Benin responds to Niger’s intransigence by blocking its oil

Benin responds to Niger’s intransigence by blocking its oil
Benin responds to Niger’s intransigence by blocking its oil

An oil pipeline

Benin decided this Monday to block the export of Nigerien oil from the terminal station of the Niger-Benin oil pipeline at Sèmè-Podji. This decision is taken in retaliation for the intransigence of the Nigerien junta which persists in keeping its land borders closed with Benin.

Nigerien oil will not be exported by Benin as long as Niger keeps its land borders closed with its neighbor. This decision taken this Monday, May 6, 2024, by the Beninese party, was notified to the Chinese ambassador to Benin as well as to the pipeline management company, reported RFI. Specifically, the vessels responsible for loading the oil will not be able to access Beninese waters.

The shepherd’s response to the shepherdess

Relations between Benin and Niger have taken a hit since the coup d’état of July 26, 2023 following which ECOWAS took sanctions against Niger. Under its sanctions, there was the closure of borders by Niger’s neighboring countries, and beyond that, the threat of military intervention strongly supported at the time by Benin. But, since December 2023, the Beninese President, Patrice Talon, has reaffirmed, on several occasions, his desire for a return to normal with neighboring Niger until the lifting of sanctions by ECOWAS in February 2024. Benin had then been one of the first countries to reopen its borders with Niger, even before Nigeria which will not do so until March 14.

However, the CNSP remained unmoved by the conciliatory steps of its Beninese neighbor, while it hastened to lift the barriers just a week after the reopening of the borders by Nigeria. A manifest, but unacknowledged, desire of the junta to suffocate Benin whose economic heart, the autonomous Port of Cotonou, depends on Niger which is its main foreign client. In doing so, the junta pretends to be unaware that it is also punishing Nigerien economic operators forced to transit their goods through Togo. This generates additional costs that do not exist on the more direct and shorter Beninese route.

Not only does the junta punish economic operators, but it is the Nigerien population who ultimately pays the price for this decision. Since she is the consumer of goods imported by economic operators who are also obliged to pass on the additional costs to the selling prices of foodstuffs to the population. This, in a context already marked by high inflation resulting from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and especially the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Nigerien authorities faced with the inconsistency of their position

The reason given by the Nigerien authorities to justify their intransigence towards Benin would be linked to the presence of French soldiers on Beninese soil. A reason which, curiously, is not valid when it comes to oil. Borders being closed for goods and people while remaining open for oil. And the presence of French soldiers on Beninese soil poses no problem in this case. There is an inconsistency in the position of the Nigerien authorities who should rather make a choice and comply with it. Either they decide to maintain their hand with Benin, and stick to that throughout, or they put the ball back on the ground.

This is what the Beninese side has been inviting them to do since December 2023. Faced with Benin’s new demands, Niger has very little room for maneuver. The sums invested in the construction of the largest oil pipeline in Africa are colossal. It would have cost between 2 and 3 billion dollars and should generate enormous economic benefits for Niger as well as for Benin. Without doubt, China, which is a major player in the project, will exert all its weight to ensure that an agreement is found between the two brotherly countries.

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