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ECOWAS may lift sanctions on Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso

There are strong indications that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will lift sanctions imposed on Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger following the…

There are strong indications that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will lift sanctions imposed on Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger following the unconstitutional change of government in the three countries.

Multiple sources told Daily Trust on Thursday that the move was meant to dissuade the three countries from actualising their dream of pulling out of the regional bloc.

Recall that ministers from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger Republic had on Thursday, February 15 declared plans to establish a confederation.

The three countries had in January this year announced their withdrawal from ECOWAS- a bloc which President Bola Tinubu leads.

They were asked to have a rethink, citing various reasons, including hardships to be faced by their people.

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But sources said besides the claim by ECOWAS, the decisions being taken by the juntas in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso are also causing embarrassment for the regional body, and most especially Nigeria, which presides over the regional bloc.

On Wednesday, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, called on ECOWAS to lift all sanctions imposed on the three nations.

While noting that Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger were three important member states, he equally called on them to also withdraw their notices to leave ECOWAS.

Gowon, the surviving founding leader of ECOWAS, made the call in an open letter to the regional bloc, which he presented to Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, President of the ECOWAS Commission on Wednesday, in Abuja.

He also visited President Tinubu at the presidential villa.

“I call on all West African leaders to immediately consider the implementation of the following: lifting of all sanctions that have been imposed on Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger; withdrawal by Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger of their notices to leave ECOWAS; and participation of all 15 ECOWAS Heads of State in a Summit to discuss the future of the community, regional security and stability, as well as the role of the international community given the current geopolitical context,” he said.

Receiving the letter, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, assured the elder statesman that he would send the letter to all ECOWAS Heads of State.

“Your message is a profound one. I take note of your appeal and recommendations. 

“An extraordinary summit has been scheduled to take place in Abuja on Saturday. The heads of state will consider your message in their discussion,” he assured.

Gowon’s call came long after the use of threats, for instance dispatching a standing force against Niger, and thereafter other soft diplomacy tactics by ECOWAS.

Daily Trust reliably gathered that the call by Gowon was actually triggered by the Nigerian government to provide a soft landing for ECOWAS, in its bid to bring the three countries back to the bloc’s fold.

“General Gowon is a highly respected leader, not only in Africa but around the world. Nigeria, and by extension other ECOWAS members would cite his call as one of the reasons for lifting the sanctions,” one of our sources said.

The source said the sanctions would be lifted at the extraordinary summit of the regional bloc on Saturday, as part of efforts to lure the trio back to ECOWAS.

Another source, a Ghana diplomat living in one of the West African states confirmed that ECOWAS will most likely lift the sanctions on the three countries.

“Yes; it is to get them not leaving,” the diplomat said in response to an inquiry by our reporter. 

There has been a serious backlash on the manner the ECOWAS handled the coup situation in the three countries, with experts maintaining that the masses have been at the receiving end of the sanctions.

It is however not certain that the three countries would consider returning to the regional bloc, according to another source.

At the instance of President Tinubu, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar was in Niger in the early days of the military takeover in that country. 

Also, Niger Coup leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani and junta-appointed Prime Minister, Ali Maham Lamine Zeine both met with the delegation of Muslim religious clerics led by Sheikh Abdullahi Bala Lau, leader of the Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’a wa ikamatus-Sunnah movement in Nigeria.

There were series of other back channel efforts to get the coupists to rescind their actions.