Nigerians Reacts As US Mounts Pressure On ECOWAS To Take Actions Against Niger Military Junta
More support came yesterday for the actions taken by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) so far on the military coup in Niger Republic.
The United States urged the sub-regional body led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, not to put its foot off the pedal.
Former External Affairs minister Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi endorsed the steps being taken by ECOWAS to restore democracy to Nigeria’s Northern neighbour.
U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in a statement by his spokesperson, Matthew Miller, said more pressure should be applied to ensure the release of President Mohamed Bazoum.
Bazoum has been held in his Presidential Palace residence in Niamey since he was ousted by the military on July 26.
The military suspended the constitution and appointed a 21-member transitional government.
The statement says: “Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with President Bola Tinubu.
“The Secretary commended President Tinubu’s leadership of the ECOWAS Second Extraordinary Summit on the situation in the Republic of Niger.
“He noted the importance of maintaining pressure on the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland to restore constitutional order and to see President Mohamed Bazoum and his family released.”
ECOWAS has imposed a series of economic sanctions on the junta, which yesterday announced plans to prosecute President Bazoum for alleged high treason and undermining national security.
The coup leaders said late Sunday they had gathered evidence enabling them to prosecute Bazoum for “high treason and undermining the internal and external security of Niger.”
This, they said, was based on “contacts” Bazoum had had with “nationals… foreign heads of state… (and) officials in international organisations.
ECOWAS said it had learned of the threats “with stupefaction”, adding they contradicted the regime’s declared willingness to resolve the crisis peacefully.
“It represents yet another form of provocation and contradicts the reported willingness of the military authorities in the Republic of Niger to restore constitutional order through peaceful means,” the bloc said.
Bazoum, 63, and his family have been held at the president’s official residence since the coup, with international concern mounting over his conditions in detention.
His doctor, however, said after a visit that Bazoum was in “good spirits” despite being held in “difficult” conditions.
Saturday’s visit was approved amid growing international demands for his release.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk described the conditions of the detention as inhumane, degrading and in violation of international human rights law.
Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of the presidential guards unit, declared himself Niger’s new ruler after a palace coup.
ECOWAS threatened military action to reverse the coup and has put its troops on standby.
The coup leaders insist they will defend themselves against any intervention.
A high-powered delegation of Muslim clerics from Nigeria met junta leaders in Niamey in a bid to mediate an end to the crisis, with Tchiani saying he was open to talks.
Niger’s new Prime Minister Lamine Zeine described the sanctions as an “unfair challenge,” but said the country would overcome them.
Zeine, who was appointed by the junta a week ago, said Niger was interested in economic cooperation with ECOWAS.
He expressed confidence about possible negotiations with the regional body and Nigeria.
“We have a great interest in preserving this important and historic relationship,” Zeine said, stressing the original background of ECOWAS as an economic group to increase prosperity in West Africa.
“If, however, we find that instead of this economic solidarity, the political and military principle comes to the fore, we can only regret that.”