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Niger halts oil pipeline exports to China over Benin spat

Monday, 17 June 2024 | 13:00

Niger has shut off oil exports to China via its pipeline to Benin’s coast, Oil Minister Mahamane Moustapha Barke Bako said on Thursday, deepening a standoff between the West African neighbours.

At the Agadem oilfield in eastern Niger, the minister oversaw the padlocking of a section of the 2,000-km (1,243-mile) pipeline through which exports to China were meant to flow under a memorandum of understanding with state-owned oil giant China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) worth $400 million.

Cross-border relations have been strained since Benin blocked crude exports via its port from landlocked Niger in May and demanded the junta reopen its border to Benin’s goods and normalise relations.

Earlier in June, authorities in Benin detained five Niger nationals for allegedly entering Benin’s Seme-Kpodji pipeline terminal under false pretences – charges Niger has rejected, insisting the group was there to supervise the loading of crude in line with an agreement with Benin.

“We can’t just sit back while our oil is stolen by other people, because we’re not there where it’s loaded,” the minister told workers, explaining the decision to halt flows, according to a broadcast on state television.

The tensions go back to a July 2023 coup in Niger, which led regional bloc ECOWAS to impose strict sanctions for more than six months.

Trade flows in the region were expected to normalise after the bloc lifted sanctions, but Niger has kept its borders closed to goods from Benin.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Boureima Balima, Writing by Alessandra Prentice, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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