ECOWAS Calls for Junta to Expedite Transition Period in Niger

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has expressed its demand for a shorter transition period from the junta in Niger.

President Bola Tinubu, who also serves as the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, conveyed this message during a meeting with the Ulamas on Thursday. He found the three-year transition plan proposed by the military leaders to be unacceptable to the regional body.

Sheikh Abdulrahman Ahmad, a member of the Islamic clerics who engaged with the President, revealed these developments to The PUNCH during a telephone conversation on Saturday.

The Ulamas had engaged in discussions with the Niger junta in an attempt to prevent a military intervention that ECOWAS had intended to employ to restore democracy in the Francophone nation.

Throughout their interactions, General Abdourahamane Tiani, the leader of the junta, expressed an interest in holding a dialogue to resolve the political impasse that resulted from the removal of President Mohamed Bazoum in the coup on July 26th.

Moreover, the Ulamas were also tasked with urging Tinubu to reinstate electricity, which had been cut off from Niger as part of the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS.

Ahmad, serving as the spokesperson for the Ulamas, communicated that Tinubu insisted on specific details from the military leaders regarding their transition program, which he emphasized should also be concise.

He explained, “Our purpose on Thursday was to brief the ECOWAS chairman about the outcomes of our visit. The reason he requested our return is that he requires concrete specifics from the junta. He found their response to be too vague, and he could not accept that. This is why he instructed us to return.”

“The President seeks detailed specifics because he found the junta leader’s statements to be too general. They want to hold them accountable to a timeline, commitment, and precise details about the short transition duration.”

When questioned about the delegation’s return to Niamey, Ahmad conveyed that they were deliberating on suitable timings for both the delegation members and the recipients in Niger.

“We are still in the process of deciding when to return, so no fixed date has been set yet. It’s essential to emphasize that we are not a governmental delegation. The initiative to intervene stems from the Ulamas’ private effort and is not a government-established committee. Our aim is to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the conflict without resorting to force.”

“To this end, we sought the President’s permission because this is not something we can do independently, particularly when dealing with another country. The President granted permission, and that marked the beginning. Naturally, since our President is also the ECOWAS chairman, we kept him informed every time we visited Nigerien officials. However, it primarily depends on the availability of the delegation members. Once that’s settled, we will reconvene and proceed.”

As of Sunday, there was no response from the Presidency, as Ajuri Ngelari, Tinubu’s media advisor, remained unreachable. This was in regards to confirming Ahmad’s statement regarding Tinubu’s pursuit of specific details regarding the junta’s transition plan.

During a conversation with the clerics led by Sheikh Bala Lau at the State House in Abuja, the President emphasized his commitment to resolving the crisis peacefully.

“I am managing a highly critical situation. If we exclude ECOWAS, other parties will react, parties beyond our control. I’m the one restraining those elements. I’m the one preventing ECOWAS from taking action,” he disclosed.

Highlighting the urgency of the situation, the President stated, “Even as of this morning, I’ve received numerous calls regarding countries’ readiness with their military forces and contributions. However, I advised them to wait. I’m meeting with the Ulamas, and I will provide an update.”

Addressing the Islamic delegation, Tinubu stressed the necessity of holding the military junta accountable for endangering the entire population of the Niger Republic.

“They cannot use the weapons entrusted to them to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty and then turn those very weapons against it.

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