PRESIDENT Patrice Talon of Benin Republic has announced plans to step up preparations to allow his country to merge with Nigeria as part of a regional alignment programme aimed at forming more economically viable nation states.
Nigeria and her western neighbour the Republic of Benin, share cultural, linguistical and commercial ties despite the fact that it was a former French colony. Both countries have significant ethnic Yoruba, Egun, Yewa and Fulani populations and Benin Republic’s port of Cotonou is more or less wholly used by Nigeria.
Much smaller than Nigeria with a population of just 11m people, Benin Republic only has a gross domestic product of $11.3bn and an annual budget of $2.15bn. With over 40% of government revenue coming from cotton, the country is heavily dependent on Nigeria economically for its survival.
Aware of the fact that Benin Republic will fund it hard to survive in the post-coronavirus world where industrial output, foreign direct investment and international commerce have all been severely reduced, President Talon is making plans to allow Benin Republic become Nigeria’s 37th state. He recently revealed this to Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s foreign minister, saying he is ready to initiate the move.
Mr Onyeama recently held a closed door meeting with Benin’s foreign minister Aurélien Agbenonci, where they discussed the modalities of the development. He added that President Talon and President Muhammadu Buhari had already met to discuss the matter a few weeks ago.
“The president of Benin said as far as they are concerned, they want (not just saying it like that) but in reality, to be the 37th state of Nigeria. We should really be one, so they charged us to come together at ministerial level, to work out a framework for a sustainable relationship,” Mr Onyeama added.
He pointed out that when President Talon visited Abuja a few week ago, both leaders discussed agreements between the two countries on how to put the issue of smuggling once and for all. Borders between the two nations are very porous and policing them has been very difficult.