Nigerians kick as ECOWAS orders deployment of troops

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A group, the Concerned Citizens and some notable organizations yesterday kicked against the planned deployment of troops to restore civil authority in Niger.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has ordered the Committee of the Chiefs of Defense Staff to immediately activate its standby force with all its elements.

The decision came a few days after the Nigerian Senate reached a resolution rejecting the President Bola Tinubu- led ECOWAS to deploy troops to Nigeria, saying there was the need to explore a political solution to the crisis.

However, hours after the declaration by ECOWAS, Niger’s military junta said they would kill deposed President Mohamed Bazoum if neighbouring countries attempt any military intervention to restore his rule.

Daily Mail quoted two Western officials as disclosing this to a top U.S. diplomat.

According to the medium, a Western military official said representatives of the junta told US Under Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, of the threat to Bazoum during her visit to the country this week.

The Associated Press reported that a U.S. official confirmed that account, also speaking on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Daily Trust reports that the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and other groups in Nigeria had all called for a political solution to the Niger crises instead of coercion, saying Northern Nigeria will bear the brunt of any humanitarian crisis that will happen in the aftermath of military invasion in Niger.

At yesterday’s meeting in Abuja, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, said troops would be deployed to Niger while reading the resolution taken at the end of the Second Extraordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the regional bloc on the Niger coup.

The leaders had converged on Abuja to discuss their next line of action after the seven-day ultimatum for the reinstatement of President Bazoum elapsed without compliance from the junta.

ECOWAS had earlier slammed sanctions on Niger and threatened possible military options after soldiers on Wednesday, July 26 took President Bazoum into custody.

Thereafter, the Commander of Niger’s Presidential Guards, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, on Friday, July 28, declared himself the Head of a Transitional Government.

The military coup in Niger was trailed by widespread condemnation from the U.S, the EU, the UN, the AU and ECOWAS.

While ECOWAS leaders were meeting in Abuja, the Tchiani-led junta, however, announced a 21-member cabinet, to be led by Ali Mahaman Liman Zeine, who was appointed as prime minister by the military on Thursday morning.

At its meeting yesterday, the regional bloc said all efforts to dialogue with the Niger junta had been rejected by coup leaders at various intervals, while stressing its continued commitment to restoring constitutional order through peaceful means.

The ECOWAS leaders also condemned the continuous detention of President Bazoum and his family members.

The leaders also warned member states whose actions, whether direct or indirect, impeded the peaceful resolution of the Niger crisis.

The communiqué emphasized that such actions would entail consequences within the ECOWAS community.

As the one-week ultimatum for the restoration of constitutional order expired, the ECOWAS Authority made the following decisions:

“Upholding all measures and principles agreed upon by the Extraordinary Summit held on to Niger on 30th of July 2023.

“Underscores the determination of the ECOWAS Authority to keep all options on the table for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.

“Enforces all measures, in particular, border closures and strict travel bans as well as assets freezes on all persons or groups of individuals whose actions hinder all peaceful efforts aimed at ensuring the smooth and complete restoration of Niger’s constitutional order….

“Direct the Committee of the Chief of Defense 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.”

The West African leaders called on the African Union to endorse their decisions on the Niger crisis while also urging partner countries and institutions, including the United Nations, to support ECOWAS in its effort to ensure a quick restoration of constitutional order in Niger Republic.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission was further tasked with overseeing the implementation of sanctions stemming from the initial extraordinary meeting in Abuja.

In his closing remarks at the meeting on the socio-political situation in Niger Republic in Abuja, Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Tinubu stressed that the outcome of the summit, which authorized the standby deployment of ECOWAS troops to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger, attested to the power of collaboration and unity among ECOWAS member states.

The president, who expressed the regional blocs’ commitment in supporting the people of Niger’s journey towards peace and democratic stability, thanked member states’ dedication toward all efforts in resolving the challenges of Niger.

“We have reaffirmed our commitment to the people of Niger and to the progress of our entire ECOWAS community.

“We will continue with that.

From the communiqué of this extraordinary summit, no option is taken off the table, including the use of force as the last resort.

If we don’t do it, no one else will do it for us.

“We remain steadfast in supporting Niger in a journey towards peace and democratic stability.

“The road ahead will undoubtedly have challenges, but I firmly believe that with our collective resolve, we can navigate these obstacles and chart a path towards peace and prosperity for Nigeriens and citizens of ECOWAS.

“May our collective efforts pave the way for a brighter future for the Nigerien people and for all Africans.

May ECOWAS continue to thrive as a beacon of unity, cooperation and progress in the region,” he said.

Tinubu had in earlier his opening remarks stressed the need to prioritize diplomatic negotiations and dialogue as the bedrock of her approach to handle the military coup in Niger.

He said all parties involved, including the coup leaders, must be engaged in earnest discussions to convince them to relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum.

The opening ceremony of yesterday’s summit was attended by the presidents of Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Cote’d’ Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone and Togo, while Liberia and the Gambia were represented by their foreign ministers.

Non-ECOWAS leaders, such as the Mauritanian and Burundian presidents, also attended the meeting.

While speaking with journalists before the close of the summit because he had to travel back, President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast said: “This is not a matter of Nigeria against Niger, not at all.

The decision that we have made today, and I hope it would be implemented immediately; it is a decision of ECOWAS, all the heads of state think that we have tried to dialogue with the putschists.

“But they’re keeping President Bazoum as a hostage.

I personally consider this as a terrorist act.

And we cannot let this continue. We have to act.

“The position of Côte d’Ivore, which has been endorsed by all of the Heads of States, is that we have been able to tell these putschists that their place is in the barracks.

They should go to fight the terrorists and not try to kidnap a democratically elected president.”

Senegalese President, Macky Sall also backed the resolution taken, saying “I support the action that has been proposed by ECOWAS that we do not accept this attempted coup to stand and that we make every effort to make sure that constitutional order returns to Niger.”

Concerned Citizens want force threat withdrawn.

Meanwhile, a group, the Concerned Citizens, yesterday advised President Tinubu on the need to align ECOWAS and national interest.

In an open letter addressed to the president, they stressed the need to “Create conditions for the restoration of Track 1 as well as Track 2 diplomacy by making a gesture to the putschists through measures such as the withdrawal of the threat of use of force.

Those who signed the letter included: A. B. Mahmoud SAN, Prof Jibrin Ibrahim, Gen (rtd) M. L. Agwai, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Amb Fatima Balla, Prof M. J. Kuna, Dr Kole Shettima, Dr Hussaini Abdu, Malam Kabiru Yusuf, Mrs Maryam Uwais, Kabiru Adamu, Mouftah Baba Ahmed, Dr. Usman Bugaje, Dr Yahya Hashim and Dr Aisha Oyebode.

Some of the suggestions they made include: “Immediate deployment of Track 2 diplomacy through traditional rulers, religious leaders and civil society to urge the junta to open doors to diplomatic discussions between the two governments – Nigeria and Niger as well as the Authority of Heads of State of ECOWAS.

“Provide assurances to the Nigerien people of Nigeria’s commitment to maintaining friendship and fraternal relations with the government and people of Niger.

“Improve Nigeria’s strategic communication showing actions undertaken are in tandem with our long-standing commitment to the protection and consolidation of democracy within Nigeria, ECOWAS and Africa.

“Make clear our collective resolve towards the full restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.”

CAN, Cleen Foundation denounce military intervention.

The national leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Authority of the ECOWAS Heads of Government to remain on the path of dialogue and avoid any form of military intervention or measures that would create enmity between Nigeria and Niger over the coup in Niger.

President, CAN, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, on Thursday in Abuja in a statement, also commended President Tinubu and the Authority of the ECOWAS Heads of Government for their unwavering commitment to discouraging coups d’état and the forceful takeover of power.

Also speaking to Daily Trust, the Executive Director, Cleen Foundation, Mr. Gad Peter, said that everyone is worried about the escalation of the crisis and the implication on not only Niger but on Nigeria.

“When Russia was going into war with Ukraine, they said it was going to be a short war and we are running into two years now.

So, we need to look into the long-term implication of such an action. We have the Libya and Syria cases,” Peter said.

Nigeria will be at the receiving end, experts warn.

Abdullahi Idris, a political analyst said there was no need for military action against Niger.

“I strongly believe it is Nigeria, indeed northern Nigeria that will suffer the brunt of any military action against Niger.

They are our Neighbours; we should not go that far to massage the ego of some selfish people.

“And apart from that, Tinubu must remember that the Senate has abhorred military action.

And we must remember that using the name ‘ECOWAS’ is just an alibi! It is Nigeria that will fund the war and we are not ready for that,” he said.

In an interview with one of our correspondents last nights, a security sector reform expert, Chukwuma Ume, said the country might slip back into recession with the action ECOWAS wants to take.

Ume said although the northern region might be turned into a battlefield, he, however, ruled out that only the northern region of the country would bear the brunt if ECOWAS security forces were unleashed on the coupists.

He argued that the lean resources in the country would further be depleted, urging the Nigerian government to focus more on something more productive.

In a message delivered by Governor Dikko Umaru Radda of Katsina State on behalf of the president yesterday at a prayer session attended by Ulamas from various parts of the state at People’s Square, Katsina, Tinubu said he had no intention to lead ECOWAS on a military operation in Niger Republic but to make case for peaceful resolution of the political crisis.

On Wednesday, the president had met with leaders of various Islamic sects in the country, who sought his approval to intervene and negotiate with their counterparts in Niger Republic.

He equally met the 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi who had earlier on Wednesday met with the leaders of the junta in Niamey.