Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has sought parliamentary approval to place sanctions on the Republic of Niger and mobilise the military for a possible intervention should the junta not respond to the conditions sought by the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS).
The belated letter comes after Nigeria had already cut the electricity supply of its northern neighbour, a move which sparked anti-Tinubu protests on the streets of Niamey with demonstrators holding posters and banners which read ‘Ebola Tinubu’.
On 4 August, Tinubu sent a letter to Senate president Godswill Akpabio seeking approval to deploy soldiers to enforce ECOWAS resolutions, in accordance with Section 5 of the Nigerian Constitution which states that the head of state must seek consent from parliament before sending troops abroad.
In his letter, Tinubu seeks support to close all land borders with Niger and begin “border drill exercises”.
He informs federal lawmakers of the ‘military build-up and deployment of personnel for military intervention to enforce the compliance by the military junta in Niger should they remain recalcitrant’.
Tinubu also reveals his plans to embark on media sensitisation in order to gain the support of the Nigerian people, and informs parliament of a blockade of goods in transit to landlocked Niger.
Tinubu’s letter contrasts with his diplomatic move just 24 hours earlier when he despatched a delegation led by former Nigerian military head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar to meet with Niger’s military junta to accept the ECOWAS conditions – including the unconditional release and reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
Help us restore our constitutional order
However, the Nigerien junta announced the expulsion of ambassadors from Nigeria, Togo, France and the US with immediate effect. It also asked the US and France to withdraw their troops from the country immediately.
Reports say the delegation was not able to meet with the head of the junta, General Abdourahamane Tiani, or with ousted President Bazoum.
In an article published in the Washington Post, Bazoum described himself as a hostage and called on the US government and the international community to ‘help us restore our constitutional order’.
He said the allegations levelled against him by the military junta were false, adding that the insecurity in the poor nation had reduced significantly since he took office in 2021.
The ousted president further stated that since Niger depends on foreign aid to implement 40% of its budget, the sanctions slammed on the country would worsen the plight of the people.
Time is ticking
With only two days left for the ultimatum issued by ECOWAS to expire, all eyes are on the leader of the sub-region, Tinubu, and the military junta led by Tiani to see who blinks first.
A leaked military memo revealed that an offensive may be launched from Sokoto, a northern state in Nigeria that shares borders with Niger.
However, sources tell The Africa Report that the military has returned to the drawing board following the leaked memo.
Furthermore, Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea – all headed by military juntas – have expressed support for Niger, deepening hostilities in the volatile region.
There are an estimated 303,000 Nigerian refugees in the Republic of Niger
Nigeria, the most powerful country in West Africa, has been hailed by the US and its allies for its role in trying to restore democracy in Niger. The US vice-president Kamala Harris and secretary of state Anthony Blinken have telephoned Tinubu on separate occasions.
Northern elite pushback
Earlier, Tinubu said at a meeting with African heads of state that he would be willing to commit resources to ensure stability on the continent.
His plan to attack Niger has not been fully supported by Nigeria’s northern elite, which shares familial bonds with the landlocked neighbour. Northern groups have issued statements insisting on dialogue.
The Nigerian government said last year that about 300,000 Nigerian refugees fleeing terrorist attacks were living in Niger.
“There are an estimated 303,000 Nigerian refugees being hosted in the Republic of Niger. These are people who were chased out by Boko Haram and armed groups from northern Nigeria,” says Senator Shehu Sani, a former negotiator with terrorists.
“With sanctions imposed on Niger, the Nigerian government must be well-prepared to receive their refugees if the Niger military junta expels them,” says Sani.
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