After nearly a decade of neglect and abandonment following the ceding of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun in 2007, the displaced people of Bakassi can now heave a sigh of relief as Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, has awarded contract for the construction of affordable homes for them The sum of N200 million has been set aside for the project.
Ayade who stated this yesterday while receiving the Chairman of Lafarge Africa, Mr. Bolaji Balogun and his management team on a courtesy call in his office, said that the state was going to partner with the cement manufacturers, who also build affordable homes, to actualize the project.
He said: “We are a responsible state that is sensible to the needs of our people. We want you to do a small pilot for the people of Bakassi returnees. I will like to do a small commitment of the sum of N200 million to start the resettlement process.
“These are people that we feel so emotional about, people that have been deprived and displaced from their heritage and there is nothing worse than that that could happen to a man and we want to find a permanent solution to their plight.”
On the capacity of the company to deliver on the project, Ayade pointed that “given your advantage of scale, quality of work so far delivered in other projects you handled and the expertise deployed to deliver, I am confident that this initiative alone will bring unprecedented prosperity to the company and the state at large as we collaborate.”
He further directed the Commissioners for Social Housing, Finance, Lands and other relevant agencies to collaborate with the company to kick start the process of building the homes.
On the 260-kilometre superhighway, Ayade appealed to Lafarge to find a way to get involved in the construction because according to him, “We have concluded negotiations with Aliko Dangote to use concrete for the construction of some part of the project and now that you are here, we are hopeful that Lafarge will join the train.”
Ayade commended Lafarge for its good corporate social responsibility in the rehabilitation of Federal Roads in the state, but urged them to do more by expanding their scope.
“With over N1billion worth, the impact on the people is not quite commensurate as I appeal to you to do more to impact on the lives of the host communities and the state at large because when the community feels satisfied, the business will sure thrive and be more profitable.
“Your corporate social responsibility must expand in concept, to reflect the originality of the African culture which entails love for your brother and being your brothers’ keeper. This state is part of you, so you must take responsibility in delivery dividends of democracy to the people as your responsibilities too.”
Earlier, Chairman of Lafarge, Balogun, who described the governor as a man of history and considerable achievement, said Lafarge Africa became 35 per cent shareholder of Unicem in 2014 and in October 2015, through a transaction with Flour Mills who were the original shareholders, increased the shareholding to 50 per cent while the parent company who are handling other transactions holds the other 50 per cent.
“We have watched you from afar and we have seen some of the wonderful things you have been doing in particular. With your ambitious infrastructural initiatives, we believe that you are a man that we must work very closely with as you strive to develop the state.”
Also speaking, the CEO Cement business, Mrs. Peju Adebajo, disclosed that “Cross River currently houses the largest investment of Lafarge Africa in Nigeria. We have over 500 directly employed, and over twelve thousand indirect staffer in our 2.5 million tons plant in Mfamusing, which we are expanding to 5 million, making it our largest investment in Nigeria and Africa.”
She hinted that Lafarge was also partnering with the nation in order to reduce the over 17 million housing deficit with the introduction of affordable, better, and faster housing scheme that could be accessed by both public and private organisations