From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
In order to improve commerce, security, and support the growth of the continent, President Muhammadu Buhari called for greater neighborliness and understanding amongst African states on Thursday in Mfum, Cross River State.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, represented by the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, at the commissioning of the Nigeria/Cameroon Joint Border Post and Bridge, Buhari said the 1.5km project would enhance the interconnectivity of “our people and communities, improve living standards, reduce barriers to inter-regional trade and strengthen border security.’’
“It is with great sense of satisfaction that we are witnessing the official Joint Commissioning of the Mfum/Ekok 1.5km Bridge and Joint Border Post (JBP). Let me begin with commending the Leaderships of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon that worked closely to realize this project, as well as the African Development Bank (ADB) that provided funding for the execution and completion of this 1.5km Joint Border Project,” he said.
President Buhari noted that the projects will deepen the inextricably linked cultural and traditional fraternal bonds that already exist between Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the border communities.
“Let me also underscore that in order to maximize the benefits of these projects, the Nigerian and Cameroonian officials that would be saddled with the responsibility of manning the Joint Border Post, in particular, must act in the most professional manner, as well as in line with the global best practices, effective from today,” he added.
He affirmed that the completion of the project had made both Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the area jubilant.
“Such excitement symbolizes the resolve of our People and Governments to remain connected in spite of our seemingly artificial boundaries.
“The completion and commissioning of this project could not have come at a more auspicious time than when Nigeria has signed and ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement. Therefore, we expect that the commissioning of this Joint Border Bridge and Post will not only strengthen the existing cordial relations between Nigeria and Cameroon, but also enhance cooperation between the ECOWAS and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
“Under the AfCFTA, this project has the potential to enhance the volume of economic activities in our regions, as well as facilitate the free movement of persons, goods and services within the countries, along the corridor. It would also serve as a vital link between the West and the Central African regions.
“The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also expects that this Joint Border Post and Bridge will enhance security patrol and facilitate effective cooperation in this part of our border with the Republic of Cameroon. While expressing our confidence that this project would accomplish the set targets, it is also our hope that it would complement the current efforts of the Governments of Nigeria and Cameroon to combat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism in our region.
“This is important because the activities of violent extremists have continued to present major challenges to the development of our countries and regions,’’ he added.
According to Buhari, the threat of insecurity has persisted in endangering economies, impeding the realization of our countries’ full strategic potential, and causing political unrest and danger in our subregion.
“Hence, it is our hope that the commissioning of this project will accelerate the efforts of our gallant security personnel who are already doing very well in securing our territories.
“We also pray that this project would enhance the interconnectivity of our people and communities, improve living standards, reduce barriers to inter-regional trade and strengthen border security. We are certain that these projects will deepen the inextricably linked cultural and traditional fraternal bonds that already exist between Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the border communities,’’ he stated.
He noted that the project, which was part of the on-going Nigeria/Cameroon Multinational Highway and Transport Facilitation Programme (NCMH&TFP), will remain a visible testament to the continuing cooperation and good neighbourliness between both countries, as well as Regional Economic Communities.
“This bridge, and Joint Border Post, are proofs that when African countries work with African Institutions, outstanding and people-centred cross-regional developmental projects can be achieved in record time,’’ he said.
The President thanked all the Institutions and Agencies that made the project possible.
“I recall in this regard, that the Government of the Republic of Cameroon cooperated with us in granting joint waiver to the Expatriates that were employed by the construction company that handled the project, despite the global COVID-19 lockdown. The cooperation and support of H.E. President Paul Biya, as well as the Government and people of Cameroon, ensured that this project was completed on schedule.
“Let me also extend the gratitude of the Government and people of Nigeria to the African Development Bank for the role it played in financing these projects. Under the leadership of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Bank has become, by all standards, a reliable beacon of support in all matters relating to Africa’s development. Indeed, we are very proud of the performance of the current Management of our continental Bank which has confirmed that we truly have “African solutions to African problems”.
“Let me also commend the leadership and staff of the ECOWAS and ECCAS for their untiring efforts in ensuring the timely completion of this project. It is necessary to underscore that visible projects such as these, as well as other critical and life changing infrastructure are the type of projects that the citizens of our sub-region have been yearning to see. It is the hope that under the leadership of Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, ECOWAS will continue to deliver on the expectations of our citizens.
“Finally, let me conclude by extending our deepest appreciation to the contractors, CGCOC, that have shown uncommon commitment to the execution and delivery of this high quality project, within a reasonable period. To all of you who have contributed in one way or the other to this epoch–making and memorable occasion, I convey my warm appreciation,” President Buhari said.
In his remarks, the Minster of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the value of the new bridge transcended connection between Nigeria and Cameroon, boosting the larger effort of connecting Africa.
He said efforts will be sustained to improve networking among Africans, which ECOWAS and the African Union had been pursuing over many years, with earlier plans dating back to 1969.
Fashola said consistency in building roads and bridges will improve relations among Africa countries, where people can drive from Lagos to Mombasa.
The Cameroonian Minister of Public Works, Emmanuel Djoumessi, who represented President Paul Biya, appreciated the contributions of various stakeholders to the project, assuring that the Nigeria/Cameroon relations will explore more possibilities for partnership.