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Don’t invade Niger, prominent Nigerians tell Tinubu

Prominent Nigerians and groups have cautioned President Bola Ahmed Tinubu not to lead the Economic Community of West African States...

Prominent Nigerians and groups have cautioned President Bola Ahmed Tinubu not to lead the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to take military action against coupists in the Republic of Niger. 

ECOWAS, which has the backing of the western countries and United Nations, has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the military junta to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum as democratically elected president or face a range of stiff sanctions. The ultimatum will lapse tomorrow. 

Those who spoke on the stalemate in Niger include members of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF); former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; legal luminary Femi Falana; ex- naval chief, Suleiman Sa’idu (retd); former Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Almustapha Haruna Jokolo; former Wazirin Katsina, Sani Abubakar Lugga, and prominent columnist and former presidential spokesman, Segun Adeniyi.

They said the best way to go is to use diplomacy, and when it fails, deploy serious sanctions that would compel the coup plotters to rethink and go back to the barracks for democratic authorities to return. 

They also emphasised the humanitarian crises that would come with military action, especially for millions of people in northern Nigeria, who have strong affinity, social and economic ties with Niger. 

Daily Trust reports that Nigeria shares elaborate borders with Niger in many states, including Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno. 

In some border communities, it is very difficult to identify the artificial boundaries as residents from the countries mingle together day and night, transact businesses using the currencies of the two countries with some having their wives and children on both sides of the divide. 

Currently, there are over 300, 000 Nigerian refugees who were forced to flee to Niger  by Boko Haram terrorists and bandits; with pundits saying once war breaks out in Niger, all of them would have to return even as Nigeriens would also push their way into Nigeria. 

ECOWAS’ dicey decision 

Daily Trust reports that ECOWAS had tasked all Chiefs of Defence Staff of the member-states to proceed for an emergency meeting to strategise on effective ways to implement a possible military operation to restore constitutional order to office. 

In the face of the military threat, the military junta in Niger has sought Russia’s help. 

The transitional leaders of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso are also backing the military authorities in Niamey against ECOWAS. 

Any military intervention against Niger “would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali,” they threatened in their joint statement on Monday. 

They added that such a move could result in “disastrous consequences” that “could destabilise the entire region”. 

ACF cautions 

Leading the caution on Tinubu yesterday was the ACF. While expressing its support to restore democratic rule in Niger, however, it called on the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government under the chairmanship of Tinubu to toe the path of dialogue and diplomacy in resolving the impasse and certainly not force. 

The body in a statement issued yesterday in Kaduna and signed by its Secretary General, Murtala Aliyu, urged Tinubu to consider the historical antecedents and mutual interests of the two countries and weighed the consequences of the use of force. 

The statement said in part, “Nigeria and Niger share a long historical border of more than one thousand five hundred kilometres with families, communities sharing common facilities including farmlands, markets, cultural bonds and languages for many centuries predating the Trans Saharan Trade and colonial times.

“The two countries have enjoyed harmonious brotherly and mutually beneficial inter communal relationships from time immemorial.

“While the ACF recognises the ECOWAS position to bring pressure to bear on the coupists but nevertheless, the military option shouldn’t be a prerequisite for Nigeria and the community’s continuing efforts to enthrone democracy in the region in the 21st century; certainly not an adventure to be led by Nigeria.

“Democracy has taken root in Nigeria and her leadership role has inspired many countries in ECOWAS to embrace democratic governance structure. We shouldn’t throw that away for some misadventure against our brothers and sisters on the other side prejudicial to our non-interference in a country’s internal affairs posture and attendant legal implications.”

Atiku, Falana, Adeniyi, others caution 

Also, Atiku in a statement on Thursday cautioned that the crisis in Niger required diplomatic engagements, adding that the channels for dialogue should be well sustained. 

“This is undoubtedly a challenging time for the West African region. However, any actions taken towards the prompt resolution of the crisis in the Republic of Niger must prioritise democracy as the ultimate victor,” the PDP presidential candidate in the 2023 election in Nigeria noted. 

On his part, Falana advised the bloc against military interventions and asked the organisation to explore other alternatives. 

“Apart from suspending Niger from ECOWAS, the leaders of the sub-regional body should refrain from attending international conferences with coup plotters as was recently witnessed during the recently concluded Russia-Africa summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

“While the resolve of the ECOWAS leaders to resort to force to restore President Mohamed Bazoum is understandable, the acceptance of the coup by the majority of the Nigerien people must be seriously considered. 

“Having not invaded Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali when power-drunk soldiers sacked democratically elected governments, ECOWAS leaders should not play into the hands of the enemies of Africa by launching a military attack on Niger,” he said. 

In the same vein, Admiral Sa’idu (retd) told Daily Trust that the current standoff in the Sahel country is an internal affair of an independent country that ECOWAS should rather mediate. 

“In warfare, fighting a war requires two things: dialogue and battle. It’s only when dialogue fails that one resorts to battle. 

“We’ve many examples of the United States’ actions in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan where the battle was won but the objective wasn’t achieved. In fact, in all these cases, the US came out with a bloody nose,’’ he said. 

There’s apprehension in North – Jokolo

 In a post on social media, former Emir Jokolo went down history lane to lay credence to why Nigeria should not mull using force against coup makers to restore democratic government in Niger. 

The former emir, a retired military officer, said the Nigerien military was helpful toward Nigeria during the Biafran War. 

“Again, during Abacha’s regime when terrorists hijacked the Nigerian Airways, the then National Security Adviser, Ismaila Gwarzo, was in touch with the jet’s pilots and they landed in Niger when the republic’s commando unit impounded the plane and rescued its passengers unhurt. They later held the terrorists who were later convicted. 

“Cameroon built a dam along River Benue; while the Niger Republic didn’t do that on River Niger. We have River Niger Basin Authority headquartered in Niamey, the capital city of Niger. 

“We import foodstuffs such as beans and cows, sheep, camels, goats, and even rams during Eid el Kabir. We do intermarriage with their citizens,” he said. 

5th Wazirin Katsina warns against military intervention 

Also, Waziri Lugga in an exclusive interview with Trust TV in Katsina, suggested more consultations, dialogue and diplomacy in resolving Niger’s crisis other than military intervention. 

He warned that a military action would further compound the socio-economics and security challenges confronting Nigeria, especially in the Northwest region. 

“When you want to restore a civilian administration, I think it should be done in a civilian way not in a military way. First of all, we should avoid war. We should use diplomacy as much as possible. Modern history has shown that after every war, there is always dialogue at the end.

“Secondly, in the event of war, it will be only Nigeria versus Niger Republic because out of all the neighbours of Niger Republic, it’s only Nigeria that has accepted to go into war.’’

Also lending his voice on the issue, Adeniyi, who served as spokesman for late President Umaru Yar’adua, backed Falana’s position. 

He said, “With hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn Sudan already invading Chad, the fear is that many will end up in Nigeria given our porous borders. To unwittingly create a condition for an influx of migrants from Niger will therefore be unwise. That’s what will happen in the event of an armed attack by ECOWAS which for all practical purposes means Nigeria.” 

He pointed out that the coup leaders in Niger were looking towards the Russian mercenary paramilitary group, Wagner, for support. Wagner is currently operating in Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, Sudan, Chad, Mozambique, Libya, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.

 On his part, Dr Umar Ardo, SDP governorship candidate in Adamawa State, said the war would only lead to the disintegration of ECOWAS and plunge the sub-region into more violent conflicts to the benefit of the armed industrial West to sell their arms and further plunder Africa’s vast natural resources.

 “It will also increase poverty, death and destruction, insecurity, insurgency and terrorism in the sub region.

 “At the current height of the ideological war between the west and the east, we will only turn the sub-region into a proxy war theatre of foreign superpowers,” he stated. 

On his part, Babafemi Badejo, a former Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, warned that Nigeria should do costs and benefits analysis for the short, medium, and long-term, especially under the current financial problems Nigeria is facing before venturing into any war.

 “Given the refusal to reimburse Nigeria’s efforts in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the past, is Nigeria able to fund a possible war with the Niger Republic as others in ECOWAS cajole her to lead, and as usual carry most, if not all of the yoke?

 “How will the ECOWAS leadership close Niger’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso – countries with sympathetic military regimes to those in power in Niger and the possible availability of counter air power instruments?

 “Has Nigeria pondered on a perceived weak Niger Republic entering into a wider alliance(s), including with other stronger governments, organised and unorganised terror franchises? 

“Is Nigeria acting swiftly to please external interests, without a thoughtful consideration of the all-round implications for ECOWAS, Nigeria, and its people, if a Libya type internationalised war starts next door?” he queried. 

Badejo, therefore, posited that preventing coups in West Africa is not by sanctions and threats but by addressing leadership deficit and corruption, curtailing negative external pressures, as well as the building of credible institutions to provide for the needs of the people.

Military action, last option – DHQ 

Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has said the proposed military actions being considered by the ECOWAS is the last option against the juntas who have taken over the government in Niger. 

It also clarified that the Armed Forces of Nigeria had not received any order from the appropriate authority to commence military action, adding that appropriate actions would be taken after a two-day extraordinary meeting at the nation’s capital. 

The Director, Defence Information, Tukur Gusau, a Brigadier-General, who made the clarifications at Defence Headquarters, Abuja on Thursday, said the mandate to proceed on such a mission must come from the Authority of Heads of States and Governments of Member States of ECOWAS. 

“At the moment, the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff is currently holding an extraordinary meeting in Abuja to discuss the political situation in the Republic of Niger and submit their plans to the committee of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS for consideration.”

Abdulsalami, Sultan meet with coup plotters 

Meanwhile, former Nigerian Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (Retd), the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Omar Alieu Touray yesterday met with the coup leaders in Niger.

The meeting was at the instance of President Tinubu with a mandate to expeditiously resolve the current political impasse in the country.

 A statement in Abuja by Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to President Tinubu, said the action was in line with the resolution reached at the end of the extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS held last weekend in Abuja. 

The president has also sent a separate delegation led by Ambassador Babagana Kingibe to engage with the leaders of Libya and Algeria on the Niger crisis.

 Briefing the two delegations, President Tinubu charged them to engage all stakeholders robustly with a view to doing whatever it takes to ensure a conclusive and amicable resolution of the situation in Niger for the purposes of African peace and development rather than a move to adopt the geopolitical positions of other nations.

By Joshua Odeyemi, Dalhatu Liman (Abuja) & Maryam Ahmadu-Suka (Kaduna)

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