President Muhammadu Buhari, at the weekend, commissioned a new Border Bridge linking Nigeria and Cameroun at Mfum/ Ekok across the Cross River and the new Joint Border at Mfum, saying that the bridge would curtail insecurity.
Buhari who was represented at the event by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada said:
“The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also expects that this joint border bridge and border post will enhance security patrol and co-operation in this part of the border with Cameroun and also hope that it will complement the current efforts of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Cameroun to combat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism in our region.”
Speaking further, he said the project is important because the activities of violent extremists have continued to present major challenges to the development of the countries and the regions.
“Their activities have continued to deter our economies and the maximisation of the potential of our countries as well as cause political upheavals and menace in our regions. 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” he said, adding that the project which is part of the Nigeria-Cameroun Multinational Highway and Transport Facilitation Programme will remain a visible testimony to the continuing co-operation and good neighbourliness between our two countries as well as regional economic communities.
“This bridge and the joint border post are proves that when Africans work with African institutions of standard, critical regional developmental projects can be achieved in record time,” he said.
Expressing his joy on the commissioning, Buhari said: “I am glad that both Nigerians and Camerounians living around these axises have remained jubilant since the completion of this bridge and joint border post. Such excitement symbolises the resolve of our peoples 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 when Nigeria has signed and ratified the African Continental Free Zone Area Agreement.”
The president said he is optimistic that the commissioning of the border bridge and joint border post will not only strengthen the existing cordial relationship between Nigeria and Cameroun but it will also enhance co-operation between ECOWAS and Economic Community of Central African (ECCAS) countries adding that the project has the potential to enhance the volume of economic activities in the regions especially as it will facilitate the movement of goods and services within the countries along these corridors. It will also serve as a vital link between the West and Central African Regions.
Recall that the joint border bridge is one of the projects under the Transport Facilitation Programme for the Bamenda-Enugu Corridor otherwise known as the Nigeria/Cameroon Multinational Highway and Transport Facilitation Programme. It was embarked upon by both countries as part of the confidence- building measures aimed at improving relations between both countries through the facilitation of movement of people, goods and services between both countries and also as a major economic route connecting the ECOWAS countries and their counterparts in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) thereby facilitating trade and growth in the region.
In his remarks, the President of Cameroun, Paul Biya said that the programme for the transport facilitation of the Bamenda-Enugu Road corridor was conceived by the founding fathers as a confidence- building measure to strengthen relations between Nigeria and Cameroun following the strained relations arising as a result of the Bakassi Peninsula issue.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, the president who was represented by the Minister of Public Works of Cameroun, Mr. Emmanuel Nganou Njoumessi explained that 443 kilometers long Bamenda-Enugu corridor comprises the Cameroun Bamenda-Mamfe Ekok road sections, the Nigerian road sections of 240 kilometers, the bridge over the Munaya River in Cameroun and the border bridge of 230 meters over the Cross River.
On the importance of the project, he said that it is expected to help increase trade and also strengthen co-operation between countries of the Economic Community of Central African States and those of the Economic Community of West African States in general, and between Cameroon and Nigeria in particular.
“The direct beneficiaries of the programme are the transport services users, as well as the 11,000,000 inhabitants (3,000,000) in Cameroon and 8,000,000 in Nigeria) in the programme area representing 7 per cent of the total population of both countries.” he said, noting that the programme will reduce overall transport cost and improve the living conditions of the populations living along the road” he said..
In his welcome address, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, commended the vision of the founding fathers and with gratitude ackwonledged the roles played by the funding partners, the ministry’s engineers/ directors and also the host communities of Nigeria and Cameroun.
He said: “I can say with pride that our job has been done for the benefit of the people of Nigeria and Cameroun which the bridge connects.”
Continuing, he said that the most important thing about the project is that the bridge, not only connects Nigeria and Cameroun, it begins a journey of a trans-Africa connection.
“The Nigeria/Cameroun Multinational Highway from Enugu in Nigeria to Bamenda in Cameroun is also part of the Dakar-Lagos-Mombasa, Kenya Trans-African Highway and this is the significance of this project,” Fashola, explained.
His Royal Highness Anthony Ntui Etta II, the host community of Ajassor clan, commended the two countries and said that the Ajassor clan is indeed very happy and grateful for the project.
In a statement, he said, the significance of the project cannot be overemphasised as it will strengthen the bond of affinity which already exists between their community with their kith and kin of Ekok border community in Cameroun and even beyond. He added that the project would further boost trans-border commercial activities.
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