Boot out the Niger coupists now

Last week, the military, otherwise known as gendarmes, in the Republic of Niger overthrew the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Bazoum in what has been described as a palace coup d’etat. This is as despicable as it is reprehensible and condemnable, considering the fact that democracy has become the norm among the comity of nations and any attempt to truncate it should be resisted by the international community.

Abdourahmane Tchiani, also known as Omar Tchiani, a General and the Chief of Niger’s Presidential Guard, declared himself leader while the country’s elected president is held by the military since the coup took place last week.

Already, the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have called for the immediate release and reinstatement of President Bazoum as the legitimate Head of State and Government of the Republic of Niger. The European Union and France have also cut off financial support to Niger and the United States has threatened to do the same.

In a communiqué at the end of the Extraordinary Summit on Socio-Political Situation in the Republic of Niger read Sunday by the President, ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, the leaders rejected any form of purported resignation by President Bazoum and declared him as the only recognised and elected president by ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community.

“In this regard, only official acts of President Bazoum or his duly-mandated officials will be recognised by ECOWAS,” they said. The leaders expressed strong condemnation of the attempted overthrow of constitutional order in Niger, and the illegal detention of Bazoum, as well as members of his family and government.

They demanded full restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger and considered the illegal detention of Bazoum as a hostage situation, holding the authors of the attempted coup d’état solely and fully responsible for his safety and security and that of his family and government.

“In the event, ECOWAS’ demands are not met within one week; the leaders said they would take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the country. Such measures may include the use of force for this effect, the Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS are to meet immediately,” the leaders said.

ECOWAS leaders also condemned the pronouncement of support by foreign governments and foreign private military contractors, while expressing appreciation to various governments and partners for their stance and solidarity.

The Summit hosted by President Bola Tinubu in his capacity as the Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, also agreed to appoint and dispatch a Special Representative to deliver the demands of the authority.

The Summit announced “immediate sanctions on Niger including the closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Niger, establishing a no-fly zone on all commercial flights to and from Niger, and suspending all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS Member States and Niger.

Furthermore, assets of the Republic of Niger in ECOWAS Central Bank, Niger state enterprises, and parastatals in commercial banks will be frozen.

“Niger will also be suspended from all financial assistance and transactions with financial institutions within ECOWAS.”

In his closing remarks to the Summit, President Tinubu thanked fellow leaders, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson, the Special Representative of the Secretary -General and Head of the United Nations Office in West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simaõ, for their active engagement and invaluable contributions to the discussions.

“As we come close to this Extraordinary Summit on the socio- political situation in the Republic of Niger, I send my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for your active engagement in our open and closed door meeting.

“Your invaluable contributions to our discussions have got us this far and hopefully, we will achieve our objective.

“The essence of African unity and solidarity is hereby reaffirmed. Our unwavering commitment to democracy, peace and prosperity is hereby resolved.

“Throughout our deliberations, we have recognised that the challenges faced by Niger are inter connected with broader issues affecting our region.

“As African leaders, it is our shared responsibility to foster stability and progress, placing the well-being of our people at the forefront of our endeavours, and working together towards their prosperity and happiness must always consistently, be our goals and consistently.

“We will stand with our people in freedom and our commitment to the rule of law and not the barrel of gun. Africa has come of age. We reject coup and interruption to constitutional order. Thank you for coming,” Tinubu further said.

We commend the world leaders, particularly Emmanuel Macron of France and President Tinubu of Nigeria, who is also ECOWAS chairman, for calling the bluff of the military junta and ordering them to quit the scene and allow democracy to flourish in Niger Republic. It is also pertinent to advise the international community to make good its threat to sanction Niger if the coupists remain renegades and recalcitrant.