By Suleiman Umaru
Worried that the August 6, 2023, deadline given to the Niger military junta headed by Gen. AbdourahmaneTchiani, by the Authority of Heads of State and Governments of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to restore the democratically government of detained President Mohammed Bazoum has elapsed, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the regional body Chairman , has canvased for fresh sanctions against the coup Leaders.
The Nigerian President may have seen the Niger coup Leaders’ action as a slight on the regional body Leaders who are expected to meet in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory on Thursday, August 10, 2023, that he has called for fresh sanctions through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, on entities and individuals related to and involved with the junta in Niger Republic.
This is bad news the 35 year-old Captain Ibrahim Traore,transitional President of Burkina Faso and his forty year -old Counterpart in MMali, Col Assimi Goita and other participants in the coup that toppled democratically elected Laders in the two West African country. Ajuri Ngelale, special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity had said that the fresh sanctions will be taken by the Economic bloc Leaders at the upcoming extraordinary meeting on August 10, at the FCT 20233.
Last July, the ECOWAS Leaders who had condemned the announcement of support by some Foreign governments andF oreign private military contractors to the Niger Republic junta ha imposed immediate sanctions on the country including the closure of Land and air borders between the 15 nations of the regional Organisation and Nigiger, establishing no fly no-fly zone on all Commercial flights from the neighbouring West African country . This is in addition to suspending all Commercial transactions between the ECOWAS member states and the country as well as frozen all the assets of the coup prone country in the Economic bloc Central Bank, Niger enterprises and parastatals in Commercial banks.
Mousa Faki Mahamat, Chairman, African Union Commission, AUC, and Leonardo Santos Simao, Head of the United Nations, UN, on the West African subregion and the Sahel, were said to have played an active role in taking the initial sanctions that was imposed on Niger Republic to force the junta to restore detained President Bazoum to power.
The Nigerian government may have sent a message to the Niger Republic interim government of Gen. Tchiani that there was nothing to celebrate as use of the ECOWAS military might to force out the junta has not been ruled out.
Many believe that the duo, Capt. Traore and Col. Goita, whose countries Burkina Faso and Mali, have been suspended from the ECOWAS over coup plot in their respective countries that had toppled their democratically elected Leaders may have emboldened the Niger coup Leaders to ignore the Nigeria President Tinubu led ECOWAS directive to go about their normal business in their country .
The two West African countries Leaders who had had thrown their weight on the Niger coup Leaders had said that the sanctions imposed on Niger was ‘’unacceptable and wicked’’ but that was how far they could go. There is no gain saying the fact that the ECOWAS sanctions including cut off electricity supply by the Nigerian Bulk Power Purchase Company Limited on the orders of President Tinubu is biting hard on the junta and the people of Niger Republic in general including private and public enterprises and parastatals.
The bandits group operating in Niger Republic may have taken advantage of the July 26, military takeover in the country to regain strength and in collaboration with their Nigerian Bandits to renew their attacks in the north western states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna and Katsina, home state of former President Buhari.
The recent rescue of nine kidnap victims in a coordinated operation of sector I Operation Hadarin Daji in Zamfara state, Troops of Operation Hadarin Daji speaks volume. Troops of Forward Operating Base, FOB, Darke, were said to have carried out the operation, after receiving information from residents on the bandits movement with some kidnapped victims from Sokoto state through Gadazaima village in Zamfara state.
Eyewitness account disclosed that both not for the quick intervention of the sector 1, Operation Hadarin Dji and Operation Hdarin Daji troops in the Senator Admad ani Yerima home state, the Nigerien bandits and their Nigerian collaborators woulld have succeeded in taking the kidnapped Nigerian citizens to their camp in the Nigerian forests to demand for ransom.
The bandits were said to have also attacked three different vilages which includes Yakaka in Gazari ward, Yalagwada in Maibkko ward and Maiturmi in Rafin -Iwa ward villages in Sabuwa LGA,in Katsina state and abducted 14 victims. Troops of Nigerian Army were said to have rescued the 14 victims abducted in the three villages in Sabuwa LGA, of the state.
While troops of Operation Daji are battling the bandits in Zamfara, Katsina, and Sokoto states terrorising the flash point Local government s and communities in the two north western geopolitical region states, Operation Whirl Punch of the Nigerian Army were said to have stepped up their operations in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna state to flush out the Foreign bandits from Niger, Burkina Faso , Mali and their Local collaborators .
Major General BA Alabi, General Officer Commanding, GOC, one Mechanised Division, Kaduna, who could not hide his feelings was said to have urged the troops to sustain the tempo and aggressiveness in dealing with the criminal elements until they are completely eradicated from Nigeria soil.
Not many are surprised that the bandit group operating in the north western states of Zamfara, Sokoto and Kaduna states could bounce back to life to launch attacks. Until the recent attacks in the Zamfara and Kaduna Communities, Sebastien Lecornu, the France Defence minister had warned that the coup in Niger Republic will ‘’undermine the fight against banditry and insurgent groups in the Africa’s Sahel region comprising of Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Central African country of Cameroun, ,Chad, the Gambia, Guinea, , Mauritania, and Senegal.
France, which according to security sources has over 1,500 troops stationed in Niger, was said to be using the country for counter-terrorism and anti-banditry operations in the region, after successive coup attempts in the last two years in Burkina and FSO AND Mali prompted pull outs from those countries.
The French minister of defence had said that Niger coup , which is a set back to the war against terror in the Shel region had come at a precarious moment when several terror groups including the Islamic Fundamentalist Group, BokoHaram, the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, ISGS, and al- Qaida’s Local branch in Niger were regaining strength to launch attacks in the population of Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria.
He was emphatic that the putsch in Niger Republic, where armed terrorists’ groups is resurging, notably taking advantage of failed states like Burkina Faso and Mali and the French troops pull out from Niger to throw the Sahel region which has vast assets in natural resources, energy, tourism potentials and culture into crisis.
This may have informed why Tinubu, Nigerian President and Chairman, ECOWAS, is pushing to bring coherence, improved coordination and strengthen collaboration with all partners in the Sahel region. This is in addition to promoting Cross-border Cooperation, Prevention of Banditry, terrorism and maintain peace in the region, promoting inclusive growth and development of its renewable energy resources currently being exploited by foreign companies at great costs to the people. Take for instance Uranium, which his used to generate over 40% of electricity in France are being exploited by French companies in Niger, yet the country the country depends on Nigeria for its 90% power needs.
Gen. Tchiani government ban of Niger uranium to France bear eloquent testimony to the fact that the Niger coup Leaders are not happy that French companies over the years have continued to exploit their natural resources including oil and gas resources with little or no benefit to the country but to benefit a few in the political class.