Niger-Benin row heats up as 5 Nigeriens arrested at port

West African neighbors Benin and Niger are locked in a tit-for-tat dispute that has escalated with the arrest of five Nigeriens at a key oil port.

Landlocked Niger relies on Benin’s Seme-Kpodji port to export its crude oil via a pipeline. Following a July coup in Niger, regional sanctions led Benin to close its border, impacting Niger’s oil exports.

Though Benin reopened its border, Niger’s military junta has refused to reciprocate.

On Wednesday, Benin announced the lifting of its “blockade” on Nigerien oil, but tensions flared further with the arrest of five Nigeriens at the port.

Benin accuses them of fraudulently entering the site and claims at least two are “agents” of Niger’s ruling junta.

Niger vehemently denies this, stating the arrested include the “deputy general director of WAPCO” and “four engineers on a supervisory mission.”

Niger accuses Benin of violating agreements on oil transport and preventing Nigerien officials from accessing the loading facilities.

Niger’s Oil Minister claims Benin is acting unilaterally and threatens to halt oil pumping if the five are not released.

The dispute hurts both nations – Benin’s public revenues have suffered due to the border closure, while Niger faces disruptions to its crucial oil exports.

The oil dispute appears to be just one layer of a deeper issue. Niger accuses Benin of harboring French military bases used to train “terrorists” – an accusation both Benin and France deny.

The escalating tensions threaten regional stability and economic well-being. Both countries face internal pressures, with Benin experiencing protests over rising living costs and Niger facing concerns about the military junta’s rule.

A diplomatic solution is needed to address the oil dispute and underlying tensions to prevent further escalation.

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