August 28, 2023

Our fears over ECOWAS military intervention – Nigeriens in Nigeria

West African leaders to hold summit as coups trouble region

File image of ECOWAS parliament.

By Biodun Busari

The Republic of Niger has been a thorn in the flesh of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), since July 26 when its top military officers staged a coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, a democratically-elected leader.

Having exhausted the option of diplomatic moves, that made Nigerian President Bola Tinubu who doubles as the Chairman of the Authority of Head of State and Government, sent delegations four times, the use of military intervention has been weighed, to reinstate deposed Niger’s leader, Bazoum.

While General Abdourahamane Tchiani-led junta did not bat an eyelid, Nigerien nationals – Abbas Dalekon and Alhaji Abdulwahab Tama – living in Kano spoke with Vanguard’s BIODUN BUSARI, about their fears and prospects about the Niger crisis.

Coup is condemned

Mali and Burkina Faso are the two countries that have supported Niger’s junta and are ready to form an alliance in case there is military intervention from the regional bloc. Other West African countries have pitched their tents with ECOWAS to condemn the coup de tat.

In his reaction to the coup, Nigerian businessman, Tama, said the government of Bazoum was the will of the people and, therefore, condemned the coup in its entirety.

The 67-year-old who has lived in Nigeria for 37 years said, “I condemned the coup in my country because the democratic government of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum was the voice of the people, which is the essence of democracy. The Nigerien people voted him into power, so a few military people cannot just wake up one day, and depose him, for whatever reason.”

ECOWAS should shun planned military intervention

Tinubu had sent a delegation led by former military Head of State, Gen Abdulsalam Abubakar, and Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III twice to engage in peaceful dialogue with the junta. Still, they were deadlocked, which led to weighing the option of force.

He also sent another delegation led by an Islamic scholar, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi to engage the putschists in mediation talks, but the two meetings yielded no result.

Reacting to this, Dalekon said, “I don’t support ECOWAS to invade Niger because of the action of the few military leaders that toppled the government of President Mohamed Bazoum. I know the fight is against the junta, but there is no way that could not lead to war and throw Niger into chaos.”

The 45-year-old man said he understood that ECOWAS wanted to engage in war with the putschists, but he said the casualties would be innocent people including women and children.

“If ECOWAS eventually invades Niger, many people including women and children will die. I can’t go to Niger because I’m a civilian. I’m not a soldier so I don’t have the required training to face war. But, my prayer is that this should not happen. I’m in Kano but my family is in Niger,” Dalekon stated.

Nigeria should be fair to Niger

The Nigeriens appealed to the Nigerian government to re-open the borders to Niger that was shut and start supplying electricity to their home country, stressing that it is the populace that is suffering the transgression of the Tchiani-led junta.

“Nigerian government should open the border and supply light back to Niger because doing that is subjecting Nigeriens to hardship. The fight should be against the junta, and not the people. If ECOWAS troops are deployed to Niger, many innocent people would die,” Tama begged.

Fear of consequences of war

The Nigeriens stressed that the result of war is grave, and feared to experience what happened in Somalia and Sudan, as they insisted that continued mediation and negotiations would end the Niger crisis.

Dalekon said, “If possible, let ECOWAS give them like one year or two years to return power to the civilian government, but military intervention is not acceptable. Niger is still my country, and I cannot let it be attacked. If you look at what happened in Sudan, Somalia, and other war-torn countries, it started like this. What ECOWAS is trying to do is understood but the consequences will be deadly. My daughter married a Nigerien soldier.”

“The three years proposed by the junta is unacceptable. The coupists should just return power to the democratically-elected government as soon as possible, but the three years is not good,” Tama added.