How Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali’s exit from ECOWAS will affect Nigeria

NIGERIA will likely face more security and economic challenges following the exit of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger as the country’s fight against insurgency and dwindling economy bite harder.

The three countries were sanctioned by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for enforcing a military regime and severing diplomatic ties with France, their colonial masters.

They officially took a sovereign decision on Sunday, January 28, to pull out their nations from ECOWAS.

Diplomatic analysts believe that ECOWAS will have applied diplomacy and persuasion more for the countries, stressing that their exit has far-reaching implications on both the economy and security of the Sahel region, with rising concerns of terrorism.

Some of the countries have also raised issues with the regional body’s derailment from the ideals of the ECOWAS founding fathers, accusing it of tilting more to the ideals and political direction of their Western allies.

Exit to weaken alliance of member countries

For some foreign Affairs analysts, the main focus of establishing ECOWAS on May 28, 1975, was to deepen the integration of member states and provide regional economic cooperation. This has also evolved to include political and military cooperation.

A professor of Political Science and International Relations and Director of Strategic Partnership at Al-Muhibbah University, Abuja, Muhktar  Imam, told THE ICIR that the exit of these countries would weaken the cooperation of the regional bloc in security and economy.


“This is going to deal a blow on trade integration. The main concern is that there is a diplomatic failure, which could have a spiral effect on other member countries. There is a tendency for more countries to withdraw from ECOWAS because they don’t see the consequences of this action.

“Look at the issue of Eco, for instance. It has been an issue at the front burner. Also, look at cross-border trade and other regional trade like the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCTA); this issue would create many problems for regional trade integration,” he said.

Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso corridor is a trade corridor that has strong business links from Northern Nigeria through the Sahel countries and stretching to Libya. The exit will affect the trade route, The ICIR findings show.

The ICIR recently reported a concern raised by Adamu Aliero, a senator, that several states in Northern Nigeria bothering Niger were facing acute hunger as a result of border closure and restrictions of trade routes.

Foreign policy perspective

The exit of these countries at a point when Nigeria heads ECOWAS leadership, some diplomatic analysts said, was a result of “poor exploration of diplomatic channels.”

“There is a need for foreign policy drive to re-strategise and think around the foreign policy. The grievance of some of the exited countries is that the management and leadership of ECOWAS are beginning to derail from the founding fathers’ vision,” Muhkar observed.

Cultural and economic  ties with Niger punctured

Also, a security and Economic Analyst, Majeed Dahiru, who spoke to The ICIR on the issue, said Nigeria is almost the greatest loser in the countries’ exit because of the strong economic and cultural ties it has with the Niger Republic.

“For many years, Niger has proven to be a strong ally to Niger. It also has strong cultural and economic ties with Nigeria. Also, a war against insurgency will only be won with strong ally forces working together. In terms of hydro-power generation, Niger Republic contributes to the West African power pool. All these should have been considered diplomatically before such sanctions were imposed on these countries.

He suggested that Nigeria should initiate a diplomatic meeting with Niger Republic to address some of these key problems and to be headed by the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“In foreign policy, countries’ national interest comes before anything else. Nigeria’s interests and others’ interests should be guaranteed by member nations, which was why ECOWAS was established.

Security concerns    

The Sahel has been a fragile region over time, and the influx of weapons by terrorist groups is largely untamed. Analysts say this development could see international alliances of terrorists exploiting the loopholes.

For Salihu Dantata Mohammed, director of publicity, Arewa Youths for Peace and Security, the situation will increase the influx of insurgents through the border area with Niger around Kastina State since Niger Republic gendarmes were hitherto part of the multinational task force that is helping Nigeria in the fight against the Boko haram insurgency.

    “It will deter the surveillance and checkmating by Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger that has been helpful in intelligence sharing with Nigeria on the cross-border movement of insurgents like Isis and Iswap.

    He further said that most bilateral treaties on policing and regional security would be jeopardized as the earlier joint policing tactics and strategies shared would be halted.

    He noted that the entire security cooperation in West Africa would suffer setbacks, which could increase arms proliferation in the Sahel region.

    “The termination of the previously shared joint methods and strategies will jeopardise most bilateral treaties and regional security,” he added.

    Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.

    A reporter with the ICIR
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