President Bola Tinubu has approved the return of a delegation of Islamic leaders (Ulamas) to Niger Republic for another round of dialogue with the coup leaders.
Tinubu made the decision on Thursday after a meeting with the top clerics led by Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi who were recently in Niamey, the Niger Republic capital, two weeks ago for dialogue with the junta led by General Abdourahamane Tiani.
Tinubu made the decision in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Responding to the delegation of Ulamas, against the backdrop of ethnic rumors peddled by domestic political figures inside and outside of the country, the President emphasised 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 at 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.”
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.
He 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.
Since the junta seized power from President Mohamed Bazoum July 26, 2023, ECOWAS had imposed sanctions on Niger in response to the coup and has not ruled out using force against the army officers.
The West African bloc has approved the deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger as soon as possible but remains committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
ECOWAS envoy to Niger Republic and former Nigerian Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, upon return from the coup-torn country had said that his delegation’s meeting with Niger Republic coup leaders last weekend was fruitful.
He said diplomacy won’t fail to restore the democratically elected government of deposed President Mohamed Bazoum.
Tiani had said the junta will return to civilian rule within three years but ECOWAS rejected the move.
The African Union had suspended Niger Republic over the ongoing situation.
The coup has heightened international worries over the Sahel, which faces growing jihadist insurgencies linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
Niger is the fourth nation in West Africa since 2020 to suffer a coup, following Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali.
The juntas in Burkina Faso and Mali have said that any military intervention in their neighbour would be considered a “declaration of war” against their countries.
The coup is the fifth in Niger’s history since the impoverished landlocked state gained independence from France in 1960.
Bazoum’s election in 2021 was a landmark, opening the way to the country’s first peaceful transition of power.
He has been held with his family at the president’s official residence since the coup, with growing international concern over his conditions in detention.
A spokesman for the group, Abdulhameed Enaji, spoke at a news conference in Abuja.
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