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Mister One Million
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Private enterprise can actually do a lot (far from everything) to keep up the aesthetic qualities of a city. In Nairobi many of the highway medians and roundabouts are maintained by businesses that receive advertising space (especially cell phones) in return.
Zenith Saves The City With N1b - The Guardian 02/04/2007
By MARCEL MBAMALU

The new look of,hitherto infamous Ajose Adeogun Street in Victoria Island has become a matter of utmost interest to all stakeholders. Courtesy of Zenith Bank, it now has two good faces- one during the day, another at night.

Not only has the road taken a new look, with those potholes petering into thin air, vehicular movement has relatively become smooth and free. Any delay in driving through the 2.6-kilometer road, could either be that the motorist wants to take his time savoring the aesthetics of the horticultural works and landscaping, or that he probably stopped to take a glance at the Adetokunbo Ademola end of the road where a pylon, a device which gives accurate time and temperature of the city at any point in time has been maintained.

The pylon, which is believed to have been designed by Zenith Bank and Custom-made in Germany is fitted with a GPS (global positioning system). The grassing of the median, with date palms planted at intervals, could as well be a delight to commuters any day. That's just during the day. At night, the situation is not entirely different, except that the impact of street lighting on the landscaping and horticultural works produces an illusion of what could possibly be found in heavenly places.

Little wonder then that "even the Lagos State government has given a commendation letter for the project", according to an official of the bank.

Also a motorist, Adekunle Akande, concerning the functional and aesthetic value of the road, declared enthusiastically: " If you come at night, you will see that the road is a wonder."

While Lagos road users and Nigerians at large are still digesting the Zenith gesture, however, the bank might, yet, be making another move to carry its corporate social responsibility crusade to more roads in other parts of Lagos.

Although some senior officials of the bank declined to confirm this, investigation revealed that the bank is not resting on its oars yet, as it plans to further spend more fortunes on giving back to Nigerians in this regard.

WITH the Ajose Adeogun road re-construction, there is no doubt that Zenith Bank has set a new pace in CSR, not just for the other 24 banks but the entire Nigerian corporate world. Although, the contract for the road was awarded to a local firm, Palmyra Nigeria Limited at the original cost of N322 million in February, 2006, the bank had to commit more funds to the tune of N1 billion. This was to achieve its goals of making the street the best in the country as it had boasted ab initio.

Now that the project is completed, commercial activities within the area have, no doubt, been given a major boost. The re-construction-commissioned in February 2006 and completed in December 2006- took the bank less than a year, and involved the beautification of the streets and the roundabouts at both ends, provision of street lighting, landscaping horticultural works through the streets from the roundabouts. It also involved the relocation of existing facilities such as electricity and water pipes; and the removal of unsuitable materials from sub-grade, sub-base, provision of new kerbs and walkways and the installation of reflective road signs along the street. This therefore explains why the bank had to spend as much. There appeared a deliberate attempt to ensure that the CSR activities of the bank impact on Nigerians and the economy.

It was gathered that the date palms planted along the median, usually found in the Middle East and in Mediterranean countries were sourced from a nursery in Taraba. These palms are rugged and can survive with little watering.

It was also learnt that Zenith Bank provided wells with submersible pumps at five locations along the median to supply water to the flowers and the palms.

The 11-feet streetlights are all fitted two 200 watts sodium bulbs each. These lights combine with the one at the main roundabout and the 80 smaller ones that have Zenith logos to enhance proper illumination of the newborn Ajose Adeogun.

Instructive also is the fact that the bank has made a commitment to continue with the maintenance of the road at all time. Apart from a 60 KVA generating set, the lights, have a daylight switch, whose role is to allow automatic on/off switch that does not need any manual operation. The corollary, therefore, is that should the road go bad (which, judging by the quality of work, would be many years), the bank would still reconstruct it.

FOR the bank, corporate social responsibility is embedded in its policy and this is evidenced in the establishment of a full-fledged Philanthropy Department.

The bank reserves one per cent of its profit-after-tax for executing philanthropic projects.

The Ajose Adeogun project is the largest single CSR spending not only among the banks in the country but also among other corporate organisations.

This is why analysts believe that the bank, howbeit unwittingly, might just be setting a new benchmark and agenda for other socially responsible corporations in Nigeria.

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Jim Ovia had, during the award of the contract, said Zenith owed a lot to the society that has provided a conducive operational environment for its success.

LAGOS State, said to be fifth most populous mega city in the world, characteristically experiences a constant traffic congestion occasioned by, not only the heavy vehicular movement, but the deplorable state of roads due mainly to wear and tear on one hand, and poor maintenance culture of various tiers of governments on the other.

Victoria Island, which aside being home to some Nigerians hosts major private and government businesses was not spared. The 'popular' Ajose Adeogun Street is one of such roads on the Island that used to hold people swearing under their breath for hours, a nightmare to motorists. This pain is what the Zenith gesture has washed off.

The success of the project has gone to show that the financial sector reform is, indeed, yielding positive results with the 25 banks positioned to do what was hitherto regarded as out-of-character for Nigerian banks.

No doubt, banking in Nigeria has gone beyond the routine over-the-counter-transaction in halls, or the normal aggressive drive for the attention of the "unbanked". With each passing day, a few of the Nigerian banks are, indeed, identifying with the common aspirations of the people, giving them a place in their welfare programmes, and redefining the concept of CSR. These banks are naturally moved to extend the scope of their operations to cover areas hitherto left for the government.

Zenith has raised the CSR bar.
 
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