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Nigeria, Benin to deepen ties ahead of ECOWAS summit

Ahead of the next ordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States scheduled for December 10, 2023, Nigeria and neighbouring Benin Republic have resolved to deepen economic collaboration.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu voiced this commitment on Wednesday when he received his Beninoise counterpart, Patrice Talon, at the State House, Abuja.

“We will support all of our private sector interests to facilitate prosperity in both of our important countries. We are together,” Tinubu told Talon, who was in Abuja to seek Nigeria’s support in improving trade relations.

He said, “Cooperation is imperative for economic prosperity in West Africa, noting that a lack of synergy between Nigeria and the Benin Republic has been an encumbrance to mutual development,” read a statement signed by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale.

The statement is titled ‘President Tinubu receives President Patrice Talon of Benin Republic, says cooperation imperative for economic prosperity in West Africa.’

Tinubu described Nigeria and Benin Republic as conjoined twins held together at the hip, saying both countries share a lot in common.

“We are one. No other nation like ours should be worried. What is affecting us is a lack of synergy. We have not developed the necessary economic synergy that will develop our two nations. We must have common economic principles and priorities.

“The economic programme you are developing through inter-ministerial collaboration is welcomed by me. I appreciate the urgency of your approach, and we welcome this. Leadership is sometimes defined by urgent action.

“Thank you for your quality leadership. We are together. I am not a backward-looking person. I look forward. This is how I avoid missing steps,” the President said.

President Talon described the relationship between his country and Nigeria as crucial.

He said Benin Republic seeks stronger trade ties with Nigeria, emphasising the free movement of people and goods between both countries.

The country has begun implementing a national development plan which includes enhanced integration between Nigeria and Benin Republic, Talon revealed.

He explained: “Our development plan includes taking into account what investments are required in Benin to enhance our integration with Nigeria in trade terms.

“It is true that many agreements have been signed to push our integration forward, but they have not been implemented.

“At the level of ECOWAS, we embrace free movement and integration, and at the African level, AfCFTA envisages this; so, we need to move urgently to make this a reality.”

He said ECOWAS’ investment programme must be revised to reflect all factors of the Nigerian economy.

This would be done by setting up an inter-ministerial technical committee that will jointly prepare a draft document for the legislatures of West African states.

“I am ready to sign an executive order to appoint members of the council to advance mutually beneficial cooperation across sectors,” Talon affirmed.

He told Tinubu that while there have been bilateral difficulties on the issue of smuggling, leaders “will work hard to coordinate and ensure that your interests are protected as we integrate our economies. I want us to make history together.”

Talon is visiting Tinubu at the State House for the second time in nearly six months.

On July 26, 2023, the Béninois leader was in Abuja to discuss emerging issues in the West African sub-region.

He had discussed with Tinubu—who serves as Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority—on efforts to restore a democratic dispensation in Mail, Guinea Bissau and Burkina Faso, which had fallen to Coups d’etat in the last two years. Both leaders also discussed the Niger coup.

In a statement dated November 29, the Presidency of Côte d’Ivoire announced that the “next ordinary summit” of ECOWAS “will take place on December 10 in Abuja”, the Nigerian capital.

This followed a meeting in Abidjan between Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara and the President of the ECOWAS commission, Omar Touray.

Source: Punch