President Bola Tinubu, on Thursday, dispatched a delegation led by a Nigerian diplomat, Babagana Kingibe, to engage with the leaders of Libya and Algeria on the crisis in Niger Republic, where a military junta overthrew democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
This was as he sent another delegation, headed by former Nigerian Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, to Niger to speedily resolve the current political impasse in the country.
Briefing the two delegations, Tinubu, who is Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, charged them to engage all stakeholders robustly to do whatever it takes to ensure a conclusive and amicable resolution of the situation in Niger for African peace and development rather than a move to adopt the geopolitical positions of other nations.
“We don’t want to hold brief for anybody. Our concern is democracy and the peace of the region,” the Nigerian President said.
Speaking after the meeting, Abdulsalami said the delegation would meet the coup leaders in Niger to present the demands of the ECOWAS leadership.
“We have just been given our marching orders to go to Niger and convey the feelings of our Heads of State in the region that they are not happy with what happened.
“And then gave them an ultimatum that the coupists should desist from what they are doing and give back power to an elected President.
“We are going there to convey this message to them and hear their response and report back what they have said,” Abubakar explained.
On his part, Kingibe said talking with Libya and Algeria, two countries bordering Niger to the North, would stimulate the solidarity required for peaceful talks.
“Of course, this kind of situation requires solidarity. It requires coordination with all parties that are relevant to the situation.
“In that regard, Libya and Algeria are also very important neighbours of Niger. So, my mission is to go there with a message from President Tinubu; to brief them on the ECOWAS position and solicit solidarity and cooperation,” Kingibe said.
He expressed optimism that the talks would avert a possible military intervention.
“We hope to find a diplomatic solution. Nobody wants to go to war, especially with neighbourly, brotherly people across the border with whom we share a common language, culture and religion,” he said.
On the Abdusalami’s delegation is the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray.
The delegations are expected back at the State House before the one-week ultimatum given by ECOWAS to the Niger coupists to restore power to the ousted President.
The ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government had met in Abuja on Sunday to take a position on the Niger coup.
As part of the resolutions of the extraordinary summit of the regional bloc, ECOWAS said it would explore “all measures necessary” to restore democratic governance in Niger, including “the use of force.”
The ECOWAS Authority also imposed immediate sanctions on Niger, including closing land and air borders between member-states and Niger.
The bloc said it could authorise using force if the coup leaders do not reinstate elected President Bazoum within a week from last Sunday.
“The military option is the very last option on the table, the last resort, but we have to prepare for the eventuality,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security.
The bloc said it would send a delegation to the country to communicate its demands.
Meanwhile, Former Nigerian Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has called for diplomatic engagement to resolve the Niger crisis.
In a statement he personally signed, Atiku commended ECOWAS role, urging the sub-regional body not to take military action against the coupists in order not to worsen the situation.
The statement read, “The crisis in the Republic of Niger requires diplomatic engagements, and that must mean that the channels for dialogue should be well sustained,” he said.
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