Benin says Niger oil pipeline not impacted by regional sanctions over coup

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Protesters wave Nigerien and Russian flags as they gather during a rally in support of Niger's military government in Niamey on July 30, 2023 [AFP] (AFP)

On Sunday, the regional bloc had imposed severe sanctions on Niger after last week’s overthrow of President Bazoum.

Authorities in Benin said on Thursday that sanctions imposed on neighbouring Niger by West Africa’s regional bloc over last week’s military coup have not affected work on a major oil pipeline linking both countries, but could mean a delay.

On Sunday, heads of state of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States imposed severe sanctions on Niger including border closures and suspension of all financial and commercial ties with the country. The Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) cancelled a planned 30-billion-CFA-franc ($51m) bond issuance by Niger on Monday.

The PetroChina-backed export pipeline project is expected to link Niger’s Agadem oilfield to the Benin port of Cotonou. Total investment in the nearly 2,000km (1,243-mile) pipeline, including a second phase development of the Adadem field, is expected to reach $4bn.

Niger, which currently produces approximately 20,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), hopes to boost its output to about 110,000 bpd, of which about 90,000 bpd will be exported through the pipeline.

“The current political situation has nothing to do with the execution of the project,” Alassane Kora, deputy chief of staff of Benin’s minister of mines and energy told the Reuters news agency.

“This means that at the moment, the work is progressing in Niger and Benin. There may be just a delay in the schedule. Otherwise, under normal circumstances, by October or early November, the first drops, the initial tests, should have been done,” Kora said.

Separately, Benin government spokesperson Wilfried Leandre Houngbedji said in response to a Reuters query that border closures imposed by the West African bloc will not affect construction work on the pipeline.

However, in Benin’s northern border town of Malanville, there are signs the border closure is starting to hit sectors of the economy, Cherif Babio, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office told Reuters.

“On the day following the decision to impose sanctions, trucks that were already in transit passed through. However, the others that arrived afterward are currently blocked at the corridor,” Babio said.

ECOWAS also instituted a no-fly zone over Niger and its neighbour Nigeria, which supplies Niger with 70 percent of its power, cut off electricity supply.

But late on Wednesday, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the self-declared leader of Niger’s military government remained defiant saying he “refuses to give in to any threats, wherever they come from”. The sanctions imposed by ECOWAS were “illegal, unfair, inhuman and unprecedented”, he added.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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