Members of the steering committee of the proposed permanent Nigeria-Benin Republic Joint Commission have emphasised the need to boost economic activities along the borders between Nigeria and Benin Republic.
The team, led by a former Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic, Ambassador Kayode Oguntuase, made the call during a courtesy visit to Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, in Ibadan, on Tuesday.
Oguntuase, who is the chairman of the steering committee, spoke on behalf of the group.
He said the geo-strategic importance of Nigeria and Benin Republic to their existential realities cannot be over-emphasised, considering the proximity of the two countries as well as the existing political, economic and socio-cultural ties between them.
Oguntuase said the focus of the visit is to strengthen, deepen and integrate the existing socio-cultural and economic ties between Nigeria and Benin Republic through the establishment of a permanent joint commission of cooperation between the two countries.
“Given the closeness and proximity of Nigeria and Benin, there is a huge
volume of trade between the two countries which are largely informal and unrecorded. Indeed, the common borders and ethno-cultural affinities existing between the two countries have boosted and enhance trans-border trade and other socio-cultural engagements among the people of bothcountries.Consequently, the people of Nigeria and Benin Republic are desirous to enhance and deepen the ties of fraternity and friendship as well as support all levels of cooperation between the two countries. To this end, an initiative to establish the permanent joint Nigeria and Benin Republic Commission has been launched in Badagry on 13th August, 2021.
“The joint commission will be charged with the responsibility of formulatingthe required basis to strengthen the relations between Nigeria and BeninRepublic, particularly in the field of, trade, economy, investment, energy, culture, human resources, skills science & technology, information technology, innovation, education, security and defence. The joint commission will also review agreements concluded in the past between the two countries and equally find suitable solutions for any issue in their implementation.
“The joint commission is expected to leverage and transform the existingrelations between the two countries into the level of strategic partnership whichwill manifest itself in building robust and sustainable people to people andbusiness to business relations among the people of Nigeria and Benin Republic. The Commission will also strive towards enhancing the two countries and advance their share priorities which among others include promoting socio-economicintegration of the two countries; encourage and increase formal and legitimate trade and investments between the countries; develop a solid economic cooperation between Nigeria and Benin Republic through the Co-Prosperity, Alliance Zone (COPAZ), strengthen the fight against trans-border crimes and terrorism and promote the economic prosperity and security of the prosperousLagos-Abidjan corridor.
“It is pertinent to stress that Nigeria and Benin Republic are destined to staytogether, plan together, work together, and succeed together. Consequently, the two countries should have a better understanding of each other and alsocooperate as well as collaborate towards sustaining the strategic partnership between them,” the former ambassador said.
Speaking, the President, West African Association of Cross-Border Trade in Agro-Forestry-Pastoral, Fisheries Products and Food(WACTAF), Alh. Nassiru Salami, said the setting up of the Nigeria- Benin Republic Joint Commission is long overdue, adding that it will change the narrative along the borders of both countries.
He said: “Today, we are having challenges of trading between Nigeria and Benin Republic, where the government of Benin Republic is imposing duty on goods in transit passing through theirterritory because of volume put in place by our country. Both Nigeria and Benin Republic are losing because of the current situation of things; we have to reroute some export through Niger Republic which is longerthan going through Benin Republic. The goods that are going to Togo andGhana have to pay customs duty in Benin Republic. How are we going to be competitive? Andwe are talking of African free trade zone.
“The Lagos corridor is number one corridor that links coastal regions of West Africa; this corridor represents 70 per cent of trade volume in West Africa. The Lagos and Seme corridor have two advantages- you can link it by road and by sea.”
Salami said he believes that the Nigeria- Benin Republic Joint Commission will promote trade, culture, generate revenue for Nigeria and make the six South West states the trading hub between West and Central Africa.
In his remarks, the Director, Nigerian Shippers Council (South West Zone), Mr Glory Onojedo, said th council will regulate all economic activities in all the Nigerian ports and support with transportation infrastructures in order to have a seemless cross-border trade between Nigeria and Benin Republic.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Director-General, DAWN Commission, Mr Seye Oyeleye, said all the six South West states will be sensitised on the economic potentials for the region.
“There is power in speaking with one voice and it is in our own interest to prepare economically. All the six South West states will be sensitised as soon as possible, especially Lagos, Oyo and Ogun States.”The potentials for this commission is great if well and properly articulated,” Oyeleye said.
In his own submission, Prince Adetayo Adeleke-Adedoyin, Head of Special Duties and Funding, DAWN Commission, said it is only by strengthening ties with Benin Republic that Nigeria as a country and the South West region can benefit maximally.