Benin: Trial Begins for Three Nigerians Arrested in Sèmè-Kpodji

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The Court for the Repression of Economic Offenses and Terrorism (CRIET) is set to judge three Nigerian nationals, including the Deputy Director General of WAPCO Niger, this Monday. The special prosecutor charged them on Friday with “false attestation and use of false attestation.”

The individuals, who arrived in Cotonou on June 5, 2024, on behalf of WAPCO Niger, were apprehended at the pipeline site that transports oil from Niger to Sèmè-Kpodji on the Atlantic coast. They stand accused of illegal entry and presenting fake badges, an incident that has further strained relations between President Patrice Talon of Benin and the Nigerien military junta.

The charges against them pertain to the false attestation and use of false attestation, specifically involving two badges presented at the time of their arrest. According to our sources, while the company indeed issued the badges, investigators have determined that the holders are not employees of WAPCO Niger.

The case of the three Nigerians is being heard during an ordinary session, scheduled alongside other cases in the same courtroom. The hearing will commence in the morning, with the Nigerian defendants being transported from the Cotonou civil prison, where they have been held in pre-trial detention since Thursday. The exact timing of their court appearance remains uncertain.

A magistrate has indicated that the penalty for this offense ranges from 1 to 5 years in prison. However, the case is not solely a matter of justice; it also involves elements of politics and diplomacy, as noted by a keen observer of Benin-Niger relations.

Soukaina Sghir

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