Chairman of ECOWAS authority of heads of state and government, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has begun moves to counter the coup in the Republic of Niger that has upended the constitutional political leadership in the West Africa country,leadership report.
Accordingly, the Nigerian leader will host a special meeting of the regional leaders today in Abuja.
This is coming just as General Abdourahmane Tchiani, head of Niger’s presidential guard, yesterday declared himself head of a transitional government in the West African country.
Tchiani appointed himself the head of the new military government and head of state just two days after his unit overthrew democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
But a statement by presidential spokesman, Dele Alake, recalled that President Tinubu, as chairman of ECOWAS, had on Wednesday condemned the current political situation in the neighbouring country and promised that ECOWAS and the international community would do everything to defend democracy and ensure democratic governance continues to take firm root in the sub-region.
Already, the ECOWAS chairman is beginning to garner support from the international community in the bid to quash the coup de d’ tat in Niger.
US Vice President Kamala Harris and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in separate telephone calls on Thursday evening with President Tinubu affirmed the support of the US and UN for the position taken by ECOWAS to restore constitutional order in Niger.
According to a statement by Presidential spokesman, Alake, in her telephone conversation with President Tinubu, at the instance of the US authorities, Harris praised the reform initiatives of the Federal Government, urging the country to continue in that direction.
While pledging to support democracy in Africa including the West African sub region, Harris also said the U.S. would assist Nigeria in the battle against terrorism.
The US Vice President spoke on the need for Africa, including Nigeria to embrace energy transitions.
In his response, President Tinubu thanked Harris for the telephone call and her words of encouragement on the efforts taken so far on the economy, but added that “the developments in Niger Republic dampen spirits.”
He said ECOWAS under his watch would do all that is necessary to restore democracy in Niger, while counting on the support of the US.
On Nigeria, President Tinubu craved for more private sector investment, urging the US to lead the way in this regard.
“We had to get rid of the fuel subsidy that is laden with fraud with a few people appropriating the wealth of the country to themselves.
“We would need the US to help push for investments that will help alleviate the effects of subsidy removal in Nigeria. We need foreign direct investment to come in.
“We have abundant gas resources in the country and not been able to fund gas pipelines to Europe and compete in that gas market is a handicap,” he said.
On climate change, the president said Nigeria would stay focused on alternate energy but he pleaded for the developed nations to understand the situation in developing countries including Africa.
The two leaders also spoke on strengthening relations between their two countries and on their shared work on global and regional issues.
Other matters that featured in the discussions that lasted about 40 minutes are defending democracy in West Africa and The Sahel and digital inclusion.
Speaking with the UN secretary- general, Guterres, President Tinubu said he was doing everything possible to resolve the impasse in Niger.
While expressing the hope that the situation in Niger could still be reversed for better, he said ECOWAS would require UN’s support for restoring democracy and building institutions in that country.
Guterres had earlier pledged the commitment of the UN for Tinubu’s peace efforts in Niger.
Meanwhile, Tchiani who declared himself as leader of Niger on state-run television on Friday said he was the “president of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland”.
The 62-year-old general also said the intervention had been necessary to avoid “the gradual and inevitable demise” of the country.
He said that while Bazoum had sought to convince people that “all is going well… the harsh reality (is) a pile of dead, displaced, humiliation and frustration”.
“The security approach today has not brought security to the country despite heavy sacrifices,” Tchiani said.
There was no mention of a timeline for return to civilian leadership.
Tchiani who was drafted to lead the elite unit in 2015, is from Niger’s western region of Tillaberi, a main recruitment area for the army. He remains a close ally of former President Mahamadou Issoufou – the politician who led the country until 2021.
The general reportedly led the resistance to a thwarted coup attempt in March 2021, when a military unit tried to seize the presidential palace days before Bazoum, who had just been elected, was due to be sworn in.
On Wednesday, Tchiani’s unit detained Bazoum in the presidential palace in the capital, Niamey, provoking a flurry of condemnation from leaders within Africa and beyond. It remains unclear where Bazoum is or if he is still being detained.
Colonel Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson of the Nigerien army, had said on state TV on Wednesday that security forces had decided to “put an end to the regime that you know due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance”.
Abdramane said Niger’s borders are closed, a nationwide curfew declared, and all institutions of the republic are suspended. The soldiers warned against any foreign intervention, adding that they will respect Bazoum’s wellbeing.
Buhari Concerned About Bazoum’s Fate
This is just as immediate past Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, has expressed concern about unfolding events in Niger and the fate of the ousted president, Mohammed Bazoum.
Buhari, in a statement signed by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, said, “As to be expected, I, just like millions of other Nigerians, am shocked by the latest turn of events in Niger Republic, our neighbor to the North.
“Concerns have been raised about the fate of democracy as a system of government in the country and in the wider subregion, and equally so, about the safety of President Mohammed Bazoum and his family. I and my family are as much concerned about these as is everyone else.
“It is heartening to note that the ECOWAS, under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is already dealing effectively with the matter and our hope and prayers are that the unwanted situation will be completely reversed and the safety and wellbeing of President Bazoum and his family are ensured”.
EU, Anyaoku Condemn Coup D’ Tat
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has joined other members of the International Community to denounce the coup in Niger Republic, stressing that the coup has derailed democracy in the West African country and threatens its stability.
In the same vein, former secretary general of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, condemned the coup.
The EU in a statement on Friday by its High Representative said Wednesday’s coup and events of recent days “constitute a serious attack on stability and democracy in Niger.”
The EU quoted ECOWAS which stated that the coup is a total violation of the democratic principles on which the management of political power in the region is based.
“The EU reiterates its support for the action of the organization in the sub-region and for the on-going efforts to allow an immediate return to constitutional order,” the statement said.
The European Union therefore called for the security of President Mohamed Bazoum, who has been arrested by the plotters and demanded unconditional freedom of movement
“Any breach of the constitutional order will have consequences for cooperation between the EU and Niger, including the immediate suspension of all budget support. We will remain in close coordination with the ECOWAS Heads of State.
“The EU stands with the people of Niger and reaffirms its full commitment to strict respect for the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law in Niger,” the statement said.
Meanwhile Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who spoke to reporters on Thursday in Abuja, during the annual lecture of the Association of Foreign Relations Professionals of Nigeria, denounced the coup, calling it a surprise.
He said “well what had happened in Niger should be of major concern to us here in Nigeria, on a number of grounds. The first is that we thought that we have seen the end of military coup, and end of unconstitutional change of government and so what had happened is a surprise which we should condemn.