Border Closure: Benin must mend its ways with Nigeria – Obasanjo

A former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has urged Nigeria’s west coast neighbour, Benin Republic, to change its ways for a harmonious bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Mr Obasanjo made the remark during a news briefing on Tuesday in Addis Ababa on the margins of Policy Dialogue of African Business Associations on Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreements.

The two-day policy dialogue was co-organized by the African Union (AU), African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Export – Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK).

Other co-organisers are The AfroChampion Initiative and the Coalition of Dialogue Africa (CoDA).

Mr Obasanjo, who is the Chair of the CoDA Board of Directors, explained that Benin’s notoriety was not new, as Nigeria had for long been enduring the practice which undermined its economic well being.

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“It happened when I was President of Nigeria. I called the then Benin President, Nicephore Dieudonne Soglo, to let us meet at any of our border posts over the issue.

“We eventually met at Badagry (in Nigeria), where we agreed that Nigerian Customs would be stationed in Benin.

“They (the Nigerian Customs) are still there. We don’t have issues with goods manufactured in Benin — they are welcome.

“But as long as Benin allow(s) dumping of goods, there will always be problem with Nigeria,” Obasanjo said.

He noted that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was not created to allow one country to turn itself to a dumping ground.

On AfCFTA, Obasanjo said that the execution of the agreements was crucial to its success and sustainability.

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“The intense support AfCFTA has received from various member states is a clear indication of its importance.

“CoDA is highly engaged to seeking success of AfCFTA and other multilateral agreements. CoDA work is informed and guided by the notion that no one has monopoly of ideas,” he said.

He urged for more actions, beyond words, adding that with fragmented 55 markets, Africa would remain a small player in the global marketplace.

In his welcome address, AU Commissioner, Department of Trade and Industry, Albert Muranga, called for a change of attitude on the continent if the goals of AfCFTA was to be attained.

“A new mindset is necessary. One country should not be going west and the other going east. All of us should be going in one direction.

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“For AfCFTA and our dreams of African integration to meet with success, it requires cooperation from all stakeholders,” he said.

Mr Muranga also restated the fears as espoused by members of the organised private sector on the dangers ahead of AfCFTA, assuring that such fears also enjoy the attention of the framers of the AfCFTA initiative.

According to him, such fears include stability, predictability, fairness, corruption and enabling environment.

Other participants included the Co-chair of the Executive Committee, AfroChampion Initiative, Edem Adzogenu, and Chief Economist/Director, Research and International Cooperation, AFREXIMBANK, Hippolyte Fofack.

Also present were the Director-General of the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Ayo Olukanni, and AfDB Country Manager, Ethiopia, Abdul Kamara, among others. (NAN)

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