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Gabriel Mbairobe was in the South West last weekend to witness what has become of the 72-year old State Corporation under the yoke of upheavals in the NW and SW Regions.
“The Head of State, President Paul Biya, has directed that urgent measures be taken to ensure normal resumption of activities in the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC).” Those were the words of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Gabriel Mbairobe, as he addressed personnel of the CDC at their Senior Staff Club hall on 5 July, 2019. The Minister praised what he termed the high level of commitment, loyalty and discipline demonstrated by the staff during this most difficult moment in CDC’s 72-year history. He said it was clear that the workers of CDC were quite willing to resume work despite deadly menace from gunmen who mastermind kidnaps, maiming, murder of workers and the destruction of the corporation’s property.
Concerning unpaid salaries accrued over some nine to 12 months due to socio-political violence running down the CDC and scaring workers from their jobs, Minister Mbairobe promised to follow up to “ensure that CDC workers receive something very soon”. The Minister reiterated his previous instructions, to all State Corporations under its canopy, that allocation meant for salaries be used for the sole purpose intended. As a sustainable and long term solution to salary crisis, the Minister admonished the resumption of work in the farms and factories to bring back the various units of the corporation now in ruins.
Minister Mbairobe in CDC farms
CDC’s General Manager, Frankline Ngone Njie, recalled that “It was realised at the beginning of 2018 that CDC is a specific target of the secessionists and the scars are visible and palpable. While visiting different units, the Minister was shown round the various destructions caused on the buildings, as well as the farms, which are overgrown with grass. Ngone Njie displayed hairraising facts about the corporation’s plight mentioning that 16 workers of the CDC have so far been killed in the Anglophone crisis. Also, nine others are battling between life and death from varying degrees of gun shots. He added 98 workers have suffered from assault with some agonizing from fingers chopped off. He emphasized that more than 11,600 jobs remain seriously threatened.
Concerning the estates, the GM explained that only four Rubber Estates of CDC situated in the Moungo Division (Littoral Region) out of the 11 that CDC has, remain functional. The GM went on informing the Minister that the rubber processing factories in Penda Boko and Tiko were operating below 10 and 20 per cent of their respective capacities. As such, CDC has of date produced only 878 tons of rubber out of a projected 4,000 tons scoring just a 23.6-per cent production rate. In the palm sector only three of CDC’s seven Estates are operating. And only one, out of three oil mills, is functional. By mid-year CDC is supposed to have produced 17,400 tons of palm oil at this time. Unfortunately, they have realised only 2,100 tons, an achievement of 30 per cent. The CDC General Manager announced that the Banana sector remains the worst hit sector by the crisis. At the level of equipment, the GM mentioned unprecedented damages done to CDC working tools such as vehicles, bulldozers, graders and front-loaders burnt by armed groups. All of these, he explained, have hindered CDC from meeting contractual obligations both in the domestic and foreign markets.
The CDC workers’ representative, Honourable Efite Andrew, reported the killing of workers in CDC Manyu project, Tombel Estate, Malende Estate and Bota Palm Estates. He praised CDC management for continuing to provide 100 percent of medical coverage for its workers and dependents below 21 years of age. By June 2018 some FCFA 13 billion was approved by government for workers’ salary arrears. Of the lot only FCFA 3.7 billion has been disbursed.