June 25, 2024

Central News

at the center of it

ECOWAS unity tottering over military action in Niger?

Anxiety that cohesion in the ranks of the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) grew over the weekend, following four seemingly unconnected actions related to the regional threat to place a military force on the alert against Niger Republic.

That country just north of Nigeria suddenly came into international attention when the military force statutorily charged to guard constitutional democracy two weeks ago, sacked the government, took the elected president hostage and later formed a government.

Promptly leaders of ECOWAS member-countries, with Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the chairman’s demanded immediate return to the status quo ante or sanctions would follow, including possible use of force.

Since the expiry of the ultimatum eight days ago, with the coupists remaining adamant, West African sub-region has known peace. Several delegations sent to the Niger Republic junta were not only treated whimsically, others were outrightly snubbed.

Apparently without cogent explanation, Ghana put off a meeting of the member-countries’ respective defence chiefs who had been mandated to advise on how to effectuate the ECOWAS threat, just before the weekend.

Indeed, on Sunday on BBC World News, an analyst told a news anchor that, It was becoming obvious that some were foot-dragging. He named at least three such members, Ghana, Togo, and Liberia.

Then, on Saturday, the ECOWAS Parliament was divided over the actions that should be taken to address the Niger coup. While some parliamentarians were in support of military action against the Niger junta, others were against it; those against included ranking Nigerian senator Ali Ndume.

Twenty-two parliamentarians took part in the virtual extra-ordinary meeting on Saturday to discuss the political crisis.

Ahead of those events, there has been a groundswell of agitation against military action in Niger, led especially in northern Nigeria by Islamic clerics among others. And, also at the weekend large street protests erupted in against the planned ECOWAS action.

Inexplicably, it began to appear as though the Nigerian government is standing nearly alone on the matter because, the coupists in Niger who had been refusing to dialogue with suddenly offered to speak to a team tagged “Nigeria’s Intervention Team.”

It comprises prominent Islamic scholars in the country and at the weekend it met with the coup leaders in Niger where both parties agreed to intensify the option of dialogue in resolving the political crisis in that country.

The Islamic Ulammas led by Sheik Bala Lau met with Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani himself for several hours in Niger’s capital Niamey during which they deliberated on all the issues including the demand by ECOWAS leaders that former President Bazoum be reinstated.

Bala Lau, who is the National Chairman of Jamatul Izalatu Bida Waikamatu Sunnah, said the clerics were in Niger on behalf of President Bola Tinubu who accepted their request to intervene.

Sheik Lau said the team had earlier told President Tinubu who is also the Chairman of Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government that their position is that the political impasse in Niger be resolved through dialogue.

Responding, Gen. Tchiani who accorded the team warm reception, is reported to have welcomed their intervention. He said their doors were open to explore diplomacy and peace in resolving the matter.

He is also said to have expressed of the coup leaders that the ECOWAS leadership did not hear their side of the matter before issuing ultimatums to them to quit office. He claimed the coup was well intended, stating that they struck to starve off an imminent threat that would have affected not only Niger Republic but also Nigeria.

He also apologised for not according the team sent by President Tinubu and led by former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) the required attention because they were angry about the ECOWAS ultimatum.

The team comprised scholars from various Islamic sects in the country, among them were Sheik Kabiru (Gombe), Secretary of Jamatul izalatul bida waikamatul sunnah; Sheik Yakubu Musa Hassan (Katsina), Director Daawah of JIBWIS; Sheik Ibrahim Dahiru (Bauchi) representing Sheik Ibrahim Bauchi and Dr Khalid Aliya,Secretary General, Jammatul Nasril Islam.

Others included Sheik Karibullah Nasiru Kabara, leader of Khadriya group Nigeria; Sheik Ahmad Abdurahman, Professor Salisu Sheri (Deputy Secretary-General, Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria), Sheik Nasiru Abdul Muhayuid (Director of Administration at JIBWIS Jos), Prof. Mansur Sokoto, and Alhaji Mele Kyari.