APA – Cotonou (Benin) The decision follows the deadly fire at a warehouse near Cotonou storing flammable products.
The Beninese authorities are going to bring order to the sale of contraband fuel. The decision was taken by the Council of Ministers in Cotonou on Tuesday. Government spokesman Wilfried Leandre Houngbedji said that the authorities had launched a program to acquire mini petrol stations for those operating in the sector.
He pointed out that after the violent fire that claimed 36 lives on 23 September 2023 in a smuggled fuel warehouse, President Patrice Talon asked that the procedure for deploying this equipment be speeded up.
Mr. Houngbedji, who is also the government’s deputy secretary general, announced that Benin has already acquired 2,000 of the 5,000 mini-stations expected. Wilfried Leandre Houngbedji said that the batch already available would benefit the communes of Cotonou, Porto-Novo, Abomey-Calavi and Seme-Kpodji, as well as localities in Benin where there are no service stations.
The Beninese government’s deputy secretary general also added that the authorities are currently holding a series of meetings with the main players involved in roadside fuel sales, and that the time has come to formalise the activity.
“The conditions under which petrol is stored and distributed must be such as to ensure the safety not only of those involved, but also of the population as a whole,” Mr. Houngbedji explained.
DNA tests to identify charred bodies
The Beninese government has also decided to carry out a scientific identification of the bodies of those burnt in the fire on 23 September. “In order to enable the families who lost loved ones to mourn, DNA tests have been authorized so that the remains to be handed over to them can be formally identified,” announced Wilfried Leandre Houngbedji.
The latest death toll from the fire is 36, of Beninese and Nigerian nationality. The tragedy also left 23 injured, 12 of whom are in a critical condition.
Last Saturday’s violent fire gutted a large warehouse storing smuggled fuel from Nigeria. The tragedy occurred in Seme-Krake, 40 km from Cotonou in south-east Benin on the border with Nigeria. According to the government, the fire was caused by “careless and dangerous handling of smuggled petrol.”
The smuggled fuel, also known as “Kpayo” (poor quality), comes from neighbouring Nigeria and is sold in transparent bottles along roadsides throughout Benin.
Smuggling began in the 1980s.
The government has counted some 55,000 sales outlets throughout Benin, and tens of thousands of Beninese work in the sector.
Although prohibited, the activity is tolerated by the government.