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Niger: ECOWAS insists on sanctions as northern elders demand withdrawal

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has said the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will follow its sanctions against the military junta in the Republic…

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has said the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will follow its sanctions against the military junta in the Republic of Niger to the letter.

But the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) advised President Tinubu, who is also Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, to urgently withdraw all sanctions imposed on Niger Republic to ease negotiation.

Nigeria had on August 4 closed all its borders with Niger and cut off electricity supply to the country following the refusal by the junta to reinstate detained President Mohamed Bazoum whose government was toppled on July 26.

The military rulers had recently expressed their readiness to dialogue with ECOWAS on the crisis.

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United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said he still sees a chance for diplomacy to reverse a coup in Niger.

Military chiefs from ECOWAS will meet in Ghana this week to discuss possible intervention in Niger.

‘ECOWAS following sanctions to the letter’ 

President Tinubu said ECOWAS was working to keep the sanctions in place.

The president said this yesterday when he received the Special Envoy of President Ali Bongo Ondimba and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Gabon, Mr. Hermann Immongault, at the State House, Abuja.

He praised the solidarity of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on the political impasse in the Republic of Niger.

President Tinubu said the special message of support and solidarity from President Bongo, who doubles as the Chairman of ECCAS, expressing the full support of ECOWAS resolutions on the unconstitutional takeover of government in Niger, proved once more that military interference in democratic governance was not acceptable anywhere, and certainly, no longer so on the African continent.

He said, “We are working not to compound the problem. We have well-meaning people who have intervened.

“I understand the fear of our people on any form of military action. We are working to keep the sanctions in place and we are following them to the letter.

“We are happy to know that ECCAS is with us on this. Interference in democratic governance is not acceptable to ECOWAS.”

Tinubu promised to work with President Bongo and ECCAS to restore constitutional order in Niger.

He reinforced the position of the regional body not to accept any attempt by the military junta in Niger to intimidate and harass President Mohamed Bazoum.

In his remarks, the Special Envoy commended the leadership of ECOWAS and President Tinubu for the steps taken so far to restore democracy in Niger, adding that President Bongo and ECCAS are fully in support of all ECOWAS resolutions.

“President Bongo has been following your efforts and those of other ECOWAS leaders on the situation in Niger. President Bongo and ECCAS strongly condemn the coup in Niger.

“With Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the refugee situation in Chad, whatever happens in West Africa affects Central Africa. My President joins efforts with you and ECOWAS to find a solution to the crisis in ECOWAS,” he said.

Withdraw all sanctions against Niger, NEF tells Tinubu

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has advised President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and ECOWAS chairman to urgently withdraw all sanctions imposed on Niger Republic to ease negotiation.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs, NEF, Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed, said: “Nigeria should remove all sanctions and other measures intended to force the government and people of Niger into acquiescence.”

He said this would make negotiations led by Nigeria, using all assets that both countries value, easier to conduct. 

He urged Tinubu to ensure the safety of President Bazoum and his family, and that restoration of the constitutional order must remain non-negotiable priorities.

The NEF dismissed the use of force in the troubled country, adding that the move would further compound the issue.

“The use of force against Niger should be ruled out. It is unlikely to achieve the goals of restoring constitutional order and improving the frontiers of democratic systems in West Africa. It will compound the security and humanitarian crises in the ECOWAS region,” he said. 

We remain focused on diplomacy – US 

Meanwhile, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said Tuesday he still sees a chance for diplomacy to reverse a coup in Niger, as the regional bloc ECOWAS keeps up pressure on the military rulers in Niamey.

Blinken told reporters that, “We remain very focused on diplomacy in achieving the results that we want, which is the return of the constitutional order, and I believe that there continues to be space for diplomacy in achieving that result.”

Similarly, German Development Minister, Svenja Schulze said on Tuesday during a visit to West Africa that the coup in Niger is “a setback that aggravates the complex development challenges in the country and in the Sahel further.

“We call for the immediate release of President Mohamed Bazoum and for the full restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger,” Schulze said in a statement on behalf of the Sahel Alliance.”

ECOWAS military chiefs meet Thursday

The military chiefs from the West African bloc ECOWAS will meet in Ghana’s capital Accra this week to discuss a possible intervention in Niger, a spokesperson for the regional group has confirmed.

The meeting on Thursday and Friday – originally scheduled for last weekend but then postponed – comes after ECOWAS leaders last week approved deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger, whose president was toppled on July 26.

Their summit, held in the Nigerian capital Abuja last Thursday, also reaffirmed the bloc’s preference for a diplomatic outcome.

By Muideen Olaniyi, Philip Clement & Dalhatu Liman

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