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How Niger Junta Frustrate and humiliates Nigeria and ECOWAS Delegates, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Sultan, Others

How Niger Junta Frustrate and humiliates Nigeria and ECOWAS Delegates, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Sultan, Others  The ECOWAS delegation to Niger ...

How Niger Junta Frustrate and humiliates Nigeria and ECOWAS Delegates, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Sultan, Others 

The ECOWAS delegation to Niger led by former Nigerian military leader Abdulsalami Abubakar was humiliated Thursday by the Nigerien junta as the members were prevented from leaving the airport, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

A Nigerian government source briefed about the visit told this newspaper that the three-man team sent to negotiate with the junta leaders was not allowed into the country.

Before departing Abuja, the delegation had informed Niamey of its mission and the latter showed readiness to receive them, the source said. However, this turned out to be a plot to humiliate the sub-regional bloc.

ECOWAS on Wednesday named Mr Abubakar, ECOWAS Commission President Omar Touray and the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Abubakar III, as envoys to Niger. They were expected to engage all stakeholders robustly with a view to doing whatever it takes to ensure a conclusive and amicable resolution of the situation in Niger for the purposes of African peace and development.

According to the source, the delegation was received from the aircraft at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, when they arrived at the Niamey airport, by a five-man team led by General Moussa Barmou (Head of General Staff). The general, however, told them that they could not be allowed into the city, citing security reasons.

The delegation was taken to a room in the airport, the source told PREMIUM TIMES.

Pictures of the delegation and Niger soldiers sitting at a table emerged online last Thursday with many thinking that was part of the official meetings the ECOWAS delegation was sent to hold.

However, contrary to public perception, the picture was that of the ECOWAS leaders being kept in a room at the airport by the soldiers who came to receive them.

After about five hours of pleading to be allowed into the city to see the leader of the junta General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the team left Niger making no headway.

The ECOWAS delegation was told to return to Nigeria while the junta reviews their request and revert. They arrived in Nigeria at about 1:00 a.m. on Friday.

The Abdulsalami-led delegation is however not the first delegation to be sent to Niger by ECOWAS. It is in fact the third.

In the early hours of Wednesday, 26 July, when President Mohamed Bazoum was still detained and the coup had not been officially announced, a three-member team led by the Director General of Nigeria’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar, was also sent to negotiate with the coup leaders.

Former Governor of Katsina Aminu Masari and Chief of Air Staff Hassan Abubakar were part of the team, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

They were quickly dispatched to Niger when the news of President Bazoum’s detention came in.

However, as soon as the delegation left Niamey, the coup was declared; a clear indication that the mission failed.

Another delegation was sent after the coup was officially announced. The delegation was sent on the day the ECOWAS Heads of State met in Abuja in an emergency meeting convened by the chair, President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria.

The President of Chad, Mahamat Dérby, was sent to Niger where he met with the junta leader, Mr Bazoum and former President Mahamadou Issoufou.

He offered the junta a “soft landing” which was also rejected.

The Chad leader shared pictures he took with Mr Bazoum and the coup leaders on the social networking platform, X (formerly called Twitter).

Benin’s President Patrice Talon was also sent to Niger. However, it remains unclear if he made the trip.

When asked about the outcome of the visit of the Abdulsalami-led delegation, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Adamu Lamuwa, last Friday said “Negotiations are ongoing, it is too early to preempt the outcome of the discussion.”

PREMIUM TIMES also reached Mr Tinubu’s spokesperson Ajuri Ngalele for comments. In response, he shared a post he made on X which read, “H.E. President @officialABAT on Sunday evening met with Governors of States that share boundaries with Niger Republic at the State House in Abuja. The meeting was part of wider consultations by the President on the situation in Niger.”

The governors of Sokoto, Kebbi, Yobe, Katsina, and Jigawa were in attendance at the meeting.

ECOWAS last Sunday issued a seven days ultimatum to the Niger putschists to ensure a return to democracy. However, the deadline lapsed Sunday night and there has been no formal announcement of the next line of action by the regional bloc.

ECOWAS defence chiefs met in Nigeria between Wednesday and Friday last week agreeing on a plan of action.

“All the elements that would go into any eventual intervention have been brought out here and been refined, including the timing, the resources needed and the how and where and when we are going to deploy such a force,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security at the meeting of defence chiefs.

President Tinubu last week notified the National Assembly of the ECOWAS resolutions including the possibility of troops deployment. Parliamentary approval would be needed to deploy Nigeria’s troops.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the Senate opposed troop deployment and advised Mr Tinubu and ECOWAS to explore a political solution to the crisis.

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