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Benin | Nigeria

Benin, Nigeria to demarcate border

afrol News, 28 June - The Beninese-Nigerian border was last demarcated in 1912 and since that, beacons have disappeared and settlements have expanded, crossing the border. A maritime border has never been agreed upon. Now, the neighbours are to "urgently" resolve the problem.

The Beninese Ambassador to Nigeria, Benoit Adekambi, at a meeting with Nigeria's Director General of the National Boundary Commission, Alhaji Dahiru Bobbo, has made "a passionate plea" for a speedy demarcation of the land and maritime boundary. His Nigerian counterpart promised the Ambassador his "commitment to urgently demarcate" the border.

Benin and Nigeria want to avoid the hardships of an international court process to reach a border agreement. Nigeria only recently lost out in a highly emotional court case against Cameroon. Benin, on the other hand, is currently negotiating its border with Niger in the The Hague-based International Court.

The exact location of the 770 kilometre Beninese-Nigerian boundary, however, is not less controversial than the two other examples. It is already clear that several villages will shift nationality when the border is demarcated. Also a future maritime border can be drawn upon various models with far reaching consequences if resources such as oil are found.

The Nigeria-Benin Republic boundary has only been demarcated once before. This was done with very few beacons by colonial masters in 1912 and most of the aged beacons have by now disappeared, according to the federal government of Nigeria.

This, said Nigeria's National Boundary Commission (NBC) leader Bobbo, necessitated "the need to rediscover and re-beacon fully this boundary." His commission together with the Beninese border commission, Mr Bobbo added, were using an inherited 1912 and 1914 protocol treaty on it between France and Britain for the exercise.

In revealing other grey areas, Alhaji Bobbo said, "after we have recovered the boundary, we discovered certain border settlements in a country through their growth, extended into it's neighbour's territory and are now called stranded settlement."

Other problems mentioned by the Nigerian expert were with the new and agreed joint boundary description of Nigeria and Benin. This included that some towns and villages became "transferred into having new sovereignty." Example of some were Bukuro, Organwe towns presently administered by Nigeria's Kwara State now falls under Benin, while also Muranukuru town in Benin is transferred into Nigeria's sovereignty.

On areas of Nigeria-Benin maritime boundary demarcation, Mr Bobbo stated that no single colonial document was inherited to delimitate this vital boundary. Marine borders were not a common issue at the time of decolonisation. The two neighbours would have to resort to international standards for reaching a logical border.

This exercise, Mr Bobbo added, was "enjoying commendable progress through the use of the 1958 and its revised 1982 United Nations Maritime Conventions in negotiating the maritime boundary."

The maritime border may become decisive for the management of fisheries resources and for possible future oil or gas explorations. Currently, however, there are no known resources except fisheries in the non-settled marine border area.

Beninese Ambassador Adekambi has been pushing the Nigerian government into action over the long boundary to avoid a lengthy international court process. At the meeting with Mr Bobbo, he was assured of Nigeria's "earnest desire to demarcate this boundary," according to a Nigerian government release.

Alhaji Bobbo informed his Beninese colleague that his commission would from 20-22 July hold two meetings of joint technical committee and joint inter-ministerial committee for the resolution of "outstanding grey areas" affecting the final re-demarcation of the boundary. If the proposed July 2004 meeting does not resolve the boundary problems, "political solutions would be sought," he said.

Commenting upon his experience regarding solutions to this boundary, the NBC boss said, "discussions and various Joint technical and field meetings held at finding lasting solutions to this boundary has remained very cordial and fruitful."

In his response, Ambassador Adekanbi commended the peaceful initiatives of Nigerian government at resolving the Nigeria-Benin boundary problem. The diplomat added that this development is "predicated upon the spirit of good bilateral relationship enjoined by both countries."

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