The President of Benin Republic, Mr. Patrice Talon, has said all countries in the West African sub-region are suffering the negative effects of Nigeria’s economic downturn.
Talon, who was on a one-day visit to Nigeria, spoke through an interpreter with State House correspondents shortly after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.
The visiting President observed that although Nigeria was blessed with enormous potential, the country had relied on oil for too long.
Talon said it was time for Nigeria to go back to the basics and re-energise its economy.
He said, “Nigeria has great resources and potential but unfortunately, it has relied on oil for long. Nigeria has not been able to explore all the potential. Other countries in the sub-region are suffering from this. This is the time to go back to our internal resources and draw from our potential.
“The crisis hitting Nigeria is also hitting us. It is time to go back to the basics and develop our resources, energise our economy and move forward.
“Nigeria is the engine room of our sub-region and this crisis should not be allowed to run down the engine.”
He said during the meeting he had with Buhari, he enumerated some issues of common interest that included security and energy.
On energy, he said while it was true that both countries were facing energy problem, Benin Republic needed Nigeria to address its own challenges.
He said his country would also serve as a pleasure place for Nigeria because his government would invest in tourism and target Nigeria, which he noted, had a lot of middle class citizens.
The visiting President also said Benin Republic would be made a centre of learning and his government would like to see students coming from Nigeria.
“When you have a big metropolis like Nigeria, people will need a serene place for learning and Benin will provide that,” he said.
Buhari said as part of moves to help Benin Republic address its energy problem, the two countries would make sure that the West African Gas Pipeline was made more efficient.
He said, “This government is making all the efforts to stabilise the situation because the resources are there. The world knows that Nigeria has plenty of gas reserves, what we need to do is to stabilise the environment, so that the gas can be regularly pumped to the sub-region, through the infrastructure already in place.”