Benin: Arrest Of Five Nigerien Spies Escalates Oil Export Row


The Republic of Benin has accused its neighbour, Niger, of sending secret agents to spy its Seme port where a Chinese-built pipeline was supposed to begin exporting Nigerien gas, before it was blocked by Beninese authorities last month.

A report by, suggested that the arrest of five Nigerien nationals marked a new escalatory move in the standoff between the two ECOWAS neighbours.

Benin said the arrested individuals were agents of the military junta in Niger who were on a spying mission, while Niger denied a kidnapping attempt of its oil specialists who were inspecting the pipeline at the port.

Benin had conditioned any resumption of Niger’s oil exports through its ports by the reopening of land borders, which Niger closed in retaliation for ECOWAS sanctions following the military coup in the oil and uranium-rich country.

China said it would intercede to ease tensions between the two neighbours. However, no inroads have been made.

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) invested $4.6 billion in Niger’s petroleum industry, and its subsidiary PetroChina owns two-thirds of the country’s Agadem oilfield.

Niger has obtained a $400 million loan from China that it plans to pay by shipping oil.

The loan is seen as one of the first steps to wean financial dependence on the West, with whom the military rulers are increasingly at odds going as far as breaking military cooperation partnerships.

The pipeline would help Niger increase production to 100,000 barrels, offering the landlocked country an export route.