President Muhammadu Buhari, the ECOWAS Chairman, has dispatched the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama to intervene in the political crisis in Benin Republic as the country heads for election on April 28.
Ms Sarah Sanda, Media Aide to the Minister, said this in a statement on Thursday in Abuja
Sanda said that the minister in company of the ECOWAS Commission President, Jean Claude Brou, met with President Patrice Tallon of Benin on Thursday in Cotonou.
According to her, the visit of the envoy is to resolve the political disagreement which prompted the opposition to threaten a boycott of the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 28
”Benin Republic has been undergoing political reforms aimed at strengthening democracy.
”The reforms includes the registration of political parties with a view to having parties with national spread based on a new legislation that stipulates conditions for registration.
”However, out of the many parties that applied for registration, only a few have been successful both at the Ministry of Interior and the National Electoral Commission (CEMA).
”With barely a month to the parliamentary election scheduled for April 28, the opposition have complained about being deliberately shut out of the process by the government,” she said.
She said the opposition staged demonstrations and cried out to the ECOWAS to intervene or they will boycott the elections entirely.
She said that after initial engagements and reports from delegations from the ECOWAS Commission who visited the country, President Buhari who is the ECOWAS Chairman sent a Special envoy to meet with Cotonou President, Tallon.
The envoy, she said was received by Beninoise Minister of Foreign Affairs Aurelien Agbenonchi and the Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic, Emmanuel Oguntuase.
The envoy according to her, also met with the Tallon behind closed door to deliver the message of the ECOWAS Chairman, President Buhari
Sanda quoted Onyeama as saying: “President Buhari remains concerned about the growth of democracy in the sub region.”
”Hence his message to President Patrice Tallon to ensure that all politicians and political parties in Benin Republic are given a level playing ground to participate in the democratic process,” he said.
He said that Buhari stressed the need for the rule of law and dialogue to prevail in the country, especially as the parliamentary elections were approaching.
He also called on the opposition to embrace dialogue and discuss their grievances rather than resorting to boycott of the entire process.
Also speaking, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Benin Republic, Aurelien Agbenonchi also said: “there is no political crisis in Benin Republic as the main bone of contention is the government’s desire for reform in line with the rule of law.”
He said President Tallon was open-minded and willing to carry all political actors along including the opposition.
He said the Parliament would look at the laws again and see areas that could be addressed in line with the concerns of the stakeholders.
The Minister further disclosed that President Tallon also used the opportunity of the visit to again congratulate President Buhari on his re-election.
Nigeria according to him, continues to set the example for the sub-region and Africa in terms of consolidating democracy.