COTONOU/DAKAR Nov 27 French conglomerate
Bollore may have to halt work on the Niger to Benin
section of its giant West Africa rail project after a rival
company won a court order to stop it going ahead.
The dispute concerns rival rail schemes in the area.
Petrolin Group, chaired by Samuel Dossou-Aworet an oil
tycoon from the tiny West African state of Benin, launched the
legal action. It claimed the governments of Niger and Benin in
2010 had granted it the rights to build a railway linking
Benin's coastal capital Cotonou with Niger's inland capital,
Niamey, and that Bollore's project overlaps with it.
The dispute exposes tensions in West Africa's plans to roll
out infrastructure to boost regional trade and propel growth
over the next few decades.
Bollore's 2 billion euro ($2.12 bln) Blueline project plans
to link Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin and Togo via a
3,000-kilometre (1,875-mile) rail loop. The Niger-Benin part of
the line is known as the "backbone" project.
"(The appeals court) orders both the state of Benin and the
company Bollore Africa Logistics to refrain from any works on
the components of the "backbone" project, subject to a fine of
100 million CFA francs ($161,809.68) per day," the court said
A spokesman for Bollore said this week it had been notified
of the court ruling, adding that it was seeking clarity.
"We do not want to stop work but we must respect the court's
decision," it said in an email to Reuters. "Benirail points out
that the signed agreements stipulate that, in the case of a
challenge, states will assume the consequences of prior
It is not clear whether Benin's government will implement
the court order.
"There is no question of Bollore stopping construction,"
said an adviser to the Benin government, who requested anonymity
since he is not authorised to discuss the matter.
Petrolin began court proceedings in Benin last year against
Bollore and the Benin government, which have since begun
building a section of the line through their joint venture
A Benin government spokesman did not reply to several
requests for comment this week.
A Petrolin spokesman said: "It should be noted that Petrolin
has the original (rights) to the backbone project."
Petrolin says it discussed with other investors, including
Bollore, allowing them to participate in its project.
The issue is complicated by a third rival rail scheme.
Geftarail, a French company, also claims to have won the right
to develop a Benin-Niger link as part of its Africarail project
linking several countries in the region.
A few weeks ago Geftarail and its Niger subsidiary filed a
lawsuit at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris
against the Benin and Niger governments, demanding work on the
Niger-Benin section of Bollore's project be halted.
($1 = 618.0100 CFA francs)
($1 = 0.9442 euros)
(Additional reporting by Samuel Elijah; Editing by Matthew
Mpoke Bigg and Susan Fenton)