Residents said the cost of living has also skyrocketed, social life grounded, even as hundreds of articulated vehicles conveying basic necessities of life from Nigeria to Niger have been stranded at the frontlines.

Locals in the affected communities yesterday called on President Bola Tinubu, who is the chairman of ECOWAS, to have a rethink, saying the complete barricade of the borders was adding to their plights.

Movement of persons in commuter buses, rickshaws (Keke NAPEP) and motorcycles have all been grounded as Nigerian security operatives, including the military, police, customs, civil defence and immigrations have tightened their surveillance in the affected communities.

Tinubu had in an official communication sent to the Senate on Friday sought the support of the parliament for the implementation of resolutions of ECOWAS on the political situation in Niger Republic.

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Recall that immediately after the communication by Tinubu, the northern senators under the leadership of Senator Abdul Ahmad Ningi cautioned ECOWAS against the use of military force in restoring democracy in Niger Republic.

Many prominent groups like the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the Ummah Movement, the Ulama Forum in Nigeria, as well as notable individuals, have said that it was wrong to use force to bring back the ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, who was toppled by his guards.

They all underscored the need for caution, saying that about seven northern states that share border with Niger Republic, namely, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno will be negatively affected once war broke.

Therefore, the Senate yesterday urged President Tinubu to adopt diplomacy in addressing the toppling of the democratic government Niger Republic.

After a two-hour deliberation behind closed doors on Saturday, the Senate advised President Tinubu against using military actions to force the coupists out of power.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio, after the executive session, said the Senate agreed that its leadership should meet with Tinubu over the resolutions of the red chamber.

Akpabio said, “The Senate commends President Ahmed Bola Tinubu and other heads of states and governments of ECOWAS for their prompt response and the position taken on the unfortunate development in Niger Republic.

“The Senate recognises the fact that President Tinubu, by virtue of his correspondence, has not asked for the approval of this Senate to go to war as being erroneously suggested in some quarters.

“Rather, the president and commander in chief had ‘wished to respectively solicit the support of the National Assembly in the successful implementation of the ECOWAS resolutions as outlined in the said communication’.

“The Senate calls on the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as chairman of ECOWAS to further encourage other leaders of ECOWAS to strengthen the political and diplomatic options and other means with which to resolve the political impasse in Niger Republic.

“Finally, the Senate called on the ECOWAS Parliament to rise to the occasion by condemning this and also positing solutions to resolve this impasse as soon as possible.”

Businesses grounded

Reports from border towns along the Nigeria/Niger axis say traders have been lamenting the seemingly slow pace of businesses just after Nigeria shut down its shores.

Those who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday said despite the general economic situation in both countries occasioned by the recent fuel price increase in Nigeria, the recent border closure has made the situation even worse.

Jibia in Katsina

The chairman of Jibia Peoples Forum, Alhaji Gide Dahiru, described the situation as that of apprehension, scarcity and increasing cost of living, saying it has significantly disrupted economic and social life.

“The situation has worsened. There is no free movement of people, not to talk of goods, in and out of Niger. I said free movement because some who have blood ties, no matter what, must find a way of meeting each other, but that has become difficult.

“Residents of Niger, especially those living in this part of their country, are dependent, to a large extent, on our markets for their basic necessities, I would say about 70 per cent. Similarly, our traders here depend on the goods coming from Niger Republic.

“We have heard issues of high cost of commodities in Niger due to scarcity, and we are also facing the same situation here because of the cut in supply of goods from Niger.

“We are also apprehensive because from what we know of the military in Niger, we don’t see them giving up easily. And if any military action is taken, it is the common man in both countries that will suffer,” he said.

Also speaking, Aliyu Haidar Muhammad, a trader in Magamar Jibia, who supplies bread to neigbouring communities in Niger Republic, said, initially in spite of the closure, they used motorcycles to supply goods, but that has completely stopped.

He said Jibia market, which was before now populated by marketers from Niger republic, is now deserted.

A trader based in Mai Mujiya, a border community in Niger Republic, which is next to Kongolam of Mai’adua Local Government Area in Nigeria, Malam Jibrila Mai Mujiya, told our reporter that with the closure of the border, prices of commodities have gone up.

“In the past few days, a bag of rice here has added nothing less than N7,000 to its original price before the closure. Similarly, prices of spaghetti, macaroni and cooking oil have also gone up,” he said.

The trader lamented that although there was no significant deployment of troops in the area, Mai Mujiya has been largely deserted as no serious trading activities is happening anymore, making lives miserable for many.

At Kwangwalam, a resident, Lawal Secretary, said though there was no deployment of troops on both sides, residents are apprehensive, saying that life is becoming unbearable.

Illela communities resort to prayers

Similarly, communities around the Illela border in Sokoto State have engaged in fervent prayer for a peaceful resolution of the current impasse.

Illela shares border with Konni in Tohoua State of Niger Republic, where there is an existing marital and business ties between both communities.

Our reporter, who was in the area on Friday, observed a decline in business activities as hundreds of trucks loaded with goods were seen stranded at the border post, with no hope of crossing the border any time soon.

A former chairman of Illela Local Government, Abdullahi Haruna, told our reporter that there was general apprehension among residents in the communities over the current situation.

“When it was reported that our senators had rejected the deployment of soldiers, we were all happy because we don’t pray for war to break out between both countries,” he said.

The former chairman also observed that business activities in the two border towns were grounded.

He noted that before the closure of the borders, hundreds of trucks, commercial vehicles and motorcycles passed through the road to Niger Republic.

“Goods were imported and exported in large numbers. But all these stopped after the border closure,” he said.

The Ubandawakin Illela, Abubakar Abdullahi, said prices of goods, especially rice and other imported goods skyrocketed in the area since the commencement of the border closure last week.

“A measure of rice here was N1,000, but is now N2, 000. So, the closure is impacting negatively on our lives. We have sisters, brothers and daughters living across the border, and so, we appeal to the government for a peaceful resolution,” he said.

Lull at Jigawa-Maigatari-Niger border

At the Maigatari-Niger Republic border in Jigawa State, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the booming commercial activities the area is known for and other movements across the border have been at the lowest ebb following the border closure.

It was further gathered that the movement of vehicles, especially those that are coming to Nigeria from Niger Republic, has been stopped and those in Nigeria were packed as a result of fear of what would happen.

Malam Bashir Muhammad Maigatari told our correspondent that there is palpable fear of what will happen as a result of the coup in Niger Republic and Nigeria and ECOWAS’ planned intervention.

Also, soldiers and other security personnel have been increased at the border, he said.

“Presence of more security is what makes us fear because our activities are between Nigeria and Niger,” he said.

Also, Ismail Maigatari, who operates a bureau change business, said he used to sell CFA and naira but as a result of this coup, his business dropped by almost 70 per cent due to the absence of travellers.

“People are not confident moving around the town like before, so you can really say we are living in very dangerous times,” he said.

Fillers have it that the distress is the same in border communities around Geidam, Yusufari, Yunusari and Machina in Yobe State, as well as Malam Fatori, Damasak and others in Borno State.

We’re battling reptiles – Stranded truck drivers 

Meanwhile, truck drivers have also lamented their struggles since the closure of the borders.

Some of the drivers, who claimed to have been stranded for days, said majority of them now only eat once a day as they had exhausted all their money.

Daily Trust on Sunday observed that the drivers have been stranded in a place identified as “no man’s land” which is between Nigeria and Niger in Katsina State.

One of the drivers, Yakubu Muhammad, who said they brought coal to Niger Republic from Gombe State, said they had been stranded in the area for days.

“We have spent all we have and now surviving on the hand outs from our colleagues who still have something to spend,” he said.

The truck drivers appealed to government to reopen the borders so that people can be reunited with their families.

Another driver, Malam Muhammad, said they had been battling snakes in the area they camped.

“Even this morning, we killed one, which we found lying under my truck,” he said.

Another truck driver said they had been stranded along the borders with difficulties, not knowing when the shore guards would allow them cross into the Republic of Niger.

He said, “We have been here for over five days now and we want to go to Niamey to offload the goods, but the officials stopped us; neither did they allow us to go back to the main town. They kept us here in the bush, which is very dangerous. Bandits are hibernating around, kidnapping people. Honestly, we are not happy,” he said.

Nigeria not at war with Niger Republic – Customs

The acting Comptroller of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, who visited the borders in Sokoto and Katsina, said that Nigeria was not at war with Niger Republic.

While speaking to newsmen in Jibia, he said there’s a need for citizens of both countries’ to sacrifice for the time being before normalcy is restored.

He appealed to Nigerians, business owners and members of border communities to understand and support the government, adding that whatever hardship they were going through is temporary.

He said, “Pain is involved in this exercise, but no price is too big to pay for peace. We want peace in Niger and we also want peace all over the sub-region. So, this effort is to ensure that democracy is restored so that we can guarantee peace in Nigeria, Niger and in the entire sub-region.”

He added that there’s no time Nigeria declared war against the Republic of Niger.

“Certainly, we are not at war with Niger. No such declaration has been made. And what’s happening in Nigeria, I believe, is also happening in other member states of West African countries that share border with Niger Republic,” he said.

Mr Adeniyi charged Customs officers and other security agencies to ensure effective coordination and total implementation of the directive.

On their part, representatives of the border communities assured the comptroller-general of their readiness to fully support and ensure the total compliance of the directive.

In Illela, it was observed that security was tightened at the border post.

Daily Trust on Sunday observed a massive deployment of security agents at the border, especially operatives of Customs, to ensure compliance.


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