Mr. Samuel DOSSOU-AWORET's right of reply
In its Issue No. 3028 of 20-26 January 2019, the newspaper Jeune Afrique stated: «In March 2018, following harsh negotiations between the Authorities of Benin and Niger, Samuel Dossou has, however, agreed to transfer the Project to China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCCL) against the pledge that he will be granted the construction of the deep-water port of Sèmè-Podji, located between Cotonou and Porto-Novo».
That piece of information published by Jeune Afrique is completely inaccurate. Petrolin Group has neither negotiated, nor agreed to transfer its rights over the Cotonou-Niamey Railway Corridor in consideration for any «pledge» whatsoever on the port of Sèmè-Podji, and formally denies those allegations.
If, as published in the magazine Challenge on 19 March 2018, Benin's Head of State, President Patrice TALON « stated to have already secured «the agreement in principle» of the Chinese authorities to examine the feasibility of the railway project, and they have reportedly established the cost of the section going from Cotonou up to Niger Border, or 740 Kilometers at 4 Billion Dollars», to the best of its knowledge, Petrolin Group has not been aware of any such agreement in principle in this respect.
It should be recalled that the open International Invitation to Tender No. 5498 launched by the States of Benin and Niger, co-owners of the Cotonou-Parakou- Dosso-Niamey railway line, had in 2010 selected Petrolin Group as the successful bidder of the corridor, a situation which was definitely clarified in September 2017 by the Decision of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Benin that restored the rights of Petrolin Group following a partner illegal expropriation attempt.
The newspaper Jeune Afrique could have mentioned the quality of the works undertaken by Petrolin Group as regards the construction of the dry port of Parakou with its connections to the national road and railway network that conform to the standard sought after in today's Africa unlike the «143 km of rails [...] laid by Bolloré Africa Logistics » in Niger which Jeune Afrique refers to in the Article.
The deep-water oil, mineral and commercial port at Sèmè - Podji was granted to Petrolin and its infrastructure subsidiary, notably PIC Network Limited, in January 2010 through the Public-Private Partnership and investment Framework Convention between the Republic o f Benin and PIC Network Limited, and approved by Decree (2010-212 of 25 January 2010). The Convention was strengthened in 2011 by the Spécial Agreement relating to the construction o f the oii, minerai and commercial port at Sèmè-Podji signed between the Republic o f Benin, PIC Network Limited and PIC International SA, the Beninese subsidiary and Concessionaire of the port, approved by Decree (N° 2011-794 of 9 December 2011). The on-going discussions with Benin's authorities relate to the compensation of land rights holders that Petrolin Group has agreed to pre-finance in lieu o f the State of Benin, and the effective provision by the latter of a land surface of 1006 hectare to enable Petrolin Group to start constructing the port. In December 2016, Petrolin Group was issued the environmental and social compliance certificate that meets international criteria.
Unlike what Jeune Afrique states, there is no pledge in return for anything whatsoever between the rails and the planned deep-water port.
In order to understand the Backbone Project one should remember that it is a large-scale interdependent port, dry port, airport, rail and highway infrastructure project governed by a Public-Private Partnership and Investment Framework Convention with the Republic of Benin. It is a regional integration project between Benin, the countries of the hinterland (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger), and Northern Nigeria conceived, launched and promoted by Petrolin Group with robust legal contractual bases as well as a large number of achievements on the ground.