By Suleiman Umaru
When the Defence Chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, at the instance of the regional bloc Authority of Heads of State and Government, of the regional bloc met on Friday, August 4th, 2023, to draw up a plan for a possible military intervention in Niger Republic if that country’s coup Leaders fail to restore the democratically elected government of President Mohammed Bazoum, now in detention to power.
They may have been encouraged to do so because President Muhammadu Buhari, Commander -in -Chief, C-IN-C, of the Nigerian Armed Forces,and now Chairman of the ECOWAS, had transmitted a letter to the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, dominated Senate seeking approval for military action and other sanctions against the military officers who had seized power in the neighbouring West African country of Niger Republic, described as a bad advertisement to the sahel region.
But the Niger new military Leaders had said that the coup, that had been widely condemned by the ECOWAS, African Union, Western governments and the North American country of the United States, US, became necessary because of the high level of insecurity in the country caused by an Islamist insurgency in which the deposed President Bazoum who has been under house arrest with his family since July 26, 2023, had no answer.
The Niger coup Leader may have sent a message to the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the 15-member regional body that they are not backing down, let alone restore former President Bazoum to power , warning that that the Nigerian President Tinubu, led Regional Organisation threat of Force to remove them from power ‘’would be met with force’’.The warning came with an exception ‘’to suspended friendly countries from the regional Organisation like Burkina Faso and Mali, two countries that have fallen to military coups in the region in recent years.
The Nigerian Senate, under the Leadership of Godswill Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom state and ,may have read the handwriting on the wall that to apply military hostility to get the Niger Coup Leaders out may exacerbate the crisis in the country. This is because the military Leaders of Mali and Burkina Faso , described a home of terrorists and who are looking out for such opportunity to arise have thrown their weight behind the Niger coup Leaders and are ready to work with them to fight the ECOWAS military wing that may give room to the unrepentant terrorists to regain strength.
The ruling APC dominated Nigerian Senate may have kept aside their political affiliation to passionately discuss the request the request made by President Tinubu and Chairman of ECOWAS, on the need ‘’to send troops to Niger Republic to enforce the resolution of the Authority of Heads of States and Government of the 15-member regional body for the junta that That deposed President Bazoum to restore him to power or face military action.
A source informed The Value News that Lawmakers were divided when the issue was introduced to the floor of the Senate by Akpabio, the Senate President whether to grant to grant the approval to the Presidential request or shut down.
It was gathered that the Senators from the north western states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa including the two north eastern states of Borno and Yobe, particular, irrespective of their political persuation had vehemently kicked against the Presidential request on the ground that that the war would affect ‘’the peace of their area if allowed to start’’ .
They were particular that if the war is allowed to start as planed by the Authority of Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS situation in Mali, Burkina Faso and Libya will affect the nine northern states and the entire country that may be difficult to contain.
Given that the Nigerian Senators insistence that that we do not want another war going by the counter-insurgency war being prosecuted by the Nigerian soldiers in Borno and Yobe, two north eastern states where the Islamic Fundamentalist Group, BokoHaram and the Islamic State of West Africa, ISWAP, linked to the ISIS,of Iraq, have been fight over the years.
The situation was not far different from what is happening in the western states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, and the north central state of Niger, where the Bandits group are holding the people hostage or Benue and Plateau states , where the armed herdsmen are making life difficult for the farmers or the south eastern region where the indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and the Eastern Security Network have taken up arms against the state.
Perhaps, to allow the Nigerian military concentrate their efforts in protecting the territorial integrity of the country instead of fighting in many fronts may have informed why the Lawmakers has ‘’rejected the option of military operations in neighbouring Niger Republic.
Aware that Tinubu, may not be happy that his request to deploy troops to Niger had failed to get the Senate approval may have informed why Lawmakers were said to have advised him ‘’to explore diplomatic and political options to address the issue of the coup in Niger Republic’’ in his capacity as the Chairman of ECOWAS, because of the existing cordial relationship between Nigeriens and Nigerians.
While the Authority of Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS, are making all the necessary moves to restore former President Bazoum to power, the Niger junta, which looked unperturbed since coming to power on July 26, 2023, were said to have stopped ‘’the export of gold and uranium to France’’, which President Tayyip Recep Erdogan of Turkey, had said was in response ‘’to the oppression of the country over the years’’.
Niger, according to the World Trade Organisation,WTO, under the Leadership of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy, during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration, is France’s largest supplier of uranium. The European Union, EU, member country was said to have imported 34.7%, uranium from Niger alone in 2020.
Gong by the report by the World Nuclear Association, WNA,, Niger, the neighbouring West African country is the seventh largest uranium producer in the world as at 2022, but depend o Nigeria for over 90% of its power supply.
Many believe that without Niger’s uranium, France would face the threat of power shortage as the European country generates more than 70% of electricity using nuclear power. The Nigerian President in a bid to force the Niger coup Leaders restore former President Bazoum to power was said to have ordered the Bulk Elctricity Purchase company limited to cut off electricity supply to the country. A source in the country’s Power company , Niglec, had confirmed that the Nigerian government had cut electricity to Niger as a result of the ECOWAS economic sanctions to force the military restore President Bazoum’s government.`
Notwithstanding plot by the Authority of Heads of States and Government of the 15-ECOWAS to arm-twist Abdourahmane Tchiani, an Army General and Niger Republic new military Leader, to restore power to the democratically elected government of detained President Bazoum, to power, the junta appears to have gained popularity with the people.
Demonstrators took to the streets of Niamey, the country’s capital on Thursday, August 3, 2023, in a show of support for the country’s junta, with some of them carryng placards which reads ‘’down with with France, long live Putin’’ of Russia. The aggrieved Nigeriens who are not happy over the continued interference of France in the political situation of the country and exploitation of its uranium to generate electricity in their country while they rely on neighbouring Nigeria for their own electricity supply.
The Ngeien demonstrators were said to have also taken to the streets in in the city of Agadez, expressing support for the putschists. Agadez, a Nigerien disclosed is on the edge of the Sahara desert, which many migrants pass through in their through the desert to Libya and towards the Mediteranean.
There is no gain saying the fact that that the neighboring West African country to the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria, has not only been an important partner for the West ‘’ in containing migration to Europe but also in the fight against terrorism’’.
Bazoum , the toppled and detained Niger President by the junta , who was said to have smuggled in an opinion piece in the Washington Post , a United based Newspaper publication was said to have called on the international Community ‘’to help restore constitutional order in the country’’. The deposed Niger Leader had said in the opinion piece in Washing Post that ‘’ if the coup succeeded in Niger, it will have devastating consequences for the country , the West African sub- region and the entire world’’.
He noted that ‘’fighting for our shared values, including democratic pluralism and respect for the rule of Law, is the only way to make sustainable progress against poverty and terrorism in the country, stressing that that the Nigerien people will never forget the world support in this pivotal moment in the Niger’s history. He had confirmed that junta, which had lost much international support are looking for allies. He had revealed that Gen. Salifou Modi, Deputy Head of the country’s military Junta had travelled recently to Mali and Burkina Faso, rule by Army officers who seized power in military coups to drum their support.