Former Dahomey, now The Benin Republic, recently marked her 58th year’s journey of nationhood. The country’s embassy to Nigeria hosted dignitaries and members of diplomatic community at its ‘new’ embassy edifice at the Diplomatic Drive, Abuja.
The Republic of Benin:s Ambassador to Nigeria, Mrs Paulette Adjovi Yekpe took time to dissect the Nigeria’s diplomatic relation with her country, especially, how the two neighbouring countries have nursed mutually beneficial social and economic relations, since they established diplomatic contact.
In a speech at the occasion, Mrs Yekpe told dignitaries that, it is an open secret that our two countries share quite long and rich natural, cultural and historical ties with over 800 miles of land borders which are being crossed on a daily basis by over 5 million of our people for various reasons.
According to her, this invaluable opportunity, as it is expected, poses a number of socio-economic challenges which our leaders are steadfastly working together to address.
Mrs Yekpe gave kudos to Nigeria for its critical role in her country’s socio-economic development. She described Nigeria as “Africa’s first economy with its vibrant and very enterprising private sector, its influential businessmen, it’s very impressive number of national and foreign investors cannot be over-emphasized.”
She however harped on the need for peace, without which, no sustainable development can be attained.
“The development and prosperity we all crave for, can only be achieved in an environment of peace and security. That is why, I wish to salute the success currently being achieved by the Nigerian Government in the areas of insurgency and armed related crimes.
“I have no doubt that these efforts will bring about a more united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria that is ready to take its leadership role at regional and continental levels.
The envoy urged the Beninese community in Nigeria to continue to support Nigerian government efforts by making judicious use of the boundless opportunities that exist in this country.
“In this context, my staff and I are already working towards organizing very soon, a townhall meetings with you on the ongoing positive strides back home particularly in the area of good governance and the encouraging achievements being recorded in the tourism and infrastructural sectors with a view to making Benin more attractive with the support of our development partners some of whom are here present.”
Mrs Yekpe seized the opportunity to showcase her country’s enormous tourism potentials. She alluded that, Benin Republic is blessed with numerous second to none beaches, conducive weather, rich and dynamic cultural heritages.
“As you can see from the pictures that are being shown on the screen, Benin is ready to showcase its amazing and untapped potentials to the world in the areas of tourism attractions, beautiful beaches, friendly weather, rich cultural heritage, unique animal parks notably the Pendjari and W park ( the richest animal and nature reserve in West Africa), the slave trade relics in Duidah, not to mention “Ganvie”, the biggest lake city in Africa.
“In a bid to transform the tourism industry and make it a sector of attracting direct foreign investments, the Administration of President Patrice Talon has decided to open up Benin to all African countries whose citizens can henceforth travel to Benin without visa requirements.”
Also speaking at the occasion, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Solomon Ita-Enang, thanked the countries of ECOWAS and Central African countries for the choice of President Muhammadu Buhari, as the ECOWAS Chairman, despite the fact that, he did not indicate interest.
“Let me seize this opportunity to thank Benin Republic and all the countries of West Africa and Central African states for the honour done Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari for choosing him as the Chairman of ECOWAS.”
The former chairman of senate committee on Rule and Business frowned at the treatment being meted out to Nigerian traders and businessmen in some West African countries. He urged that, other countries should reciprocate Nigeria’s good gestures.
“The issues of trade and security have to be reciprocal. Other countries in West Africa should reciprocate Nigeria’s good gestures. I make reference to the kind of thing happening to Nigerians in Ghana, where, there is some level of discrimination against the Nigerian traders and businessmen in that country. They should not do that and expect Nigeria, as a country to keep quiet because as country, we owe our citizens respect and protection, wherever they are.”
In retrospect, at the presentation credence letter in Benin Republic, the Nigerian Ambassador to Cotonou, Emmanuel Oguntuwas .affirmed that there have been huge trades between the two countries which are largely unrecorded following the multiplicity of borders covering 800 kilometres across six states in Nigeria of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Niger and Kebbi states.
The Ambassador said as part of moves to deepen the trade relations to make them beneficial to the two countries, the Federal Government in line with ECOWAS trade liberalization approved the procurement of equipment to easily monitor and record the volume of trade between the countries.
The rate of informal trade flows between Nigeria and Benin Republic cannot be overemphasised. Informal cross border trade between these states represent roughly 75% of the intra-regional trade in the West African sub-region. These points to the fact that undocumented trade flows in the sub-region are greater in volume than formal trade. The foundation of this is as a result of ill-defined boundaries, which could not wear down the strong ethnic ties between border communities in Nigeria and Benin republic.