THE Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed fresh sanctions on Niger Republic on Tuesday, August 8, after the country defied an ultimatum issued for the reinstatement of its ousted president Mohamed Bazoum.
Bazoum was overthrown on July 26 during a military takeover, which saw the head of his Presidential Guards, Abdourahamane Tchiani, emerge as the new ruler.
Following the coup, ECOWAS imposed several sanctions on the country, such as the suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between the country and member states, freezing Niger’s assets in ECOWAS central and commercial banks, and a travel ban on the military officials involved, among others.
The Community also issued a seven-day ultimatum, which expired on Sunday, August 6, but the junta in Niger has remained unyielding.
Delegates sent by ECOWAS to dialogue with the junta in Niger were denied entry into the country, citing safety concerns as a reason.
“The current context of public anger and revolt following the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS does not permit the welcoming of this delegation in the required conditions of serenity and security,” a letter by the Nigerien government read.
This was followed by fresh financial sanctions on Niger, which, according to Nigeria’s Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Ajuri Ngelale will be imposed through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
Although Ngelale did not disclose the details of the sanctions imposed, he added that the option of military intervention was still available as part of efforts to restore democracy in the country. He, however, noted that diplomacy is yet regarded as the best option in resolving the issues.
“No options have been taken off of the table,” Ngelale said.
Criticism trail option of military intervention
Several groups have criticised ECOWAS’ intention to carry out military intervention in Niger.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who is also ECOWAS Chairman, wrote to the Senate notifying them of the Community’s decision but did not receive the backing of the lawmakers on the use of force. He was, however, advised to consider other political alternatives in addressing the problem.
Nigeria’s Office for Strategic Preparedness and Resilience (OSPRE) has also warned against the use of military force, describing it as costly and infeasible.
Meanwhile, Niger, backed by Mali and Burkina Faso, two countries suspended by the ECOWAS over military coups, threatened the Community with war should there be a case of military intervention.
The Russian Federation also warned against using force in Niger to avoid jeopardising the spirit of Pan-Africanism.
ECOWAS ultimatum not Nigeria’s independent mandate
Meanwhile, Ngelale stated that the ultimatums and decisions reached by ECOWAS were not being issued by Nigeria but resulted from a consensus between member states.
“Concerning the ultimatum given to the military junta in Niger Republic, ECOWAS mandate and ultimatum is not a Nigerian ultimatum. It is not a Nigerian mandate, and the office of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, also serving as the chairman of ECOWAS, seeks to emphasise this point,” he said on Tuesday.
He also added that further decisions will be taken on the issue following the ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit scheduled for Thursday, August 10.