Relief was brought to the people of Badabdi village in Funakaye Local Government Area of Gombe State, after the village was connected with electricity, after years of living in darkness.
Ashaka Cement, a subsidiary of Lafarge Africa through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative connected Badabdi village to the national grid, which ended over 100 years of living in darkness by the people of the village. It was learnt that the unprecedented development has undisputedly transformed the lives of the villagers.
Badabdi village is located some eight kilometres away from Ashaka Cement plant in Funakaye LGA of Gombe State, Northeast Nigeria. The village was believed to have been established over 100 years ago, with a population of over 3000 people, mostly farmers and petty traders.
It was learnt that before electricity was brought to the village in 2019, people of Badabdi had been living a very difficult life for years, having to travel for kilometres before they could get access to basic things like cold water and charging of their mobile phones.
It was learnt that the Badabdi settlement falls within the “Ring-one” communities of AshakaCem and so they benefit from the company’s CSR initiatives.
A source told THIS NEWSPAPER that the AshakaCem Community Relations Committee (CRC), under the chairmanship of the Plant Manager meets regularly to discuss and come up with projects and initiatives that will positively impact the host communities.
After several interventions in various areas like; Education (block of classrooms), health (dispensary clinic), portable water (hand pump boreholes), and Agricultural support among others, the CRC proposed the electrification project of Badabdi community in 2018 and was approved by the AshakaCem management.
Three years after the electricity project was commissioned and the village was connected to the National grid, THIS NEWSPAPER visited the Badabdi village, where lives of the rural dwellers were totally transformed, with economic activities coming up in the village as a result of the availability of electricity in the area.
Economic flourishing in Badabdi village
Jibril Dauda, 25, was busy working on a metal door, brought by a customer in his welding workshop at Badabdi village in Funakaye Local Government Area of Gombe State.
Dauda learnt welding through an artisanship training sponsored by Ashaka cement through one of its CSR projects and has been practising in far-away Jalingo town, where he has to shuttle daily to for over eight years to earn a living and take care of his family.
Because of the distance and the money, he has to spend on transportation between his Badabdi village and Jalingo town, Dauda’s earnings from the welding business are being spent mainly on transport and feeding.
However, courtesy of the AshakaCem electricity project, life has now become much easier for Dauda and his wife and two children, as well as several families of the agrarian Badabdi village.
“For the past eight years, I have been shuttling daily between our village and Jalingo town which is near the Ashaka plant, it is very hectic and time-consuming.
“I attempted to use gas in my welding shop so that I will be working here in my village but because of the high cost of gas, I could not continue because I was operating at lost.
“But since the completion of the electricity project, my life has changed for good. I am now working from our village, near my house with customers trooping in from the neighbouring villages and beyond,” Dauda testified.
He added that the coming of electricity to the village has drastically reduced the rate of crime and criminal activities, “because it has opened windows for economic activities and provided job opportunities for our people.”
According to him, besides supporting his parents, family upkeep, sponsoring his sibling’s post-primary education, Dauda added that he has employed about three people who are also earning their living under him.
Another person whose life changed because of the electricity is, Usman Jibir, who owns a small provision shop.
He narrated how they used to travel for a long distance just to get ice blocks to quench their thirst, especially when breaking their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan.
He said: ‘We were living in a difficult situation because of the lack of electricity, especially in the evening. Today, people now have access to social amenities like televisions which we watch in our homes to know what is happening around the world.
“In addition to that, during the hottest months of March to May, when the dry season is at its peak, especially during Ramadan, we have cold drinking water to quench our thirst at our doorsteps unlike when we didn’t have electricity.”
Jibir continued that four years ago, they had to travel to Jalingo town or far away Bajoga, a distance of about 20 kilometres to get ice blocks, especially during the fasting period when demands for cold drinks are high.
“We used to travel far to get ice blocks which we sell at N150 each. But with the electricity, ice blocks cost not more than N20 each, and it is a great relief for our people and that helps us economically.
“As such, we cannot thank the company enough because in the last three years, our lives have changed significantly and for good,” he added.
Commenting on the development, the Village Head of Badabdi, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminu, said the electricity project has opened windows of opportunities for his people.
“Many businesses have opened since the completion of the project. People have opened welding workshops, traders are now selling ice blocks and cold drinks in their shops, these have made life easier and cheaper for us.
“Even before the intervention, AshakaCem built a palace for me, in addition to a dispensary clinic that saves our people the stress of going to very far places to access medical care. They also built a block of classrooms for our children,” he said.
Abdullahi further stated for the over 100 years that Badabdi village existed, the coming of electricity in 2019, has significantly changed their lives. ‘Now we feel that we have become urbanized, we don’t have to travel very far to get access to basic amenities like cold water. We can now iron our clothes and watch television.” He said
The village head added that apart from the electricity, the company through its CSR interventions has assisted them with access roads through the construction of culverts along the rural pathway leading to the village. He said: “They also repaired some portions of the road that collapsed during the last rainy season. Being an agrarian economy, that gave us the easy movement of our farm produce to markets.”
He stated that the AshakaCem company also constructed over eight boreholes and two large overhead tanks that supplied the town with adequate water for domestic usage.
Improved pathway, electricity for Bulturi village
Apart from Badabdi, Bulturi village located a few kilometres from the Ashaka cement plant, also benefitted from the electricity project.
Yahaya Shuaibu, a 55-year-old father of eight children said the company had to construct a link culvert, which made it possible for the trucks to bring in equipment for the electrification project.
“We are located some few metres from the main road, but accessing our village is a herculean task because of several small valleys, an unfortunate situation that made it difficult for even government to bring development projects to us.
“However, due to the concern and doggedness of AshakaCem, several culverts were constructed along the pathway that links the village to the main road, afterwards they connected us with our longtime dream of seeing electricity in the Bulturi village.
“With the coming of the electricity, we now charge our mobile phones and other electrical appliances without the stress of going to commercial charging points in far places.
“Now people from the neighbouring villages also bring their phones to charge in our village.
Newly built village for people of Lariski
For the people of Lariski village, located along the Gombe-Potiskum highway, it was a double blessing of being relocated from the hinterland to near the Gombe-Potiskum highway, a Trunk A road linking Gombe and Yobe states.
Representative of the Village Head, Alhaji Hamma Lariski, said the company relocated them from a deep bush with no access road, water and electricity to a better location.
“We were living in our ancestral village without any form of modernity, in addition to that, we are very close to the mining site which is very dangerous for our people. Relief came our way about seven years ago when AshakaCem relocated us to this new place, which is closer to the road. They built an entirely new village with modern houses for every household, provided us with electricity and several boreholes,” he said.
Hamma Lariski added that primary and secondary schools were also built for them, in addition to a functional clinic, “We are being provided with fertilizer. We pay 75 per cent of the cost, while the company pays the remaining 25 per cent.”
AshakaCem spends N150m annually on host communities
Documents obtained by This Newspaper indicates that through the above and other numerous CSR projects, AshakaCem on average spends N150 million annually, to empower and improve the lives of its host communities in Funakaye LGA where the cement plant is located and its coal mine at Maiganga in Akko LGA.
However, despite the huge investment in the host community by the company, their expectations of AshakaCem are still high.
This Newspaper observed that the host communities look upon the cement company to bridge the gap in the area of provision of basic amenities and infrastructure where the government is lacking.
The host community expects the company to step in wherever the government was lacking in the provision of basic infrastructure and other social amenities.
An investigation by This Newspaper further revealed that AshakaCem has four fundamental pillars under which they provide support to the host communities. They include Education, through the construction of classrooms and provision of learning materials and scholarship schemes.
Secondly, healthcare services by constructing and equipping numerous health centres in rural areas.
Thirdly, is infrastructure – provision of electricity, potable water and construction of rural roads to enable access for people and commodities.
The fourth is through different empowerment programmes under which people of the rural communities are trained in modern farming systems and supported with inputs as well as other training for skills including tailoring, masonry, carpentry, welding and automobile repair among others.
Micheal Afonce is a Lagos-based freelance journalist