• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Pragmatism prevails as Nigeria backtracks on Niger Republic and others.

Pragmatism prevails as Nigeria backtracks on Niger Republic and others.

On March 13, 2024, Nigeria opened land and air borders with the Niger Republic. It removed the sanctions it placed on the country following a military coup that ran against the political philosophy of ECOWAS. Nigeria led the regional group in imposing the sanctions against the four nations of the Niger Republic, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea. It has now caused the group to back down.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu ordered the lifting of these sanctions with immediate effect in compliance with the decisions of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government at its last extraordinary summit on February 24, 2024, in Abuja. ECOWAS leaders had at the summit agreed to lift economic sanctions against the Republic of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea.

Read also: Why Nigeria can’t play Russian roulette with ECOWAS

Tinubu ordered the lifting of the following sanctions on Niger Republic:

Closure of land and air borders between Nigeria and the Niger Republic, as well as an ECOWAS no-fly zone on all commercial flights to and from the Niger Republic.

Suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between Nigeria and Niger, as well as a freeze of all service transactions, including utility services and electricity to the Niger Republic.

Freezing of assets of the Republic of Niger in ECOWAS Central Banks and freezing of assets of the Republic of Niger, state enterprises, and parastatals in commercial banks.

Suspension of Niger from all financial assistance and transactions with all financial institutions, particularly EBID and BOAD.

Travel bans on government officials and their family members.

Nigeria’s decision to reopen its land and air borders with Niger and lift sanctions against them, along with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, marks a significant shift in regional dynamics.

Why did Nigeria back down? A fundamental reason was the internal dynamics of Nigeria. Nigeria’s sanctions against the Niger Republic and its withdrawal represent a case study on the nexus of internal dynamics and foreign relations. Nations must secure the total support of their home audiences when playing diplomatic games in the international arena.

Read also: ECOWAS lifts Niger Republic sanctions, urges Burkina Faso, Mali to reconsider withdrawal

The Niger Republic shares borders and consanguinity with five Nigerian northern states. They are cousins and walk across the colonial borders as in the olden days. The family ties are strong. They expressed their disagreement with the sanctions and called on the federal government through their traditional rulers and senators to lift the sanctions.

Lifting sanctions reflects a collective decision within ECOWAS and aligns with the need for regional stability. There was the critical consideration of economic hardship. The border closures disrupted trade flows, causing economic hardship for both Nigeria and its neighbours. Reopening borders can revitalise cross-border trade and economic activity.

The sanctions had limited leverage. They were ineffective so much that the affected countries called the bluff of ECOWAS. They even went ahead to form a counter to ECOWAS. Resuming dialogue and regional cooperation might be a more constructive approach.

There are several potential implications of the lifting of sanctions. Reopening borders fosters closer economic ties and strengthens the economic integration goals of ECOWAS. The bloc needs to address the underlying reasons for the coups, such as socio-economic issues and governance concerns. Finally, resuming dialogue paves the way for improved diplomatic relations and collaboration on regional security challenges.

Still, challenges remain. The success of the diplomatic approach ECOWAS has adopted will depend on demonstrated progress by the sanctioned countries towards democratic transitions and credible elections. ECOWAS needs to set a clear timetable and benchmarks to monitor and verify the progress of these transitions and ensure adherence to democratic principles.

The Nigerian public might perceive the backdown as a sign of weakness, requiring clear communication regarding the strategic benefits of regional cooperation. The Federal Government has plenty to explain to Nigerians about the necessity of the sanctions in the first place and the possible gains from their lifting.

We think that Nigeria’s backdown signifies pragmatism. It prioritises regional stability and economic well-being. It also pays attention to internal country dynamics.

Yet, it is bothersome that the affected countries have responded to Nigeria’s action with a pall of silence. They did the same when ECOWAS lifted its sanctions in February. No response.

Both Nigeria and ECOWAS lifted the sanctions without achieving even one of the objectives of the action. The affected countries instead set up the Alliance of Sahel States as a counterpoise. Capitaine Ibrahim Traore of Burkina Faso swore that there would be no going back there to leave ECOWAS.

Many would say Nigeria has suffered a severe loss of face in this relationship. `The affected countries may perceive our backdown as a sign of weakness. Could it encourage military regimes or hinder future efforts to hold them accountable? Could it stabilise the countries or create a precedent for further coups and instability?

Let pragmatism prevail going forward, whatever the response of the Niger Republic and the other three countries.