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“We Need To Expand Cooperation”

Her Excellency Hadiza Mustapha, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Cameroon, explains the stakes of the maiden visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Cameroon.

What is the current state of relations between Nigeria and Cameroon?

Thank you for this question. Relations between Nigeria and Cameroon are very cordial. They have the potential of becoming the best on the continent if properly harnessed. Already, it is globally accepted that the peaceful settlement of the Bakassi conflict between Nigeria and Cameroon was exemplary. Going forward, our two countries need to use the many complimentary factors between us to build and expand our diplomatic and economic cooperation.

Additionally, we have successfully revived and are in the process of reviewing some of the agreements between us. We held the 6th Session of our Joint Commission in 2014, which is a framework agreement that covers all aspects of our relations. We would soon meet to look at immigration issues in order to remove some of the irritants between us and to facilitate closer cooperation. I can tell you that the future of our relations is bright.

How significant is the first visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Cameroon since his inauguration on May 29, 2015?

The visit is very significant in that Nigeria being a neighbour to Cameroon, the trip will further cement the existing cordial relations between the two nations and afford both leaders the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest.

What are some of these issues likely to be discussed by Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Paul Biya?

While both leaders would discuss many issues of interest, one of them is our common security challenge – insurgency and trans-border criminality. Others include bilateral trade and joint ventures in infrastructure development, etc.

What outcomes do you expect at the end of the visit on the war against Boko Haram, trade and general bilateral relations?

The major outcome would be an increase in the fraternal relationship between both countries that would translate into a consolidated position in the fight against Boko Haram and terrorism. We also expect that the visit would usher in fresh avenues for expanded trade relations between our two countries.

Are there specific areas of cooperation in which you think Nigeria and Cameroon should reinforce ties?

Considering the socio-cultural, political and traditional affinities between both countries, there are lots of areas of cooperation. However, on specifics, we would like to see more cooperation in the area of exchange of high-level visits to further cement existing friendly ties.

It will also be beneficial if both countries can share expertise and skills in small and medium-size enterprises that make up over 60 per cent of the economies of the two nations. Certainly, we need to continue to cooperate in the security and military sphere in order to succeed in our common fight against terrorism and trans-border crimes, especially on our maritime domain and land borders.

Not so long ago, Nigeria became Cameroon’s largest commercial partner. What is being done to boost such relations?

Economic cooperation between Cameroon and Nigeria is one of the best on the continent. There are now much more exchanges and we expect to hold a Business Forum soon. It will bring together both public and private sector people to discuss the vast opportunities that exist in the energy, infrastructure development, agriculture, commerce and telecommunications sectors. As you are aware, the Trans-African Highway linking Nigeria from Enugu to Bamenda in Cameroon is almost completed. This is indeed a milestone in our economic relations.

Efforts have been underway for some time now to complete the demarcation of the land and maritime borders between Nigeria and Cameroon according to the June 2006 Greentree Agreement and October 2002 ICJ ruling. What is being done to speed up the process?

Experts from both countries, in conjunction with the United Nations, have been working assiduously to conclude the demarcation of the land and maritime borders. Indeed, an appreciable level of work has been done. What is left now is only a few kilometres on the land border.

There are millions of Nigerians living in Cameroon. Have you had time to visit them, and how would you assess their level of association with Cameroonians?

My mission in Cameroon is not only to maintain cordial relations with host authorities, but to also ensure the welfare of Nigerians in Cameroon. I have embarked on several consular visits to at least six of the 10 Regions of Cameroon to meet with Nigerian residents. From my assessment, the level of their association with Cameroonians is cordial, though with minor differences that are usually amicably sorted out. Nigerians tend to have some complaints about immigration issues, but when these are brought to the attention of Cameroonian authorities, they are usually favourably attended to.

What future do you see for relations between Nigeria and Cameroon?

Relations between Cameroon and Nigeria have passed through several stages. Currently, we enjoy some of the best relations that our two countries have ever had. We work together at the bilateral and multinational levels. At the political level, the President of the Republic, His Excellency President Paul Biya, has assured us of his constant readiness to work with Nigeria towards maintaining and consolidating the excellent, multifarious relations between Cameroon and Nigeria, as well as between our brotherly peoples. Relations between the two countries have a lot of potentials. At the social level, our peoples are the same. I believe that President Muhammadu Buhari is inheriting excellent relations to build upon. I look forward to being part of it.

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