Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu says he is he is the one holding back ECOWAS and other unnamed forces from invading Niger to restore constitutional order in the country.
Mr Tinubu, who is also the chairperson of the ECOWAS heads of state and government, said this Thursday during a meeting with Nigerian Islamic clerics who are acting as mediators with the Niger junta.
“I am managing a very serious situation. If you take ECOWAS aside, other people will react, those who are outside of our control. I am the one holding those sides back. I am the one holding back ECOWAS,” he said, according to an account of the meeting sent to PREMIUM TIMES by his spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale.
The Nigerian leader, however, told his guests that he could not delay such military intervention for too long and so they must hasten their dialogue with the Niger junta.
Although Mr Tinubu did not name the “other people” he was referring to, it could be a reference to France whose troops are stationed in Niger and have refused to recognize the authority of the junta.
This newspaper reported how despite Mr Tinubu’s appeal, ECOWAS heads of state approved a military intervention in Niger and ordered the deployment of an ECOWAS standby force in the country to ensure the return of President Mohamed Bazoum to power if dialogue fails.
Mr Bazoum was removed in a coup by soldiers last month and is still being detained alongside members of his family.
Despite the ECOWAS resolution which has since been supported by the AU and the UN, many Nigerians are opposed to military intervention in the neighbouring country. The Islamic clerics who met with Mr Tinubu volunteered to mediate in the crisis due to their opposition to war and the close ethnic and religious ties between Nigeria and Niger.
Nigeria will be expected to deploy the largest number of troops as part of the ECOWAS force should a military intervention proceed.
Read Mr Ngelale’s full statement below.
The Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Bola Tinubu, has implored a delegation of Islamic scholars (Ulamas), who were previously engaged in discussions to facilitate the restoration of constitutional democratic governance in Niger Republic, to expedite progress in their ongoing dialogue with the military junta.
The President received a comprehensive briefing on Thursday at the State House in Abuja, from the Ulamas, who were led into the meeting by Sheikh Bala Lau.
The briefing followed the Ulamas’ two most recent visits to Niger Republic.
The Islamic leaders had informed the President that the military junta was open to deepening dialogue with ECOWAS as more steps are being taken to forestall armed conflict with a more detailed acceptance of the ECOWAS position by Niger military council officials.
Responding to the delegation of Ulamas, against the backdrop of ethnic rumours peddled by domestic political figures inside and outside of the country, President Tinubu emphasized that he is at the forefront of a peaceful resolution of the crisis, even in the midst of more hawkish individuals urging swifter intervention.
“I am managing a very serious situation. If you take ECOWAS aside, other people will react, those who are outside of our control. I am the one holding those sides back. I am the one holding back ECOWAS,” he disclosed.
Addressing the urgency of the situation, the president added:
”Even as of this morning, I have been inundated with phone calls on the readiness of countries with their military force and contributions. However, I told them to wait. I am meeting with the Ulamas and I will get back to you.”
President Tinubu told the Islamic delegation that the military junta must be held accountable for putting the entire people of Niger Republic in jeopardy.
”They cannot use the gun given to them to protect the sovereignty of the country and turn it against the people of the country,” he said.
President Tinubu pledged that ECOWAS will remain steadfast in its commitment to diplomatically engage with all stakeholders and seek a peaceful resolution to the impasse in Niger Republic.
“I will draw a line in the sand and ask you to make arrangements to go back to Niger Republic,” he stated.
On the request by the Islamic scholars for the federal government to monitor the distribution of palliatives to states, the President promised that more palliatives are coming for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) nationwide.
He also appealed to state governments to ensure transparency and accountability in the distribution and management of these palliatives.
“The people reside in the states. Even if I set up a panel, I will have to go through the governors and the local governments. We will continue to talk to the governors. Nigerians must hold them accountable,” he continued.
“It’s unheard of that in a constitutional democracy; a president will sit here and give orders to states. I can only appeal to them to implement. The people reside in the states, and if the governor is not doing well, the people must vote them out,” he concluded.
Special Adviser to the President
(Media & Publicity)
August 24, 2023
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