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Nigeriens, northern senators welcome ECOWAS lifting of sanctions

Nigeriens on Sunday welcomed the lifting of some of the sanctions that were imposed on the country by West Africa’s regional bloc following last year’s…

Nigeriens on Sunday welcomed the lifting of some of the sanctions that were imposed on the country by West Africa’s regional bloc following last year’s coup.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended trade and imposed tough sanctions last July, after Niger’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, was ousted in a military coup.

But the bloc’s warning of military intervention has fizzled out with little sign that Bazoum – still imprisoned in the presidential palace in Niamey – is close to being restored.

And on Saturday ECOWAS announced that it was lifting some of the sanctions, including a no-fly zone, border closures and asset freezes.

The sanctions have hit Niger hard, where the extreme poverty rate exceeds 40 per cent according to the World Bank, and the news that some were being lifted was welcomed.

“We’re very happy that the sanctions have been lifted (…) for us it’s like a day of celebration because everything is going to return to normal,” said Abdoul Aziz Issoufou in the Nigerien capital Niamey.

“The month of Ramadan is coming up (mid-March), and we’re hoping for a drop in the price of basic commodities so that rich and poor alike can find enough to feed their families,” he told AFP.

In Tahoua, in Niger’s south-west, the news was greeted by the honking of car horns and parades of motorbikes and cars.

Despite the celebrations, economist Hima Garba pointed out that Niger’s borders remain plagued by violence and jihadist attacks.

Similarly, the Northern Senators Forum has commended the leaders of ECOWAS for lifting sanctions imposed on Niger Republic following the July 26, 2023 military takeover.

Northern senators, in a statement, said it was a testament to the organisation’s commitment to regional solidarity, cooperation, and respect for human rights.

The lifting on the sanctions, they said, would go a long way in alleviating the suffering of the people of Niger Republic, as well as ensuring the restoration of stability and economic prosperity in the region.

“As representatives of the people and advocates for justice and democracy, we commend ECOWAS for their responsiveness and understanding of the immense challenges faced by our fellow West African nation.

“The Northern Senators Forum stands in solidarity with ECOWAS in restoring democracy and rule of law in Niger Republic and other west African countries, and we are committed to working to promote stability, peace, and socio-economic development throughout the region, said the statement signed by Senator Suleiman Kawu Sumaila, the forum’s spokesperson.

The lawmakersm, therefore, urged the government of the military-ruled Niger Republic and its peoples to hasten the process of returning to democratic governance to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.

They also advised all regional stakeholders to continue engaging in dialogue and pursuing peaceful solutions to address any remaining concern.

In the same vein, a prominent lawyer and public commentator, Justice Osai Ahiakwo, has commended ECOWAS and General Yakubu Gowon, the remaining founding father of ECOWAS, for his intervention.

According to him, the action is the ideal diplomatic approach in showing empathy for the people, as well as, preventing further destabilisation of the running of civilian government.

The Nigerien authorities had not yet commented on the lifting of sanctions.

Along with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea – which have also been rocked by coups – Niger was suspended from ECOWAS.

By Abdullateef Salau, Dalhatu Liman & Eyo Charles with agency report

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