The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has decided to impose stricter financial penalties on the leadership in Niger that took power in a recent coup. These penalties also extend to individuals and groups that are supporting the junta, including the governments of Mali and Burkina Faso.
This decision came after a group of representatives from the African Union, ECOWAS, the United Nations, and the United States tried to mediate the situation in Niger. Unfortunately, their efforts hit a roadblock when the military junta in Niger refused to meet with them.
The leaders of the military junta also turned down meetings with high-ranking officials like Victoria Nuland, the acting US Deputy Secretary of State. They even denied access to Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who led the coup, and the ousted President, Muhammed Bazoum.
The military takeover happened on July 26, led by Gen. Tchiani and his group of military officers. This resulted in ECOWAS imposing sanctions on Niger to pressure them into restoring the previously elected president to power. In addition to those sanctions, more penalties have now been placed on individuals and entities associated with the junta.
A joint delegation from the African Union, ECOWAS, and the United Nations had planned to visit Niger’s capital, Niamey, to negotiate with the junta. However, they were denied entry by the military officers. This situation prompted the announcement of new sanctions, specifically targeting individuals and groups connected to the junta, in a statement made in Abuja.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said, “I can also report that following the expiration of the deadline of the ultimatum and standing on the pre-existing consensus position of financial sanctions meted out on the military junta in Niger Republic by the bloc of ECOWAS Heads of State, President Bola Tinubu has ordered an additional slew of financial sanctions through the Central Bank of Nigeria on entities and individuals related to or involved with the military junta in Niger Republic.
“The ECOWAS mandate and ultimatum is not a Nigerian ultimatum. It is not a Nigerian mandate and the office of the President, also serving as the chairman of ECOWAS, seeks to emphasise this point that due to certain domestic and international media coverage, tending toward personalisation of the ECOWAS sub-regional position to his person and our nation individually.
“It is because of this that Mr. President has deemed it necessary to state unequivocally that the mandate and ultimatum issued by ECOWAS is that of ECOWAS position. While President Bola Tinubu has assumed the ECOWAS chairmanship, the position of ECOWAS conveys the consensus position of member Heads of State. And a coup will not occur in one’s backyard, without one being particularly aware of it.”
While details about these sanctions weren’t fully disclosed, they were executed through the Central Bank of Nigeria. These measures were enacted as part of ECOWAS’s response to the coup and its demand for the junta to step down and reinstate the ousted president.
ECOWAS’s decision also impacts Mali and Burkina Faso. According to sources, these two neighbouring countries are included in the sanctions, affecting any entity conducting business with Niger.
Niger’s political situation has caused distress among Nigerian refugees who sought safety there. These refugees had fled their homes due to insecurity. But the coup and its aftermath have strained relations with their host communities, leading to concerns about their safety.
The situation in Niger has also led to worries about potential military intervention. ECOWAS leaders are considering their options, including a military response. However, this approach has significant financial implications, with some estimating it could cost around $2 billion per year. This potential cost, coupled with the complexity of the situation, highlights the need for careful consideration and diplomatic efforts to find a resolution.
In the midst of these challenges, the Arewa Consultative Forum has called for lifting sanctions on Niger and for more dialogue to prevent further tensions.
Meanwhile, the ECOWAS-AU-UN mission to Niger was cancelled due to the junta’s unavailability to meet the delegation.