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LAWAL BAPPAH: Why Cameroon shares historical ties with Nigeria

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Consul General of Nigeria to the North-west and South-west Regions of Cameroon, Lawal Bappah is an accomplished diplomat who has, in the course of his career, served in different countries such as Kuwait, Ghana, Morocco and China before his current appointment. He assumed duty as Consul-General in Buea on 3rd October, 2021. In this interview, he reviews his career and his experience in Cameroon. Excerpts

Since your arrival in Cameroon, what surprises have you encountered among Nigerians and the host country?

I have not encountered any surprise since my arrival into the country on 30th September, 2021. I was well received by officials of the Protocol Department of the Ministry of External Relations and have successfully interacted with host authorities and members of Nigerian Communities in both the North-West and South-West Regions of Cameroon.

Cameroon is a bilingual country with English and French as its official languages and you are in charge of English-speaking compatriots. How do you intend to interact with your French speaking audiences?

Yes, since Cameroon is officially bilingual, there is no barrier and I should be free to express myself in any of the two official languages (English or French). I have been interacting comfortably with people in my area of jurisdiction, the English-Speaking Regions of Cameroon. That notwithstanding, I have previously served in a Francophone country, Morocco, where French was the language for diplomatic communication, and I have since then been making efforts to improve my understanding of the language. So, there is no problem at all about that.

As an experienced Nigerian Diplomat, who has travelled around the world, how do you think Nigeria can tackle the insecurity challenges within our borders?

Nigeria will continue to work towards boosting security cooperation with all its neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger Republic and Benin Republic. The Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) should be fully equipped to check proliferation of small arms and light weapons across our common borders. Special attention should also be focused on the cross-border insecurities by separatists between Cameroon and Nigeria. I have served in various countries of the globe and I am aware that all countries have their different challenges. The security challenge is everywhere in the world today.

The Nigerian government is not sparing any efforts in ensuring the security of the country and more will still continue to get done. On 16th November, 2021, Manga village in Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State, Nigeria, was attacked by suspected Ambazonia fighters, that are yet to be identified. President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to hand over a more secure and prosperous country by 2023. The Nigeria-Cameroon Mixed Commission needs to consider appropriate measures to be taken by the two countries to tighten border security and prevent cross-border incursions. I feel Nigeria and Cameroon should continue to strengthen cooperation to resolve common security challenges; especially along their common borders in the North-West and South-West Regions.

There have been insecurity issues also in your area of jurisdiction, the North-West and South-West Regions of Cameroon that have affected fellow Nigerians. What do you have to say about this sir?

I have been holding a series of meetings with Nigerian communities where I continue to enjoin them to continue to be law abiding and to obey local laws. As I said, the issue of insecurity is everywhere; home and abroad. I wish to urge fellow Nigerian compatriots in the North-West and South-West Regions of Cameroon to be extra-ordinarily vigilant and security conscious; not to be victims of any evil.

We now live in volatile societies and there is need for everyone to be security conscious; especially with the recent heightened twist in the Anglophone crisis which we are praying and trusting God, will become a thing of the past in no distant future.

Nigerians living in Cameroon have boosted the economy with their various businesses whilst several companies also keep coming from Nigeria to establish in this country. What is your reaction about this and how do you appreciate business climate in Cameroon?

Nigerians are highly enterprising and are everywhere in the world. However, their increased presence in Cameroon is traceable to a good number of factors, which include the natural and geographical location of the two countries closely together. Cameroon shares a lot of historical, geographical, cultural, social and religious ties with Nigeria.

In addition, Nigeria and Cameroon are two neighbouring countries with long standing very cordial bilateral relations. Before the sudden outbreak of the novel COVID-19 and the ongoing twist in the spiraling Anglophone crisis, economic cooperation between Nigeria and Cameroon had been robust.

The geographical location of Cameroon has placed it as a strategic economic partner of Nigeria. The Nigeria-Cameroon economic relations had improved over the years; especially in the area of trade and investment. There had also been an increase in the presence of Nigerian investors in Cameroon, such as Dangote Group, United Bank for Africa, Ecobank and Air Peace Airline that have established presence in Cameroon.

There is also a huge and vibrant number of Small and Medium Enterprises owned by Nigerians living in Cameroon; most of who conduct their businesses at informal levels. There are many Nigerian goods like electronics, motor spare parts, cosmetics, building materials, fuel etc; that enter Cameroon on daily basis.

There are also many Cameroonian products; especially foodstuffs like garri, eru, palm oil, spices, bananas, cocoyam etc that enter Nigeria via Idenau beach on daily basis. Regrettably however, official report between 2015 and 2019 shows that the value of trade exchanges between Nigeria and Cameroon dropped by 81% from XAF 15.6 billion to 2.9 billion.

The reason for those significant drops is that the over 1500-km long border western Cameroon shares with Nigeria is close to the Northwest and Southwest regions affected by the Anglophone crisis as well as far-North plagued by the war against Boko Haram. I hope there will be improvement when peace reigns and the closed borders are opened to facilitate cross border trading activities.

Having up to five million Nigerians in Cameroon means the country really has something special to offer. How do you assess the hospitality of Cameroon?

Yes, you made an assertion in your preceding statement, that Cameroon has something special to offer. I agree with that because it is an indirect allusion to what I said earlier, that Nigeria and Cameroon have a lot of things in common and to benefit from each other, culturally, socially and especially economically.

Regarding hospitality, I can say without mincing words that Cameroonians are wonderful people. They are friendly and highly hospitable. This had been much proved to me again and again in the course of my courtesy visits to host authorities in Buea.

Members of Nigerian Community in South-West and North-West Regions of Cameroon have also confirmed that they live in peace and harmony with their Cameroonian counterparts. They carry out their trading, farming and fishing businesses without let or hindrance from relevant authorities. Even though there are some complaints of harassment and extortion of Nigerians in some cases, on a general note, Nigerians feel free as they carry out their economic and social activities in Cameroon.

When I paid a courtesy call to the Chief of Great Soppo, Buea, he invited Nigerians living in that community and they came and presented some cultural displays. On the occasion, HRM Etina Monono conferred on me the royal title of “EYOLE” which was translated to mean “Peace Maker”.  It is a little wonder that Buea, in Southwest region of Cameroon is called “home of legendary hospitality”.

What should Nigeria in areas of your command be expecting from Your Excellency as regards their welfare and well-being?

Nigerians in the South-West and North-West Regions of the Republic of Cameroon, will continue to receive good consular services from the Consulate General of Nigeria, Buea. The Consulate offers consular services to Nigerians and foreign nationals, including Cameroonians in innumerable ways.

The Nigeria High Commissioner, H.E. Gabriel Olonisakin, has been moving round Cameroon to ensure stability among Nigerians. What are you also doing to assist his efforts as Consul General?

The High Commissioner, H.E. Ambassador Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, as Nigerian Principal Envoy to the Republic of Cameroon is responsible for the promotion of bilateral relations between Cameroon and Nigeria. As the Consul-General of Nigeria to the North West and South West Regions, I am complementing the efforts of the High Commissioner in promoting and protecting the welfare of Nigerians within my Consular jurisdiction.

Other than the Nigerian National Day on 1st October that brings Nigerians together, could you in your capacity initiate other events that will bring Nigerians together to showcase their culture, food, dances, talents etc.

The Consulate General of Nigeria, Buea will actively participate in the International Women’s Day on 8th March, 2022 in which my spouse will lead Nigerian women in Buea during the ceremonies and host them to a reception at the Residence. In addition, this Consulate organises other occasions during Christmas, Esther and when we have Muslim feasts.

The Consulate also pays courtesy visits to host authorities, the different Nigerian communities and also to inaugurate newly constituted executive bureaus of Nigerian Unions as well as to inaugurate a union Secretariat or launch union almanac or uniforms. During such occasions, Nigerians do come out in their numbers, to showcase their culture, dances, traditional dishes, talents and lots more.

At the AFCON 2021 hosted by Cameroon, Nigeria clinched 9 points in their group stage but unfortunately, got knocked out by Tunisia in round 16. How did you feel and what lessons should Nigeria learn from it and also, how would you rate the hosting by Cameroon and its people?

I felt bad; just as millions of Nigerians back home; here in Cameroon and the teeming other supporters of the Nigerian Super Eagles felt heavily disappointed.

 I was in Garoua with the High Commissioner to cheer and support the Super Eagles for the march. Before the match, there were very high hopes, that Nigeria, the only team with 9 full points (which was 100%), would defeat Tunisia with 3 points. But what happened? Surprises sprang and all hopes were dashed to the ground. Regarding lessons to learn:

In every endeavour in life, we should not behave as if we have arrived when we have not even started a journey. The Super Eagles apparently under-rated/ under-estimated the Tunisian players; displayed some measure of over-confidence, and, sadly, we lost the match! Our national team should desist from playing “entertainment game”; dribbling and dribbling, even inside box 18; as if dribbling counts for goals.

Our players should master the art of firing hot shots from every distance and angle, catching the opponent’s goal keeper unawares, if possible, but not dribbling and dribbling without scoring a goal. A lot of work also needs to be done on our strikers.

As regards rating the hosting of AFCON by Cameroon, the Cameroonian Government of President Paul Biya had done excellently well; given all it demanded and had successfully hosted the 2021 AFCON! Cameroonians had also done wonderfully well, by being highly accommodating, hospitable to strangers in the land and giving every support to the government.

What advice can you give to Naija Diaspora Magazine?

To continue with their good job of informing, educating and enlightening people, and to continue promoting and projecting the laudable activities of Nigerian Diplomatic Missions in Cameroon as well as Nigerians doing great things in Cameroon.

What message do you have for Nigerians in your jurisdiction and Cameroon at large?

I wish to use this medium to commend Nigerians living in the Southwest and Northwest Regions for the good report received about them from host authorities visited, that they are conducting themselves well, and as well to urge them to continue going about their businesses and other social activities peacefully. They should continue to abide by the laws of the land; avoid taking side in the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West Regions. They are to be vigilant and security conscious; not to fall victim of any evil. They are to be patriotic; nationalistic in their minds; attitude and always project a dignified image of Nigeria, in their endeavours and everywhere they find themselves.

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Gallery: Diaspora Excellence Award 2023

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At the occasion organized in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Naija Diaspora Magazine, several individuals, companies, governors, traditional rulers, business owners, government agencies and parastatals as well as politicians were honored for their outstanding performances in 2023. The publication celebrated its
10th anniversary with a two-day event that included the Symposium and Annual Diaspora Excellence Award. This platform provided a unique opportunity for collective learning, networking, and gaining insights into government policies that relate to communities. Attendees were empowered to navigate pathways of positive change. The Symposium lecture was titled: ‘Building a Nation’, with several dignitaries as speakers.

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Inaugural Anambra State Union Football Tournament Triumphs Amidst Adversity

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On the 6th of August 2023, a monumental event took place at St Michel, Terminus, Douala, marking the commencement of the First Edition of the Anambra State Union Football Tournament. Under the stewardship of Sir Emeka Uzoka, Chairman of the Anambra State Union, this tournament emerged as a testament to unity, sportsmanship, and the indomitable spirit of the Anambra community.

The opening ceremony set the stage for what would become an unforgettable showcase of camaraderie and competitive fervor. A true celebration of tradition and athleticism, the tournament kicked off with a Veteran Match at 2:00 pm. The clash between Aguata Local Government Union and Nnewi Local Government Union resulted in a gripping encounter, with Aguata securing victory with a 2-0 score line.

Distinguished figures graced the event with their presence, adding prestige to the occasion. Among them was Mr. Oliva Ochi, Consul 1 at the Consulate General Douala, representing the esteemed Consul General, H.E. Amb. (Mrs.) Efe A. Clark-Omeru.

The honorable gathering was further enriched by the participation of key personalities, including: Hon. BIC Okwujiaku, President of the Nigerian Community Douala, HRH Eze Jonathan T. Onyenagubor, Eze Gburugburu 1 of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Cameroon, Sir, Lovinus Ezeh, Vice President, Nigerian Community Douala, Chief Alex Nwoye, Vice President 2, Nigerian Community Douala, Chief Uche Obiekwe, Patron of the Nigerian Community Douala, Chief Innocent Obiorah Odoh, Patron Anambra State Union, Chairmen of Imo and Enugu States Union, Esteemed members of the Anambra State Union.

The event also extended its reach to include esteemed guests from Douala and beyond.
In recognition of the paramount importance of safety and well-being, the organizers ensured the presence of dedicated medical health and security personnel, assuring attendees a secure environment throughout the event.

Despite the inclement weather characterized by heavy rain, the unyielding spirit of the Anambra community remained unshaken. A testament to their passion for football and unity, a remarkable number of attendees braved the elements, converging to witness the unfolding of history on the lush fields of St Michel, Terminus.

The final was held on Sunday 12th of November 2023 @ Bonamousadi Stadium Douala. Oyi Local Government lifted the trophy while Aguta Local Government took the bronze and Idemili Local Government took silver.

The inaugural Anambra State Union Football Tournament stands as an embodiment of shared values, intercommunity collaboration, and the timeless appeal of sport. This event not only etched a significant mark on the sporting calendar but also served as a reminder of the resilience and unity that define the Anambra community.

As the tournament concluded its first chapter, it left in its wake a legacy of camaraderie, sporting excellence, and the promise of more remarkable editions to come.

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CAMEROON: Miniature Africa

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Cameroon, nestled in the heart of Central Africa, is a country with a captivating blend of rich cultural diversity, stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife. Often referred to as « Miniature Africa, » Cameroon offers travelers a unique and multifaceted experience, showcasing the continent’s essence in a single destination.

With more than 250 ethnic groups and languages, Cameroon is a melting pot of diverse cultures, traditions and customs. The capital city, Yaoundé, and the economic hub, Douala, provide excellent starting points to dive into Cameroon’s cultural wealth.

Cameroon’s diverse geography offers a plethora of breathtaking landscapes, each with its unique charm.
In the West, the mist-covered peaks of Mount Cameroon, the highest mountain in West Africa, beckon adventurous hikers to climb and witness awe-inspiring views of the surrounding scenery.
Towards the North, the Sahelian region boasts vast savannas and semi-arid landscapes, offering visitors an opportunity to spot magnificent wildlife, and in the East, the dense rainforests of the Congo Basin teem with a rich variety of flora and fauna, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and exotic bird species.

Tourism Spots on a Budget
Here are a selection of the most distinguished and captivating tourist destinations in Cameroon. These remarkable locales boast accessibility without undue strain on one’s financial resources, making them irresistible choices for tourists.

Mefou National Park:
Mefou National Park houses the Mefou Primate Sanctuary, a rescue center managed by Ape Action Africa. With over 300 rare and endangered primates, it’s a significant conservation project in Africa, providing lifelong care and rehabilitation for animals rescued from illegal trades.

Limbe:
Formerly known as Victoria, Limbe is a port city with a diverse flora and fauna influenced by its colonial past. The Limbe Wildlife Centre/Botanical Centre offers a close-to-nature experience, rescuing and caring for ill-treated and endangered animals.

Mount Cameroon:
Mount Cameroon, also called the « Chariot of the Gods, » is West Africa’s highest mountain and an active volcano. A popular destination for adventurers and hikers, the trek offers stunning views, diverse landscapes and encounters with wildlife like monkeys and birds.

Kribi Beach:
Kribi Beach, in the southwestern region, boasts long white sand beaches and clear waters. It’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing and water sports. Visitors can also enjoy the Chutes de la Lobé waterfall, where they can swim under the falls. Local cuisine and seafood delicacies await at various restaurants.

Korup National Park:
Korup National Park, renowned for its bird species, offers pristine tropical wilderness. Visitors can enjoy lodging infrastructure and spot unique primates like the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and Perseus’s red colobus. Located near the ocean, Mundemba serves as a starting point for tours to the park, where guides often speak the local Cameroonian language.

Cameroon stands tall as a remarkable destination for audacious travelers seeking a blend of cultural diversity, awe-inspiring landscapes and thrilling adventures. From the depths of the rainforests to the heights of its mountains, and from the bustling cities to the serene beaches, the land beckons with open arms, ready to share its enchanting beauty and warm hospitality with all who venture to explore its wonders. As tourism in Cameroon continues to grow sustainably, the country’s potential as a captivating and memorable destination will undoubtedly flourish.

 

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