President Muhammadu Buhari and President Paul Biya, on Thursday, inaugurated a $44,000,000 bridge linking Nigeria to Cameroon.
The bridge, which has two lanes, is located at the Nigeria-Cameroon border at Mfum community in Etung local government area of Cross River and Ekok community on the side of Cameroon.
The bridge replaces the over 70 years old single-lane bridge over the Cross River at the Nigeria/Cameroon Border at Mfum/Ekok and Joint Border Post.
Buhari’s speech at the inauguration
Speaking at the inauguration, Buhari called for good neighborliness and mutual understanding between African states to enhance trade and security and to promote the development of the continent.
Buhari, represented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada, said the 1.5km project would enhance the interconnectivity of the people and communities, improve living standards, reduce barriers to inter-regional trade and strengthen border security.
“It is with a great sense of satisfaction that we are witnessing the official joint commissioning of the Mfum/Ekok 1.5km Bridge and Joint Border Post.
“Let me begin with commending the leaderships of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the government of the Republic of Cameroon that worked closely to realize this project,’’ he said.
He also commended the African Development Bank (AfDB) which provided funding for the execution and completion of the project.
According to him, the project will deepen the inextricably linked cultural and traditional fraternal bonds that already exist between Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the border communities.
“In order to maximize the benefits of these projects, the Nigerian and Cameroonian officials that would man the border post must act in the most professional manner, as well as in line with the global best practices,’’ he said.
Buhari 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 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 than when Nigeria signed and ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
“We expect that the commissioning of the bridge and border post will strengthen existing cordial relations between Nigeria and Cameroon.
“We expect that it will also enhance cooperation between the ECOWAS and ECCAS states.
“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,’’ he stated.
He expressed the belief that the project 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,’’ the president said.
He noted that insecurity had continued to threaten economies, impede the maximization of the strategic potentials of both countries as well as cause political upheavals and menace in the sub-region.
“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 peoples and communities, improve living standards, reduce barriers to inter-regional trade and strengthen border security.
He noted that the project was part of the ongoing Nigeria/Cameroon Multinational Highway and Transport Facilitation Programme.
The president expressed the hope that it would remain a visible testament to the continuing cooperation and good neighborliness 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-centered cross-regional developmental projects can be achieved in record time,’’ he stressed.
The president thanked all the institutions and agencies that made the project possible.
“I recall in this regard, that the Republic of Cameroon cooperated with us in granting a joint waiver to expatriates that were employed by the construction company that handled the project, despite the global COVID-19 lockdown.
“The cooperation and support of 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 AfDB 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,’ ‘’ he said.
Buhari also commended the leadership and staff of ECOWAS and ECCAS for their untiring efforts in ensuring the timely completion of the 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.
“I extend 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,’’ he added.
In his remarks, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, said the value of the new bridge transcended the connection between Nigeria and Cameroon, boosting the larger effort of connecting Africa.
He said efforts would 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, Mr. Emmanuel Djoumessi, who represented President Biya, appreciated the contributions of various stakeholders to the project.
He assured that Nigeria/Cameroon relations would explore more possibilities for partnership.