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Philip Ali Dauda is the Nigerian High Commissioner to Cameroon, with less than a year in office. Bef 

What is your appreciation of the Cameroon/Nigeria relationship after the Bakassi handover?
The best way to view the Cameroon and Nigeria relationship is from the angle of the history of the two countries. Geographically, the two countries are destined to live together. The people of the two countries are linked since time immemorial.

What we call our boundaries today can be considered an intrusion into the relationship that has existed between the people of the two countries. There was friction, but the most important thing is that, we were able to come out of it, and have been moving forward. That’s why, today, we talk about the peaceful handover of Bakassi that took place August 14, 2008, in Nigeria.

To us, it is a wake up call to look back at the wasted periods we have had; bickering over something. I would not say it is nothing over what both of us considered precious to all of us. It is by the grace of the leadership that they had the wisdom of agreeing that the peaceful settlement was the best way out and the best way forward.

What is being done to implement the Green Tree Accord and foster lasting peace between the two brotherly nations?

Since the advent of the ICJ verdict, the Green Tree Agreement came into existence. It brought along the Nigeria/Cameroon Mixed Commission. This Commission has the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of the Green Tree Agreement. It holds its sessions alternatively between Cameroon and Nigeria. It has been demarcating the borders, the processes of its functions is what made the handing over of August 14 a reality. However, its job is yet to be completed. The Commission is still operational; another session comes up this month or next month in Abuja, Nigeria. This is to ensure that all the terms of the Green Tree Agreement have been implemented.

Have you seen any fallouts of the handing over so far in both countries?

Many of the other issues that were outstanding between our two brotherly States were now resuscitated. Now, I talk of the Nigeria/Cameroon Joint Commission. It had its sitting in October 2008 in Yaoundé. The next one has been billed for Abuja. Its preoccupation is on the bilateral issues between Nigeria and Cameroon. These include; trade, culture, immigration, education, communication etc. There are preparations gearing up for the next session of the Joint Commission.

Are these two institutions; Mixed Commission & Joint Commission not overbearing?

They are serving two different purposes. In the next five years, the Mixed Commission would have ended. There are suggestions to make the Joint Commission have a Secretariat. Then, it will become a permanent institution. Instead of waiting for the sessions to hold, anything arising in the bilateral relationship between the two countries, the Secretariat will facilitate immediate contacts between the various arms of government of the countries and find solutions. The two institutions perform different but complimentary assignments.

Is the upcoming Nigeria Trade and Cultural Week in Douala a fallout of this Joint Commission?

The Trade and Cultural Week, slated for Douala from March 16-22, cannot be directly seen as a fallout of any of the aforementioned commissions. It is the initiative of the Nigerian representation in Cameroon to complement government policy and foresight, forging close relationship between our two countries. We, as the observers on the ground, have seized on the initiative to start something so that the two governments can build on it.

Could you throw more light on the Nigeria Trade and Cultural Week?

We are calling for participation from the private sector in Nigeria to come and showcase what they have in terms of manufactured goods, semi-processed goods and to see what their Cameroonian counterparts can also offer, as they will also bring their own products and services to the marketplace. We want to create interaction between the entrepreneurs of Nigeria and their peers from Cameroon. We will have lectures involving the taxation and company registration requirements of the two countries, policy makers will be invited to give policy directions of subsequent developments as far as trade links between the two countries are concerned.

We are looking forward to having performing troupes from both sides of the boundaries. We have had confirmation from troupes in Cross River and Akwa-Ibom States. We are expecting three cultural groups from Cameroon. They will be spicing the weeklong activities. Showcasing our cultural diversities brings in the spirit of oneness. Our programmes of activities have been drawn and there is much to be highlighted come March 16. To achieve the expected success of this venture, we have contracted B&C Communications. The success they recorded in organising EXPO 2009 at the Congress Hall in Yaoundé caught our attention.

TINAPA has been seen to be a huge economic venture by your country, what can the Cameroonian business community benefit from TINAPA?

That is why I have been passionate to have the representation from the Cross River State come for the Douala Trade meeting. The TINAPA project is a duty-free zone whereby people go in to buy goods or invest in the manufacture of goods that are not subjected to the taxes of the country. We want to do it in the spirit of Dubai. This will save the cost of people in the sub-region travelling long distances. What you will get in TINAPA is what you will get in any other duty free zone. It will be a major achievement for nearby entrepreneurs to go physically and inspect what they want to buy and make their decisions. It is also an opportunity to partner with Nigerians within the duty-free zone.

Recently, the government of Cameroon cautioned the Diplomatic corps against criticising ELECAM, what is your government’s take on that?

What has been carried in the media is not a true representation of what actually happened during the meeting Diplomats accredited in Cameroon had with Cameroon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. We are friendly countries; we are in Cameroon to help where necessary and develop the potentials of Cameroon.

For us, coming from neighbouring countries, we have a duty to constantly maintain contacts with our Cameroonian brothers, to highlight where we think there is need to redress and to advise what we feel should be done. In our relationship with the government of Cameroon, discussions can never be through the media. If the Nigerian government feels anything about Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, the proper channel will be to communicate with the government of Cameroon and not to the media. It will be in the wisdom of each of the parties to want to discuss the fruits of such discussions to the public.

How do you see the Cameroon/Nigeria relations in five or ten years?

I must say I admire the enthusiasm of the leadership of both countries in fostering cooperation and peace. With all these efforts deployed by the two governments, it means that in five or ten years, our two countries will form the bridge between the West African Sub-region and the Central African Sub-region. Once you have free flow of trade and citizens, the interaction builds very fast. Hence, there will be communality between the Central and West African regions. That will impact positively on the rest of Africa. From West Africa, one can easily find expansion towards North Africa. From the Central African Sub-region, one will find expansion towards East Africa, then, towards Southern Africa. Therefore, in no distance future, what we are doing between Cameroon and Nigeria today, will be the impetus that will create the much needed African unity in terms of culture, trade and free interaction of people.

Interviewed by Walter Wilson Nana & Ernest Sumelong

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