Tensions between Niger and Benin have escalated further over a decision by Cotonou to prevent its landlocked neighbour from using its port to export its first crude oil, as a border dispute between the two rages on.
Niger’s Prime Minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, said on Saturday that Benin’s blockade of its oil exports violated trade agreements between the two countries and with Niamey’s Chinese partners.
In a comment that further escalated the dispute, Zeine said Niger could not fully reopen its border with Benin for security reasons.
Zeine said the blockade was in violation of about a dozen accords signed by Benin, Niger and the Chinese side relating to a recently launched, PetroChina-backed pipeline linking Niger’s Agadem oil field to the Benin port of Cotonou.
Zeine said one of the oil export accords stipulated that Benin could not unilaterally modify or limit the agreements in any way possible without the consent of the other parties.
In response, Cotonou said it would only back down once Niamey reopened its border to goods coming from Benin and normalized relations.
The blockade jeopardizes Niger’s plan to start exporting crude oil to China under a $400 million deal.
A 2,000-kilometre-long Chinese-built pipeline links Niger’s Agadem oil field to Benin’s port in the capital.
Relations have been strained between Niamey and Cotonou since a military coup in Niger last year.
It led Benin and the West African regional bloc (ECOWAS) to impose strict sanctions on Niger, including border closures, in a bid to force the military to hand power back to the elected government.
These were eased in February, but Niger has refused to reopen its land border to goods coming from Benin.
Two weeks after the first drops of Nigerien oil gushed out at Sémè Kraké in Benin, Beninese president Patrice Talon says Niger will not use its port to export the oil. Talon claims his country exports large quantities of staples to Niger but because of the closed border on the Nigerien side, informal vendors profit when Beninese have to suffer a price increase. Talon accused the Nigerien authorities of rejecting formal cooperation.
Niger is battling a decade-old insurgency led by armed groups linked to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, which are seeking to expand their reach into coastal countries from the central Sahel region, which includes Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Recommended for you