Nigerian High Commissioner to Cameroon, HE Hadiza Mustapha joined the diplomatic corps of her country in 1982 and was first posted to the UK. She has held various posts abroad including South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United States.
An astute diplomat, she was posted to Cameroon and watched as the disputed Oil rich Bakassi peninsular was handed over to Cameroon last august 2013 following years of conflict and fighting between both countries. She recently ended a tour to meet her compatriots in South Western Cameroon where the peninsular is situated. She spoke to Walter Wilson Nana after her visit.
After the UN transitional period, Bakassi is now Cameroonian. As a diplomat, what is your take on that?
After the supervised handing over, I think that little credit is given to this important achievement. It is a milestone. At least if not all over the world, in Africa we should see this peaceful resolution of conflict, especially conflicts that involve ceding of land. We should make this a case study for our people and the universities should train on it. I remember Cameroon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Mukoko Mbonjo saying something in that light during the ceremony we had in the Ministry on August 14 2013 to celebrate the handing over. He also saw it as a milestone. We also think that our leaders should win some prizes and Nobel Prize for peace. It is a great thing, a lesson to Africa and the world. As a diplomat, I am proud that my country has being involved and is involved in a peaceful resolution of a conflict. In other countries, such conflicts have developed into serious crises. I am happy for both countries. As a diplomat, it has made my work easy. With peace, it has opened other avenues and potentials for other things to happen. With this newfound peace, we should not let it waste. We should explore and see what we can do to move our two countries forward. In economics, we have good indices to do more. The High Commission in Yaoundé and my colleague in the Ministry in Abuja are working on promoting business between Cameroon and Nigeria. I am also working on actualising some of the agreements between the two countries in the spirit of the Cameroon – Nigeria Joint Commissions, which is an umbrella framework for all the different agreements to happen. One of the key agreements already is on electricity connectivity. The other is on infrastructure development. For trade and businesses to improve, we need to increase the linkages of our two countries. There are a few Nigerian airlines already operating in Cameroon and Camair-Co has started a route to Nigeria. We should improve on all these. The future is really great for the relationship. As a diplomat, I am privileged to be in Cameroon at this time to contribute my own quota to the improvement of relations between Cameroon and Nigeria.
What have you been telling the Nigerian community during your visit?
I told them the embassy is open for them, we are here for them. I also explained some of the services we have. We in the embassy are there to listen to Nigerians in Cameroon; the challenges and problems they may have. As you have been touring with us, you have gathered some of those challenges and the most important to them is the issue of resident permits. I have told them it is not a new problem, it is well known by both the Cameroonian and Nigerian sides. It is my responsibility to see what is possible. I have told them the resident permit is a Cameroonian law and it is not only targeted to Nigerians. That is very important to know. We have to sensitize them about their stay here, encourage them to be law abiding, appreciate the hospitality from Cameroon and reciprocate accordingly. I am happy to have done these visits; it has opened my eyes to a lot of things. Let me extend my gratitude to the Cameroonian authorities for facilitating my Southwest Regional tour, especially the Rapid Intervention Unit, BIR, they were professional in their attitude and made it possible for me to meet Nigerians in some of the difficult terrains in the Southwest Region. I have seen the conditions of some Nigerians in the Region. It is noted and action will follow. Some of the cases touched my heart and help will be sought.
How should a Nigerian carry his or herself in Cameroon?
Nigerians should feel at home in Cameroon. They are in a brotherly and friendly country. We have a long history. Some parts of Cameroon were in Nigeria before, we all know that. Nigerians in Cameroon should not forget where they come from. It does not matter how many years you lived in Cameroon, they should teach their children their own culture since they are exposed to two different cultures, the best practices from both cultures – Nigerian and Cameroonian. And Nigerians in Cameroon should promote the interest of both countries. We expect that from them. So far, I am proud of the Nigerians living in Cameroon. In their own little way, they are contributing to the economic development of Cameroon via trade and businesses. I am delighted with the case of fishing in Bekumu, where a lot of money is generated in that sector. Nigerians should also invest in the development of Cameroon as they will do back home.