Niger’s Prime Minister Alleges Benin’s Blockade of Oil Exports Breaches Agreements

Niger’s Prime Minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, asserted on Saturday that Benin’s halt on Niger’s oil exports, prompted by a border closure, violates trade agreements between the two nations and with Niger’s Chinese partners. Zeine, addressing reporters in Niamey, clarified that Niger’s inability to fully reopen its border with Benin is due to security concerns. This escalates the dispute that led Benin to impede the shipment of Niger’s crude oil to its port earlier this week.

This blockade undermines Niger’s aspiration to commence crude exports under a $400 million deal with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPET.UL), crucial as Niger intended to utilize export revenue to cover missed bond payments during regional sanctions.

Zeine highlighted that the blockade contravenes about a dozen agreements signed by Benin, Niger, and their Chinese counterparts, concerning a new pipeline linking Niger’s Agadem oil field to Cotonou port, supported by PetroChina.

Benin maintains it will only relent if Niger reopens its border to Beninese goods and normalizes relations. Zeine emphasized that one oil export agreement stipulates Benin cannot unilaterally modify agreements without all parties’ consent, deeming the blockade a serious breach.

Tensions stem from a 2023 coup in Niger prompting ECOWAS to impose sanctions. The next steps remain unclear. Zeine affirmed Niger won’t fully reopen the border, citing security threats. Niger faces a decade-long insurgency by groups tied to Islamic State and Al Qaeda, seeking to expand into coastal regions from the Sahel.

About Geraldine Boechat 2711 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia