Niger’s Political Impasse Splits ECOWAS Parliament

*Wase to lead mediation team 

*Hundreds protest in Kano against planned military invasion*Soldiers, policemen foil attempt to take over Nigerian embassy in Niger

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament was yesterday divided over how best to address the political impasse caused by the coup in Niger Republic.
This is as hundreds of Nigerians yesterday took to the streets of Kano in protest against ECOWAS’ plans to declare war against the coupists in Niger Republic.
The Nigerian Embassy in Niger Republic has also denied a viral report that its embassy was taken over by angry protesters in Niamey, the Nigerien capital, clarifying that an attempt by the protesters to set the embassy ablaze was foiled.

While some members of the ECOWAS parliament advocated actions that would stem military intrusion into governance within the region, others said dialogue and diplomacy were the best ways to solve the crisis.

The positions were taken when the 22 parliamentarians held an extraordinary meeting, virtually, to discuss the Niger Republic impasse.
West Africa’s regional bloc on Thursday ordered the activation of a standby force for possible use against the junta that took power in Niger in July, saying it wanted a peaceful restoration of democracy but all options including force were on the table.

The members, who were against military action, put forward the fate that could befall the masses if the country was invaded by forces trying to dislodge the coupists.
Ali Djibo from Niger Republic said already no fewer than 9,000 schools have been shut since the crisis, adding that the best solution was dialogue and that military action had never been the best option anywhere in the world.

Djibo said: “War will only compound the economic woes the peoples of the sub-region are already going through.
“As we speak, over a thousand trucks, loaded with goods, are stranded at the border.
“If a coup happened in Nigeria or Cote’d’Iviore tomorrow, where’s the ECOWAS going to mobilise troops to fight the Nigerian or Ivorian military? How many borders are we going to close?

“We must also bear in mind that if we are applying the ECOWAS treaty, it should apply to all.”
Two others, who spoke against a military invasion of Niger Republic were Hon. Idris Wase and Senator Ali Ndume.
Wase, the first Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of ECOWAS, berated President Bola Tinubu, the ECOWAS Chairman.
He accused the President of unilaterally closing the Nigerian-Niger border and cutting electricity without the approval of the Nigerian National Assembly.
Wase added: “When the Russia-Ukraine war started, people thought it was to be a sharp war.
“A year after, the war is still lingering on with the attendant economic squander and wanton destruction of lives and properties.
“The sub-regional military chiefs knows what they stand to benefit economically. That’s why they’re eager to militarily intervene in Niger. Most of them are corrupt.
“Any war on Niger will have adverse effects on 60% of Nigeria, especially Northern Nigeria.
On his part, Senator Ndume said: “We are the representatives of the people. Whatever action that must be taken should be dependent on what our people want.
“The ECOWAS Chairman,  President Tinubu, wrote the Nigerian Senate on the planned military intervention in Niger and the Red Chamber vehemently opposed the use of force. They prefer, instead, dialogue should be adopted in resolving the impasse.

“President Tinubu has no right to close the Niger-Nigeria border, cut electricity without the approval of the Nigerian National Assembly.
“It is not the Niger junta that are suffering the sanctions, rather it is innocent people.”
For Awaji-Inombek Dagomie Abiante (Rivers), ECOWAS must pay keen attention and treat the root causes of coup in ECOWAS countries.
Members of the ECOWAS Parliament rooting for a military solution to the Niger Republic matter said dialogue and diplomacy had not tamed the spread of coup in West Africa.

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One of them was Linda Ikpeazu, who said because there were no consequences in the past, especially in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, hence the Niger Republic situation.
She stressed that with the current situation in the sub-region, nobody knows which country will be the next.
Adebayo Balogun, in his contribution, said ECOWAS Heads of States were not proposing a full-scale war, but a military action to dislodge the junta.
He recalled that Niger was a signatory to ECOWAS’ revised protocol on non-military intervention.

Also, Bashir Dawodu said he believed that while dialogue is being pursued, the body should be opened to military options to put pressure on the coupists.
He also reminded those who are banking on the support of Russia to defend the juntas that Russia alone cannot defend them. He stressed while diplomacy and dialogue are going on, there must also be the heat of military intervention.

Meanwhile, he pointed out, those banking on Russia to defend the junta should know that Russia alone cannot do it.
However, ECOWAS Parliament has appointed Nigeria’s lawmaker, Wase to lead 10 other parliamentarians to mediate with Nigerien junta.
This is a last ditch attempt by the subregional body parliamentary body to prevent military confrontation with the Nigerien military who forcibly took power from President Mohamed Bazoum.

The ad hoc committee, which, is to be led by the First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Hon. Wase, is mandated to apart from the task in Niger, saddled with the responsibility of interfacing with the military juntas in Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso to accelerate the return to democratic rule in those countries as well.
This move was part of the parliamentary option of diplomacy, to support the mediation effort of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, in sustaining democratic governance in the subregion.

It was part of resolutions reached at the end of the Virtual Extra Ordinary Session of ECOWAS Parliament, convened by the Speaker, Sidie Tunis to deliberate on the Niger political crisis.
The committee is to report back to the parliament for further legislative actions.
During the plenary, a Nigerian MP, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, urged ECOWAS to look beyond the surface in finding lasting solution to the Niger political impasse.
She had warned that the support the coupists in Niger enjoy from the citizens should not be taken for granted.
She said: “Let us look back and be circumspect. Our people are copycat, and they like to copy bad things. We need to dig deep to find out the real reason for the coup.”

She also posited that: “We need to legislate on the issue of coup d’etat to forestall future occurrence.”
MPs have appealed to ECOWAS Authority to relax the sanctions so that those it is made to protect should not die of diseases and starvation.
The Parliament also mooted the idea of engaging the super powers who had been fingered to be behind the crisis in Niger, so as to find a middle ground in resolving the crisis permanently.

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Wase is given the task of leading 10 other members to Niger on the mediation duty.
Other notable members include Hon. Ibrahima from Togo, Hon. Edwin Melvin Snowe from Liberia, Hon. Foutoumatta Njai from The Gambia, and Senator Ali Ndume from Nigeria.
Representatives from Senegal, Ghana, Cape Verde, Benin Republic, and Guinea Bissau are also part of the committee.

Hundreds Protest in Kano against Planned Military Action

Meanwhile, hundreds of Nigerians yesterday took to the streets of Kano in protest against ECOWAS’ plans to declare war against the coupists in Niger Republic.
The protesters, who embarked on a procession on the streets expressed their displeasure at the planned military invasion of Niger and chanted various slogans to voice their concerns.

 Recall that the ECOWAS had directed the military forces of its member states to be on standby.
The protesters were seen chanting songs such as “War against Niger is injustice,” “It is the handiwork of America,” “It is the handiwork of westerners,” “It is Islam that we want,” “It is Justice that we want,” and “Niger is ours” among other songs.
The protesters were also displaying the Nigerian and Nigerien flags alongside placards.

Military, Police Foil Attempt by Protesters to Burn Nigerian Embassy in Niger

In a related development, the Nigerian Embassy in Niger Republic has denied a viral report that its embassy was taken over by angry protesters in Niamey, the Nigerien capital.
A statement signed by Liti Auwalu for the Nigeria Ambassador to Niger explained that even though the protesters tried to gain access to the embassy, the Nigerien military and police managed the situation, adding that the embassy is well guarded.
The statement read: “It has been brought to our notice that fake videos showing the torching of the Chancery Building in Niamey by protesters are circulating on various social media platforms.

 “The Embassy wishes to inform the general public that even though protesters tried to gain access to the Embassy on July 30, 2023, the Nigerien military and police Authorities promptly curtailed the situation.
“At the moment, the Embassy is well guarded by the Nigerien military and other security authorities.
“We reiterate that the videos are fake and as such the general public is enjoined to disregard such videos.”

Ousted President Bazoum Visited by His Doctor

Meanwhile, the ousted Niger President, Mohamed Bazoum, who has been illegally detained by the coup leaders led by Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani since July was seen by his doctor on Saturday.
It was learnt that the physician also brought food for Bazoum, his wife, and his son who is being held with him.
A member of his entourage told AFP, the ousted president “had a visit by his doctor today.
“He’s fine, given the situation.”

Concerns had been raised over the health and detention conditions of Bazoum, his wife, and 20-year-old son since the military seized power and took them captive on July 26.
The European Union and the African Union have joined others in condemning the overthrow of Bazoum and subsequent detention by the country’s military.
The UN rights chief Volker Turk said Bazoum’s reported detention conditions “could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of international human rights law”.
Top US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said he was “dismayed” by the military’s refusal to release Bazoum’s family as a “demonstration of goodwill.”

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