War looms in Nigeria’s backyard
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, yesterday, informed the Senate that following the coup in Niger that sacked the democratically elected administration of Mohamed Bazoum, Nigeria was considering a military intervention to restore order, among a host of other sanctions.
This was as the Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS region have, after a two-day marathon meeting on the political crisis rocking Niger Republic, unanimously vowed to ensure that Niger Republic and other countries in the region thread the path of democracy, peace and stability.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday shut down the Nigeria-Niger borders against movement of goods and people into the country.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) also disclosed yesterday that its personnel have commenced strict compliance of the closure of the Nigeria-Niger Republic border in Katsina State.
President Tinubu said the sanctions were part of the resolutions of an emergency ECOWAS meeting in Abuja last Sunday, during which far-reaching decisions were taken.
In a letter read to lawmakers at the commencement of plenary session by President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, Tinubu said: “Following the unfortunate political situation in Niger Republic culminating in the overthrow of its President, ECOWAS under my leadership condemned the coup in its entirety and resolved to seek the return of the democratically-elected government.”
In the letter, tagged, ‘Political Situation in Niger’, it was disclosed that, “in a bid to restore peace, ECOWAS convened a meeting and came out with a communique.”
Tinubu said in his letter that the meeting was very specific on “closure and monitoring of all land borders with Niger Republic and reactivating of the border drilling exercise.”
According to Tinubu, the communique also stressed the need for “cutting off electricity supply to Niger Republic; mobilising international support for the implementation of the provisions of the ECOWAS communique and preventing the operation of commercial and special flights into and from Niger Republic.”
Other issues raised at the meeting include “blockade of goods in transit to Niger, especially from Lagos and eastern seaports; embarking on sensitisation of Nigerians on the imperative of these actions particularly via social media; and military build-up and deployment of personnel for military intervention to enforce compliance of the military junta in Niger should they remain recalcitrant.”
But shortly after the letter was read, a former deputy Senate majority leader, Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi State), raised a constitutional point of order to draw the attention of the Senate to the provisions of the Senate on how the Armed Forces could be deployed on a combat duty outside Nigeria. He said his point of order was aimed at guiding the Senate on the matter.
Ningi read section 5(5) of the Constitution, which states that, “Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (4) of this section, the President, in consultation with the National Defence Council, may deploy members of the Armed Forces of the Federation on a limited combat duty outside Nigeria if he is satisfied that the national security is under imminent threat or danger, provided that the President shall, within seven days of actual combat engagement, seek the consent of the Senate and the Senate shall thereafter give or refuse the said consent within 14 days.”
Addressing newsmen after the security meeting by the ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff, on behalf of his colleagues, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, noted that it has been an honour for him to preside over the extraordinary meeting on the situation in Niger Republic following the recent coup.
The military chiefs had gone into a closed-door meeting last Wednesday.
According to the President of the CDS of ECOWAS States, the members demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the cause of peace and stability in the region during the meeting.
He said: “Throughout our discussions, we have collectively recognised the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for a well-coordinated response. The deliberations have been marked by a spirit of unity, cooperation and determination to address the challenges at hand.
“We have examined the immediate implications of the coup on the Niger Republic and its potential ripple effects across the ECOWAS region. We have also deliberated on the broader implications for democracy, peace and stability in West Africa.
“I am pleased to note that our discussions have yielded valuable insights and actionable recommendations. We have acknowledged the need for a comprehensive approach that encompasses political, security and diplomatic dimensions.
“It is imperative that we translate our deliberations into concrete actions that can effectively address the crisis and prevent a recurrence in the future.
“Firstly, we must emphasise the importance of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law. The coup in the Niger Republic represents a blatant disregard for these fundamental principles that underpin our regional integration and stability. We must unequivocally condemn such actions and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to democracy.
“Secondly, we must strengthen our regional security architecture and enhance our collective response to security challenges. The coup in the Niger Republic has highlighted the fragility of our region and the need for a robust and proactive security framework.
“We must enhance intelligence sharing, joint training exercises and capacity-building initiatives among our defence and security forces to effectively combat threats to our collective security and enhance interoperability.
“Thirdly, we must intensify our diplomatic efforts to engage with all relevant stakeholders. Dialogue and negotiation should be at the forefront of our approach in resolving the crisis in Republic of Niger. We must engage with the transitional authorities, civil society organisations and other key actors to foster an inclusive and peaceful transition process.
“However, it is crucial to recognise that the success of our deliberations depends on the implementation of the recommendations we have formulated. We must ensure that the decisions taken here today are not mere rhetoric but are transformed into tangible actions on the ground.
“To this end, I call upon each member state to take ownership of the agreed-upon measures and work diligently to implement them towards finding solutions to the situation in the Republic of Niger.
“We must also strengthen our coordination mechanisms within the ECOWAS framework. The ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff should continue to serve as a platform for regular engagement, information sharing, and joint planning. We must leverage our collective expertise and resources to address emerging security challenges promptly.
“Let us remember that the success of this meeting will not be measured by the words spoken here today, but by the actions we take tomorrow and, in the days to come.
“Let us seize this opportunity to make a lasting impact and ensure that the Niger Republic and the entire ECOWAS region can progress on the path of democracy, peace and stability. I urge all to prioritise the implementation of the recommendations that have been put forth during our deliberations.
“This requires a concerted effort and a sense of urgency. We must allocate the necessary resources, engage relevant stakeholders and monitor progress to ensure that our decisions have a tangible impact on the ground.”
Addressing the military Generals, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence, Dr. Abubakar Kana, said: “I must commend all the CDS for yielding to our call for this meeting. Thank you for accepting to work together in the interest of ECOWAS. Nigeria through the leadership of Bola Ahmed Tinubu is working to ensure democracy. Military option is the last option.
“We are waiting for the call from CNC to move and armed forces shall move. Military is ready to respond. Thank you all for a robust plan to work together.”
While announcing the closure of Ilela border in Sokoto State, Acting Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, who was personally at the border to enforce the directives of the President, said the action was a sanction following the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Niger Republic.
He said the exercise was not meant to infuse hardship on Nigerians.
According to him, the measure was taken by ECOWAS, adding that “we are optimistic that this effort will yield positive results, and I must tell you that President Tinubu is committed to restoring peace in this axis.”
The Customs Boss, who was also at the Magama border outstation in Jibia Local Council of Katsina State to ensure compliance, said though trade between the two countries was important, the security situation in Niger Republic made the move inevitable.
He added that the decision was taken in the interest of peace and stability between the two countries, saying the NCS would embark on sensitisation of communities living at the border areas.
Meanwhile, the Ulama Forum in Nigeria (UFN) has raised concerned over the military solution being mulled for the restoration of democratic order in Niger.
The forum of Islamic scholars queried the ultimatum issued by ECOWAS to the military junta to hand over power to the democratically elected leaders while offering recommendations to resolve the crisis in Niger.
Rising from its emergency meeting held in Kano, the forum insisted that vast majority of people in Nigeria were not, and would not be in support of war with a neighbouring country considering the likelihood of humanitarian crisis and other spill over effect on Nigeria.
Although, the forum condemned the coup in Niger Republic and other francophone countries in West Africa, the Ulamas said the preference for democracy and its principles as well as the choice for good governance must strictly be respected.
In a letter signed by 25 members of the forum and made available to journalists in Kano, they insisted that the Federal Government, and by extension the ECOWAS, should retract from treading the undemocratic path of issuing threats as solution to the unfortunate development.
They called for more enlightened and more informed diplomatic protocols in assisting Niger Republic to restore its democracy.
The forum added: “Nigerian National Assembly should wake up to its constitutional responsibility of critically looking into this issue and exercising the necessary check on the Executive and prevent Nigeria from going into needless war.
“Faith based organisations in the country, from across the faiths, should embark on preaching for peace in the region and maintaining the good neigbourliness that has long existed between Nigeria and Niger.
“The Ulama Forum calls upon the Muslim Ummah to embark on earnest prayers for Allah’s mercy in touching the hearts of our leaders so that they listen to the voice of reason and not to succumb to the influence of subterranean hands.
“It is vitally important for the Nigerian government to consider its current formative stage and the security threats that are spread all over the nation which are stretching its resources and capabilities than to rush into an avoidable conflict with a neighbour at the behest of global politicking.
“The Forum commends the latest diplomatic initiative of sending envoys by ECOWAS to engage the military leaders of Niger in a robust and constructive dialogue. This is indeed, the right way to go and it should be explored to the maximum extent.”
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