Michael Olugbode in Abuja
Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama yesterday clarified a statement credited to the President of Benin Republic, Mr. Patrice Talon said that he wanted Nigeria and the francophone state to be close as though the latter was the 37th state of the former.
Onyeama clarified that Benin Republic, one of Nigeria’s closest neighbours, was never interested in dissolving into the Federal Republic of Nigeria as suggested in some media reports.
He made this clarification in a statement the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye issued yesterday.
A large population of the Republic of Benin have some cultural similarity with the Yoruba people in the Southwest geopolitical zone, Nigeria.
Rather than dissolving into the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the statement said what the francophone country wanted was “a very close relationship with Nigeria.”
It added that the intention of Republic of Benin was misconstrued in a recent media report, which claimed that the country was willing to become Nigeria’s 37th State.
The statement read in part: “The attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to misleading reports in the media that the Republic of Benin is aspiring to be the 37 State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
It said: “The Minister of Foreign Affairs, 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 and stated therein.
“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”.
The statement said the Federal Republic of Nigeria “has no territorial ambition and has never aspired to make Benin or any country as part of Nigeria.”
The statement called on the general public to disregard the wrong information, stressing that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was quoted out of context.