By Jonathan Ugbal; Government House Correspondent
The Cross River State Government has announced a partnership with Lafarge Africa, which now operates UNICEM for the construction of affordable homes for the displaced people of Bakassi Peninsula.
This follows nearly a decade of reported neglect and abandonment after the Peninsula was ceded to Cameroun by an ICJ ruling in 2007.
Governor Ben Ayade made this known Tuesday, in Calabar when a delegation from Lafarge Africa paid him a courtesy visit in his office where, while reacting to a statement from the team on affordable housing said “We are a responsible state that is sensible to the needs of our people. We want you to do a small pilot scheme (of affordable homes) for the Bakassi returnees. I will like to do a small commitment of the sum of N200 million to start the resettlement process.
Describing them as “people that we feel so emotional about, people that have been deprived and displaced from their heritage”, Ayade 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 and urged Lafarge to invest on the 260 km superhighway even though negotiations has been concluded with Dangote group to use concrete for the construction of some part of the project.
However, Ayade who lampooned them for committing meager resources into their Corporate Social Responsibility also charged them to expand their concept of CSR “To reflect the originality of the African culture which entails love for your brother and being your brothers’ keeper.”
“With over one billion dollars worth, the impact on the people is not quite commensurate. 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.
Earlier, the head of the delegation, Bolaji Balogun disclosed the company acquired 35 percent of UNICEM shares in 2014 which increased to 50 percent following a transaction with Flour Mills of Nigeria in October 2015, while the parent company holds the other 50 percent.
Bolaji who heaped accolades on Ayade added that they at Lafarge believed the governor is “A man that we must work very closely with as you strive to develop the state.”
Also, the CEO Cement business, Peju Adebajo, stated that Cross River houses Lafarge Africa’s largest investment in Nigeria. “We have over 500 directly employed, and over 12 thousand indirect staff in our 2.5 million tonnes plant in Mfamosing, which we are expanding to 5 million, making it our largest investment in Nigeria and Africa.” Peju said.
Furthermore, she said they are partnering with the government at various levels to reduce the 17 million housing deficit in the country through the introduction of affordable and faster building housing schemes that could be accessed by public and private organizations.
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