceptable! But there is absolute everything wrong in you being unjustly malevolent and abusive towards people you hate. This is completely unacceptable.

“Flagrant issues like this happen, and then someone writes to the United States to say Christians in Nigeria are being persecuted. US Senator Josh Hawley equally wrote to Anthony Blinken that Christians are being persecuted in Nigeria. Analysts shamelessly write to global news outlets like Al Jazeera English to say there’s violence visited on Christians in Nigeria. Who is going to talk about the persecution and discrimination against Nigerian Muslims? When will it ever matter?

Polaris Bank: We Uphold Employees’ Religious Freedom

The bank issued a statement on Wednesday in response to the incident saying that the manager’s submission did not reflect the bank’s position as a corporate entity.

In a statement signed on Thursday, the bank’s management said Ms Adebara acted in ignorance as the bank does not have any policy that forbids people from practicing their religion.

While noting that Nigeria is a secular state, the bank management said the supervisor’s action does not reflect the corporate identity of the Bank.

“The attention of the Bank has been drawn to a shared screenshot of mail sent by a supervisor to staff in her department in respect of Friday prayers.”

“This is to clarify that Nigeria is a secular nation and our Bank is guided by this standard.

“Accordingly, there is no policy in the Bank that forbids staff from practicing the religion of their choice; hence the said staff had acted in ignorance and we have since addressed the issue internally.”

“We assure all staff, customers, and the public that we will continue to respect the fundamental rights and freedom of worship of every employee,” the bank added..


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of The Muslim Voice NG or any employee thereof.


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2 comments on “Religious Discrimination: Customers Troop to Close Accounts in Polaris Bank

Taofeeq Adeosun

The apology by the bank is unacceptable and only a damage taken step. The bank is fully aware of the action of Damilola. All Muslim with account with the bank should go and close it down now.

Abdurrahman ABDULWAHAB

It’s high time we call a spade a spade.
Enough of this hypocrisy in all aspects of our dealings as a nation. Why, on earth, would a group of the masses always assume themselves as the Alpha & Omega of all of us


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