A call has been made for the lifting of the sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Niger following the coup d’etat that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
The Head of State in ECOWAS had last July imposed sanctions on Niger Republic over the Bazoum ouster by some military officers led by erstwhile Presidential Guard Commander, General Abdourahamane Tchiani. This decision seems to be supported by many Western governments.
But on Wednesday at the opening of the 2nd Ordinary Session of ECOWAS Parliament for 2023 in Abuja, a group of parliamentarians of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament concerned with the turn of affairs in the troubled country, appealed to the Heads of State and Government in the region to lift the sanctions imposed on the Niger Republic.
The Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate, who is also a member of the ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Ali Ndume, while addressing journalists after the opening session of the parliament, said the sanctions were biting hard on the masses including Nigerians in the border states.
Ndume said: “Niger is bordering about eight states in Nigeria, namely Borno, Yobe, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kebbi. Since the closure of the border and the imposition of sanctions, poor people especially children and women have been exposed to untold hardship and no meaningful progress have been made in term of resolving this issue.
“We are, therefore, using this opportunity of the 2nd extraordinary session of the ECOWAS Parliament to appeal to the ECOWAS Head of State to intensify the resolution of the political impasse in Niger by first lifting the sanctions and opening the closed border of Niger and Nigeria.
“Let me add by saying that this is a collective decision by some of us who are concerned about what is going on and the suffering our people are going through.”
He added that: “This also affects other non-border countries because Niger is a lead way for goods moving from Sokoto to Ghana, goods moving from Togo to Nigeria, and goods moving from several parts of the ECOWAS countries from the West down to the North.”
The lawmaker said they thought the sanctions were temporary and the issues would have been resolved, “but it’s getting to four or five months into the political impasse, the only thing we know that is happening is the increased suffering of the poor people of Niger and to some extent, Nigeria.”
The Senator representing Borno South in the upper chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly argued that the group was reechoing the position of the parliament, adding that the parliament had set up an ad-hoc committee, which he is a member of, to proffer solutions to the impasse in Niger.
He said the committee had submitted an interim report, noting that: “One of the resolutions which were endorsed by all the parliamentarians is the lifting of sanctions and the continuation of discussion on how to resolve the impasse. We are only reechoing the position of the ECOWAS parliament.”
Also speaking, Hon Abdullahi Balarabe Salame, from Sokoto, said his people were suffering from the sanctions on Republic of Niger.
He lamented that thousands of trailers loaded with food items to be transported to Niger were stranded at the order, lamenting that the food items were already decaying.
He said the border closure is also increasing insecurity in the region.
Meanwhile, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, has called for concrete actions to safeguard democracy and to restore the region as the bastion of democracy in Africa.
Touray made the call in his address at the opening of the fifth Parliament’s second ordinary session of the ECOWAS Parliament of the year 2023.
Said the Republic of Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea have all experienced coups recently, creating fears that democracy could be in danger in the region.
He said: “The resurgence of coup d’états has challenged us all in more ways than one and led us to reflect on what is not working in our process of consolidating democracy.
“As politicians, you are best suited to guide us on what we must do to tackle the root causes of all these unconstitutional changes of government.
“We count on your wisdom to help in safeguarding the rights of our people and for the preservation of peace, security, and stability, which are necessary for our socio-economic development and regional integration process,” he said while addressing the parliament.
The ECOWAS Commission president said, at the political level, ECOWAS was engaging in dialogue with the Member States in transition, namely Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, in order to support them to return to normal constitutional order through the organization of free, transparent and inclusive elections.
“As far as the Republic of Niger is concerned, we adhere to the guidance of the current Chairman of ECOWAS to resolve this crisis through dialogue and negotiation.
“On the security front, the region continues to suffer from attacks by armed groups and terrorists who seriously threaten the territorial integrity of Mali and Burkina Faso, resulting in loss of life, material damage and millions of displaced persons and refugees.
“In this regard, we continue to provide multifaceted support to help these countries face these challenges, despite the sanctions,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Dr Sidie Mohammed Tunis, noted that the region’s prosperity and security are inextricably linked to its members shared responsibility to look out for one another.
He said: “Only a foolish neighbour goes to bed when his neighbour’s roof is on fire,” Tunis said. “In a region of interconnected threats and challenges, we can only address our issues effectively through broad, deep, and sustained cooperation among states.”
Tunis also called for greater self-reliance from ECOWAS member states. He said that the region cannot rely on outside help to solve its problems.
“We need to be more self-reliant,” Tunis said. “Each Member State must take on more responsibility for the development and advancement of the ECOWAS region.”
He noted that despite its numerous challenges, the ECOWAS region is on the right track, pointing to the recent successful presidential and legislative elections in the Republic of Liberia as a sign of progress.
He said: “The people of Liberia have shown us that democracy is possible in our region,” insisting that: “We can all learn from their example.”
Tunis also praised the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government for its leadership in sustaining peace and security in the West African region.