Niger Crisis: Islamic Council, Catholic Bishops Warn Against Military Invasion

More organisations, including Islamic leaders and Christian leaders, have voiced their support for a peaceful approach to resolving the crisis in Niger Republic following the military coup d’état that ousted President Muhammed Bazoum.

Yesterday, both the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Catholic Bishops in West Africa urged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and, in particular, President Bola Tinubu to avoid military action in Niger due to the ugly consequences of armed conflict on the ordinary people.

The apex Islamic body, headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, advised ECOWAS and President Tinubu to retrace their hard stance against the Republic of Niger.

The NSCIA, which gave the admonition in a statement issued by its deputy secretary-general, Prof. Salisu Shehu, yesterday, said such hard stance, including economic sanctions, are counter-productive and will eventually end in futility.

According to the NSCIA, both Nigerians and Nigeriens share common history and borders; therefore, imposing more stringent sanctions against Niger will have negative socio-economic implications – more pain and difficulties for the suffering masses – while the junta, with control of state resources, can live in comfort.

The Council observes with dismay that although the military junta in Niger has remained defiant, ECOWAS has just lately further imposed more stringent sanctions against it. But it is well known that such kinds of economic sanctions are counter-productive and eventually end in futility. It is the masses that do suffer the pains and difficulties of the sanctions while the junta that seizes power takes control of state resources and begins a life of indulgence. The Council therefore, calls on ECOWAS and in particular, the Nigerian Government to retrace their steps in this regard to avoid correcting wrong with another,” NSCIA’s statement read in part.

NSCIA also reminded President Tinubu who is spearheading the imposition of sanctions on Niger that thousands of Nigerian refugees are in Niger to whom the country provided succor and safe abode for several years now, insisting that, that rare hospitality and kindness should not be reciprocated with measures that would cause disaffection, breed hate and hostility and aggravate the sufferings of the downtrodden people across both sides of the borders.

“While it is understandable that the leadership of both ECOWAS and Nigeria must preserve and protect democracy by discouraging forceful take-over of power through military coup d’état, the NSCIA strongly implores the federal government of Nigeria and, by extension, the leadership of ECOWAS to continue to tread the path of dialogue rather than resorting to violence. This is because violence does more harm than the intended good in any circumstance. Should violence break out in Niger, it is the helpless and hapless masses, who had already been devastated and impoverished by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world economy, that would pay the very costly price, not the coup plotters,” the statement added.

Similarly, Catholic Bishops under the auspices of Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA)  has urged the authority of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to avoid the use of force to restore the constitutional regime in Niger Republic, expressing concern about the consequences of the proposed military intervention in the country.

RECOWA, which comprises all Catholic Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops in West Africa, also urged the sub-regional leaders to learn from what happened in Libya in 2011, describing it as a tragic example of the disastrous consequences for people’s lives, dignity and future.

The bishops expressed their concerns in a two-page letter addressed to the president of ECOWAS, Heads of State of ECOWAS and the Transitional Authorities in Niger, on August 7, calling for dialogue and reconciliation rather than belligerence and military response.

The letter, signed by the president of RECOWA and Bishop of Agboville, Most Rev. Alexis Touabli Youlo, is sequel to the military coup that displaced the democratically elected government of President Mohammed Bazoum in Niger Republic and the resolve of the ECOWAS Authority to deploy all means necessary, even the use of force, to restore the constitutional regime in Niger.

In the two-page letter, RECOWA canvassed pacifism rather belligerence in the management of the crisis, even as it invited every actor within the sub-region to show restraint, discernment and responsibility.

The letter read in part: “We, the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa, after consultations, are deeply concerned by the sub-regional tension linked to the political situation in Niger. Faced with the events currently unfolding in the sub-region, the lives of the people of West Africa are at stake.

“Keeping as our central vision the integrity of the people and emphasising respect for human dignity and a high sense of accountability to mankind, history and God the Creator, we affirm that nothing can justify the creation or facilitation of an environment that is destructive to our people.”

“We cannot remain silent in the face of such situations and must learn lessons to ensure that such events do not happen again, particularly with Niger as a potential epicentre of a similar crisis. As a Bishops’ conference, our mission is intimately linked to the Also, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has cautioned President Bola Tinubu not to adopt military action in addressing the impasse arising from the Niger coup.

The SMBLF, however, commended the President for pursuing negotiation with the coup leaders through the former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and the Sultan of Sokoto, saying the process should be accelerated using other sources both within Nigeria and the neighbouring countries that can be of benefit to the cause.

The leaders of the southern and middle belt regions stated this in a statement jointly signed by leader of the forum, Chief Dr. E. K. Clark; leader of Afenifere Chief Ayo Adebanjo; president-general, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; president, Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus; and national chairman of PANDEF, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien.

The SMBLF leaders, who condemned the removal of the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Bazoum in Niger, said, “We discourage the temptation to adopt military means to force the illegal government out of power.  From our judgment, such a move will be resisted sternly by forces both within Niger and Nigeria.

“It is important to note that several of our Nigerian communities in the extreme north do not see Niger as mere neighbours but enjoy a lot of traditional and cultural ties.  In those border areas, there is no difference between a Nigerian and a Nigerien.

“There are tenable concerns that if war comes, normal lives will be disrupted in the border communities, insecurity will increase, and there will be an influx of refugees.  From our previous experience of wars, in Chad, such refugees do not stop at the border areas but penetrated the farthermost points in Nigeria and became a source of concern to all of us.”


Emir Sanusi Briefs Tinubu on Discussion With Junta Leader

Meanwhile, the 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II has met with President Bola Tinubu to provide a comprehensive account of his recent discussion with leaders of the Niger Coup.

Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting on Wednesday night at the Presidential Villa, he underscored the significance of public diplomacy in resolving cross-border tensions.

He emphasized  that this challenge requires collective involvement beyond governmental efforts.

He advocated  for the active participation of all Nigerians and Nigeriens in finding solutions that benefit not only the African continent but also humanity as a whole.

He said “I came to brief him on the details of my discussions with leaders of Niger. We’ll continue to do our best to bring the two parties together to improve understanding.

“This is the time public diplomacy, it’s not a matter that we leave to governments, all Nigerians, all Nigeriens need to be involved to find a solution that works for Africa, a solution that works for Niger that works for Nigeria and a solution that works for humanity.

Sanusi clarified that his involvement was not at the behest of the government, although government officials were informed of his mission

“No, I was not sent by the government. Government officials were are aware I was going, but it was my personal initiative, using my personal contacts to get there and I will continue to do my best. It is my duty as a leader to do that,” he said .


ECOWAS Leaders Meet Over Crisis Today

Meanwhile, the Authority of Heads of State and Government  of ECOWAS has scheduled  another meeting  to possibly  take decisive actions against the coup  leaders in Niger Republic following  last week’s expiration  of the  threat of the use of  force against the coup leaders  if they failed to restore deposed President Mohamed Bazoum to power.

The chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu summoned  the Extraordinary Summit of the Authority on the political situation in the Republic of Niger, a quick follow-up  to the July 30 extraordinary summit   of the West African leaders, where they slammed a raft of sanctions on the Nigerien junta led  by Abdourahmane Tchiani.

A statement issued on Tuesday by the Directorate of Communications from the Abuja Headquarters of the ECOWAS Commission indicated that the Summit will be held in Abuja on Thursday, August 10, 2023.

“The ECOWAS Leaders will be considering and discussing the political situation and recent developments in Niger during the Summit”, the terse statement added.

During the last extraordinary summit president of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, announced that  all Chiefs of Defence Staff of the member states will proceed for an emergency meeting to strategise on effective ways to implement a possible military operation to restore Bazoum to office.

He said the ECOWAS will “take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.” Such measures, he added, may include the use of force.

The chiefs of defence staff of ECOWAS met in Abuja as directed by the Authority of Heads of States and Governments of ECOWAS to map out strategies on the way forward to tackle the increasingly defiant junta which appeared to have been bolstered up by the solidarity they are getting from fellow coupists in Mali and Burkina Faso.


NGE Calls for Strategic Engagement, Diplomacy 

The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has advised President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to persuade ECOWAS to adopt diplomatic channels in handling issues arising from the junta that seized power in a military coup recently in Niger Republic.

Although the professional body of editors in Nigeria noted that military intervention is now regarded as an aberration around the world, it nevertheless urged Tinubu, who is the chairman of ECOWAS, to employ “strategic engagement and diplomacy’’ in ensuring that democracy is restored in the country.

The NGE also stressed that the hike in pump price of petrol in the country has taken a heavy toll on Nigerians, who had been facing hard times due to the astronomical rise in transportation costs, food items, and other goods.

NGE stated this in a communique jointly signed by its president, Eze Anaba, and the general secretary, Dr Iyobosa Uwugiaren, at the end of the editors’ Standing Committee Meeting in Lagos, during the week.

While reminding democratically elected governments on the need to ensure good governance and respect the rule of law, the Guild stated that ‘’democratic government remains the best option in nation states.’’

The editors advised the federal and state governments to fulfill their promises to provide palliatives to the people to ease their pains in the face of the current hardship while commending some states that are already implementing some of their promises.

On internal security, the editors advised government at all levels to provide the Nigeria Police Force with the necessary assistance to discharge its constitutional responsibility.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here