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Benin/Nigeria: Trouble continues at the border

By The Africa Report
Posted on Thursday, 14 January 2021 15:40

Aurélien Agbénonci has been the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation since 6 April 2016. EC_AHOUNOU/AID

Aurélien Agbénonci, Benin's foreign affairs minister, complained to his Nigerian counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, that goods are still being blocked at the border of the two countries, despite Abuja announcing its reopening almost a month ago.

So far, no official complaint has been made. However, according to our information, Agbénonci used the opportunity of President Nana Akufo-Addo’s swearing in ceremony on 7 January in Accra to question his Nigerian counterpart Onyeama.

The foreign affairs minister – accompanied by trade minister Shadiya Alimatou Assouman – represented Benin’s President Patrice Talon. Although his attendance was officially announced, he was unable to attend the event as he was still engaged in the second phase of his extensive “accountability” tour.

A promise

Agbénonci asked Onyeama for clarification on the exact conditions and effective date of when trade would resume over their shared border. Onyeama assured him that the Nigerian authorities were indeed planning a full reopening – except for specific goods like Asian rice. The Nigerian official promised Benin that he would refer the matter to the relevant authorities in Abuja so that this measure could be implemented as soon as possible.

READ MORE Nigeria-Benin border closure: bully boy tactics to crush a weaker rival

Although the Nigerian authorities have announced the reopening of the borders with the country’s four neighbours (Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon), in reality, only pedestrians and light-duty vehicles can – legally – cross the border between Benin and Nigeria.

The announcement of the closure, in August 2019, had been very badly received by the Beninese authorities, who had not been consulted beforehand. Once again, the reopening was decreed without prior consultation, according to Talon’s government.

A tripartite meeting had been scheduled on this subject on 25 November between the Nigerian, Nigerien and Beninese authorities, on the sidelines of the 47th conference of the Council of Foreign Ministers organised by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Niamey.

This meeting, which was supposed to monitor the progress of the reopening of its borders, based on the prerequisites put in place by Abuja, did not take place.

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