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February 26, 2021

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Benin Republic not aspiring to be Nigeria’s 37th state – Official

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Nigeria has never aspired to make the Republic of Benin or any other country a part of its territory, the spokesman of the nation’s foreign ministry, Ferdinand Nwonye, said Saturday.

Reactions have trailed the statement earlier made by Nigeria’s foreign minister, Godfrey Onyeama, who suggested that Benin wanted to become Nigeria’s 37th state after a meeting of both countries’ presidents and their respective ministerial delegations earlier in the month.

“The president of Benin said as far as they are concerned, they want (not just saying it like that) but in reality, Benin should be the 37th state of Nigeria,” Mr Onyeama told reporters, an audio of which was obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.

“We should really be one. They charged us to come together at ministerial level, to work out a framework for a sustainable relationship,” he added.

But the ministry appears to have walked back Mr Onyeama’s statement by saying the minister was quoted out of context.

“The honourable minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama in the presence of his counterpart from the Republic of Benin granted a press interview after a very fruitful meeting between ministerial delegations from both countries,” the ministry’s statement read.

The statement further said that what the minister meant was that: “… the President of Benin Republic said he would like the relations between the two countries to be so close as if Benin was the 37th State of Nigeria.”

ALSO READ: Nearly 5,000 Nigerians displaced by communal violence arrive Benin Republic – Official

French-speaking Benin flanks Nigeria to the west, and both countries have been embroiled in a cold diplomatic row in recent years after the Nigerian government accused its Bénin counterpart of not doing enough to check smuggling through its borders into Nigeria.

This informed why the Nigerian government shut its borders in 2019, a move criticized by some back home and seen as an economic sanction on the tiny African neighbour. The Nigerian government reopened the border last year after over a year of closure.

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