Despite opposition from eminent Nigerians and groups to the use of force against the coupists in Niger Republic, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Heads of State and Government yesterday ordered immediate deployment of a standby force to restore constitutional order in the country.
But the junta told a top United States diplomat yesterday that they would kill deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, if ECOWAS countries attempted any military intervention to restore his rule.
ECOWAS decision came hours after the military junta formed a new government and appointed 21 cabinet ministers to serve with the new Prime Minister, Mahamane Roufai Laouali, and hours after Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, warned against military intervention in Niger.
Before the 2nd extraordinary summit went into a closed-door session in Abuja, chairman of ECOWAS and Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu, had said the body will adopt diplomatic approach and negotiations in dealing with the military junta.
But rising from the meeting, the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in a communique resolved to deploy troops to restore constitutional government in Niger Republic.
While noting that the regional body will continue to keep all options on the table, they, however, said there will be consequences for any individual, body or member country found to hinder the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Niger Republic.
The resolution, which was read by the President of the Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, read:
The communique read further: “The Authority, having considered the memorandum presented by the President of the ECOWAS commission on the current situation in the Republic of Niger, as well as ECOWAS engagement since the last extraordinary summit; and having considered the reports of the envoys of the chair to Niger and various other places, carefully considered the report and recommendations of the ECOWAS committee of chiefs of defence staft, extensively discussed the latest development in Niger since the last extra ordinary summit held on July 30, 2023.
lNoted that all diplomatic efforts made by ECOWAS in resolving the crisis have been defiantly repelled by the military leadership of the Republic of Niger;
lTaking note of the expiration of the one week ultimatum given for the restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger, decide as follows: Reiterates its strong condemnation of the attempted coup d’etat and the continued illegal detention of President Mohammed Bazoum, his family and members of his government
“Uphold all measures and principles agreed upon by the extra ordinary summit held on Niger on July 30, 2023. Underscore the determination of ECOWAS authority to keep all options on the table for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“Enforce all measures, in particular border closures, and strict travel bans and assets freeze on all persons or groups of individuals whose actions hinder all peaceful efforts aimed at ensuring the smooth and complete restoration of constitutional order.
“Warn member states who by their action, directly or indirectly hindered the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Niger about the consequences for their action before the community.
“Call on the African Union to endorse all the decisions taken by the ECOWAS authority on the situation in Niger.
“Further call on all partner countries and institutions, including the United Nations, to support ECOWAS, in its effort to ensure a quick restoration of constitutional order, in conformity with its normative instruments.
“Direct the President of the commission to monitor the implementation of the sanctions. Direct the committee of the Chiefs of Defence Staff to activate the ECOWAS standby force with all its elements immediately.
“Order the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. Underscore its continued commitment for the restoration of constitutional order through peaceful means.”
Speaking earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government and President of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu, said that the seven day ultimatum issued to the military junta in the Republic of Niger to reinstate the sacked President, Mohammad Bazoum, has not yielded the desired results.
He said all the relevant parties, including the coup leaders would be involved in dialogue in a bid to have an amicable resolution in the Niger crisis.
“We must engage all parties involved, including the coup leaders, in earnest discussions to convince them to relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum. It is our duty to exhaust all avenues of engagement to ensure a swift return to constitutional governance in Niger.
“More specifically, as leaders of our respective nations, we must recognize that the political crisis in Niger not only poses a threat to the stability of the nation but also has far-reaching implications for the entire West African region.
“By remaining steadfast in our adherence to the principles of democracy, good governance, and the rule of law, we can restore peace, stability, and prosperity in the Republic of Niger, thereby fostering an environment conducive to growth and development for all.’’
The ECOWAS chairman recalled that the military junta was told in the previous meeting to reinstate the democratically elected President but noted that the directive was yet to be complied with.
“Regrettably, the seven-day ultimatum we issued during the first Summit has not yielded the desired outcome. We have also made diligent efforts through the deployment of various ECOWAS mediation teams, to engage the military junta for a peaceful resolution of the political situation.”
In his closing remarks at the summit, Tinubu commended members for exhibiting great membership, dedication and patriotism in recognition of the danger facing Nigeria’s neighbour, Niger.
He said: “I hope that through our collective efforts, we can bring about a peaceful resolution as a roadmap to restoring stability and democracy in Niger.
“All is not lost yet. The outcome of this summit is a testament to the power of collaboration and unity. We have reaffirmed our commitment to the people of Niger and to the progress of entire ECOWAS community.
“If we don’t do it, no one else will do it for us. We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting Niger in the journey towards peaceful democratic stability in the country.
“The road ahead will undoubtedly have challenges but as family we believe that with our collective result, we can navigate these obstacles and chart a path towards lasting peace and prosperity for Nigerians and ECOWAS.
“I send my sincere gratitude to all of you, for your dedication and valuable contributions during this extraordinary Summit. Your unwavering commitment to ECOWAS and the welfare of our continent is highly commendable.
“I want to thank you for your positive remarks and recognition given to me and the government of the people of Nigeria. May our collective efforts pave the way for a brighter future for the Nigerian people and for all Africans.
Eleven of the 16 ECOWAS Heads of State and Government attended the summit, including President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone, President. Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco of Guinea Bissau and President Everiste Ndayishimiye of Burundi.
Others are President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of Mauritania, President Nana Akufo-Ado of Ghana, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Patrice Talon of Benin Republic and Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé Eyadéma of Togo.
The Gambia and Liberia were represented by their Ministers of Foreign Affairs.
Member states absent at the summit were Niger Republic, Mali, Chad, and Burkina Faso.
Niger’s junta told a top United States diplomat that they would kill deposed President Mohamed Bazoum if ECOWAS countries attempted any military intervention to restore his rule, two Western officials told The Associated Press.
They spoke to the AP shortly before the West African bloc said it had directed the deployment of a “standby force” to restore democracy in Niger, without giving details about its make-up, location or proposed date of deployment.
Representatives of the junta told U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland of the threat to Bazoum during her visit to the country this week, a Western military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
A U.S. official confirmed that account, also speaking on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
However, the military junta late Wednesday night, formed a cabinet, days after sacking the democratically elected government of Mohamed Bazoum.
Making the announcement in a televised broadcast, Mahamane Roufai Laouali, read out the names of 21 ministers without detailing further plans.
Among the cabinet are three of the coup leaders who were named ministers of defence, interior and sports.
The government, which is about half the size of the previous one, will be headed by Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, who was named prime minister on Tuesday.
On the development in Niger Republic, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres also yesterday expressed concern about the living conditions and safety of detained Nigerien President, Mohamed Bazoum and his family, according to a spokesperson for the UN chief.
The UN in a statement, therefore, once again called for his immediate and unconditional release.
“The Secretary-General is very concerned over the deplorable living conditions that President Bazoum and his family are reported to be living under as they continue to be arbitrarily detained by members of the Presidential Guard in Niger.
“The Secretary-General reiterates his concern over the health and safety of the president and his family and once again calls for his immediate, unconditional release and his reinstatement as Head of State,” the statement read.
He urged the coup leaders in Niger to adhere to “Niger’s international human rights obligations” and release them unconditionally.
CAN warns against military intervention in Niger
Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday continued opposition to the use of force in Niger Republic, and called on President Bola Tinubu to avoid any form of military intervention in the country.
The Christian body advised ECOWAS leaders to walk the path of dialogue in resolving the crisis in Niger.
The President of CAN, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, who gave the advice in a statement issued in Abuja, however, commended the President and the Authority of the ECOWAS Heads of Government for their unwavering commitment to discouraging coups d’état and the forcible takeover of power.
Okoh said: “We also applaud their commendable efforts in resolving the crisis currently faced by our neighbours in the Republic of Niger.
“CAN fully recognizes the gravity of the situation in Niger and the importance of upholding democratic principles, peace, and stability within the West African region.
“We believe that the peaceful resolution of conflicts is vital for the progress and well-being of our nations and our people.
“This diplomatic overture demonstrates President Tinubu’s commitment to peaceful dialogue and his belief in the power of constructive engagement to foster understanding and resolve conflicts.
“Furthermore, we commend the inclusion of the esteemed Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, in the delegation.
“This representation showcases the unity of purpose and the collaborative spirit of Nigerian leaders, transcending religious and ethnic boundaries to jointly pursue peace in our region.
“CAN also commends the notable efforts of other prominent leaders, who have engaged with the Nigerien authorities in their personal capacities, leveraging his private contacts.
“As an organization deeply committed to promoting justice, peace, and harmony, CAN urges President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to remain on the path of dialogue and avoid any form of military intervention or measures that would create enmity between the good people of Nigeria and Niger.”
Niger coup: Adopt option of diplomacy not military, Afenifere tells ECOWAS
Meanwhile, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, also yesterday called on the Economic Community Of West African States, ECOWAS , to adopt the option of diplomacy in dealing with the issue in the Republic of Niger, rather than military option.
In a communique signed by it’s national leader and Secretary, Pa Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Olusola Ebiseni, after the monthly meeting, held at lsanya Ogbo, in Ogun State, Afenifere, however, reiterated it’s abhorrence to any undemocratic access to power, either through the barrels of the gun or electoral brigandage.
“Afenifere condemned unreservedly, the currently military takeover of the Government of the Republic of Niger and declared that there is no justifiable reason for such an undemocratic act.
“That in the same manner in which the removal of oil subsidy was announced and currently plunged the nation into a myriad of socioeconomic problems, the cavalier and hasty decision by the ECOWAS to intervene in the internal affairs of Niger not excluding the possibility of the military option, has further submerged Nigeria in needless crises affecting the socio-economic fabric of the nation.
“Afenifere believes that Nigeria cannot afford to stand aloof on matters affecting the stability and peace of the West African sub-region, nay Africa, it owes overriding duty to the national interests of Nigeria and her citizens.
“That Nigeria and Niger are not only culturally interrelated but also socioeconomically interdependent. Thus any armed conflict in Niger will have harmful effects on Nigeria.
“Without much ado, Afenifere calls on the ECOWAS to adopt the option of diplomacy in dealing with the issue in the Republic of Niger.
“Afenifere strongly urged the Nigerien military to see the illegality and futility of usurping the sovereignty of the people of Niger to democratically decide who rules them and immediately return to the path of constitutionality which restricts their duty to the defence of the territorial integrity of the Nigerien state.’’
On the appointment of 48 ministers by President Bola Tinubu, Afenifere said it was “most unconscionable that a government pleading for understanding and sacrifices from the people, in the aftermath of a sudden and harsh removal of petrol subsidy and other cowboy economic policies, would present such unprecedented humongous list of 48 ministers and other such appointments for political appeasement in search of legitimacy.
“Afenifere noted that it is most bizarre that the overwhelming majority of Nigerians whose daily preoccupation is how to eke a living and sometimes lay their heads wherever their tired limbs are bended are subjected to the spectacle of opulence and irresponsibility by their political leaders.
“This interim period in the political life of the country has further abysmally exposed the pretences and hypocrisy of those who have often paid lip service to progressive inclinations as rapacious power mongers without a thought for the people.
“The current comedy of errors in the governance of Nigeria is unprecedented and calls for so much concerns of all compatriots that silence may be inadvertently interpreted as complicity, which is not in the character of Afenifere,’’ the communique read further.