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COUP: Niger Junta Finally Bows To Pressure, Demands Meeting With ECOWAS.

General Abdourahmane Tchiani

After weeks of resisting diplomatic overtures from the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States and the United States, the junta in Niger Republic has finally agreed to talks with the ECOWAS to resolve the political crisis in the Sahel country.

The positive signal from the military leaders followed a meeting with a group of Nigerian Islamic clerics in Niamey on Saturday.

The Ulammas led by Sheik Bala Lau met with the coup leader, General Abdourahmane Tchiani, for several hours where they deliberated on all the issues including the demand by ECOWAS leaders that former President Mohamed Bazoum be reinstated.

The newly appointed Prime Minister, Ali Zeine, confirmed that the junta was ready for a dialogue, expressing hope that the talks with ECOWAS would take place in the next few days.

Zeine noted “We have agreed and the leader of our country has given the green light for dialogue. They will now go back and inform the Nigerian President what they have heard from us. We hope in the coming days, they (ECOWAS) will come here to meet us to discuss how the sanctions imposed against us will be lifted.”

The junta had defiantly refused to yield to entreaties and diplomatic pressure to reinstate Bazoum who has been in detention at his residence since the takeover on July 26.

Following the coup, the ECOWAS imposed several sanctions on the francophone country, including cutting off electricity supply to Niger, to compel the military leaders to reinstate the ousted president.

Nigeria is the major supplier of electricity to the country considered one of the poorest nation in the world.

Despite the sanctions, the military leaders ignored a one-week ultimatum issued by ECOWAS to restore democracy and also refused to meet with a delegation led by former military Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar.

Similarly, the junta refused to grant an audience to the Acting United States Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

Also, plans by a joint UN, AU, ECOWAS delegation to visit Niamey last Tuesday was aborted after the coup leaders said they were unavailable to meet with the mission.

Consequently, the Federal Government announced that more sanctions had been imposed on the individuals and entities relating with the military junta.

The new sanctions imposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria will prevent Nigerien banks from carrying out financial transactions with their Nigerian counterparts.

The Federal Government also closed Nigeria’s borders with Niger and prevented transportation of goods from Nigerian ports to the country.

In reaction, the coup leaders closed their country’s airspace until further notice, citing the threat of military intervention from their neighbours.

Cleric meets junta

However, Bala Lau, who is the National Chairman of Jamatul Izalatu Bida Waikamatu Sunnah, explained that the team had earlier told Tinubu, who is also the Chairman of Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, that their position was that the political impasse in Niger could be resolved through dialogue.

He said they told Tchiani that the visit to Niger was to engage the military leaders in constructive dialogue to encourage those behind the takeover to toe the path of peace in resolving the crisis.

He disclosed that Tchiani accorded the team a warm reception and welcomed their intervention.

The military leader reportedly said, “Their doors were open to explore diplomacy and peace in resolving the matter.”

Tchiani, however, said it was painful to the coup leaders that the ECOWAS leaders did not hear their side of the matter before issuing an ultimatum to them to quit office.

He claimed the coup was well intended, stating that they struck to stave off an imminent threat that would have affected not only the Niger Republic but also Nigeria.

He also apologised for not giving the Abubakar delegation sent by President Tinubu the required attention because they were angry about the ECOWAS ultimatum.

While tracing the historical ties between the two nations, the general said Niger Republic and Nigeria were not only neighbours but brothers and sisters who should resolve issues amicably.

Speaking on the outcome of their peace mission to Niger on Sunday, a member of the delegation and Secretary General, Jammatul Nasril Islam, Prof. Abubakar Aliyu, explained that the clerics had sent their report to the President, adding that further advice on the matter would depend on their next meeting with Tinubu.

He said, “Our report on our interface with Nigerien counterparts by now must have reached President Bola Tinubu. It is when the President digests our report and calls us that we shall meet him. Our further advice will depend on the outcome of our next meeting with the President.”

He further said the coupists were angered by the ECOWAS sanctions because the sub-regional leaders never bothered to hear from them on why they overthrew Bozaum.

The cleric noted, “Already, we are briefing the President on their demands too; That their own side of the talk had not been heard and the hasty decisions by ECOWAS were lopsided; That they only acted on the fact there was a coup but never cared to know the reasons behind the coup itself. They seemed not to bother about that.’’

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