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Benin court remands three Niger nationals over illegal entry

No fewer than three Niger Republic nationals have been remanded by a Benin Rep Court for allegedly gaining entrance into country without obtaining required documents.

The three suspects include the deputy general director of the oil company Wapco-Niger, were among the five Niger Republic nationals apprehended at Benin’s port of Seme-Kpodji, which exports Niger’s oil, is a flashpoint, accused of entering the port illegally.

They were remanded amid an ongoing diplomatic row between both countries following the coup that ousted Nigerien President Mohammed Bazoum.

A judicial source, Friday, disclosed that other two suspects apprehended at the port by the Benin Republic authorities have been released.

He added that the three nationals, after appearing before a judge, were sent to prison pending the commencement of their trial on Monday June 17.

Under regional sanctions imposed on Niger after the coup, Benin closed the border, but has since reopened it. Niger’s military rulers have refused to reopen their side.

Benin also announced on national television last week that it was lifting a “blockade” on Nigerien oil.

Beninese President Patrice Talon had long conditioned the start of loading of Nigerien oil on the reopening of the border.

The efforts of Chinese company Wapco, which manages the pipeline, have never been successful.

Beninese authorities say at least two of the five arrested on June 5 were not employees of Wapco-Niger but “Nigerian agents”, who entered the site with fake badges.

According to the authorities, the team was on a mission to Benin to oversee the loading of oil.

The military regime in Niger described the arrests as a “kidnapping” and said it was ready to “take all measures” to have them released “unconditionally”.

The day after their arrest, the military regime in Niamey closed the valves of the oil pipeline, Nigerien public television announced Thursday.

Niger’s military rulers accuse Benin of harbouring “French bases” in its north to “train terrorists” to destabilise Niamey, accusations which both France and Benin have dismissed.

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