Frail Nigeria cannot afford ECOWAS war in Niger


Nigeria air force

from OKORO CHINEDU in Lagos, Nigeria
Nigeria Bureau
LAGOS, (CAJ News) – HOW Nigeria is struggling to turn the tide against a freefalling economy and subsequent restiveness at home but is positioning for what could be a taxing military incursion in Niger is a practical dilemma.

This has arguably been the most turbulent week domestically and internationally for President Bola Tinubu since he was sworn-in on May 29. So explosive has been the recent days that it has slipped some minds that his election is still subject to court challenges, after his rivals alleged vote rigging.

On a regional level, Tinubu is chairing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is itching for a military showdown against headstrong member state, Niger, in the wake of a military takeover on June 26.

This week, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) organised protest action against the government over the dire economic situation. Workers’ congresses have suspended the nationwide strike following talks with the administration.

Prior, localised unrest prevailed, most disturbingly in the terror-prone northeastern Adamawa State, where the administration of Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri implemented a 24-hour curfew following the looting of the government’s grain warehouses and other shops in Yola, the state capital.

Adawama is already an anarchy hotspot, under siege of the Islamist sects.

Tinubu’s ascension to the presidency could not have come at a worse time, having to juggle a regional crisis as well as local economic and social upheaval.

This week, a chieftaincy of his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was nonetheless in combative mood and apparently stirring up the military after Niger expressed disquiet over threats of military intervention by ECOWAS.

Nigeria’s military has been involved in battle against Islamist insurgents, with mixed fortunes, since 2009.

Femi Fani-Kayode, a publicist of the APC, nonetheless amplified the threat of ECOWAS, especially after the military governments of Burkina Faso and Mali expressed solidarity with Niger and its de facto leader, Abdourahamane Tchiani, in the event of military intervention.

“We may have challenges and issues in our country but when at war against foreign armies on foreign soil we have never been overwhelmed or defeated. History proves that. We are slow to anger but irresistible in battle,” he said.

“If the Burkinabe, Malian or the Nigerien Army test our will we shall bring them to their knees and teach them the lesson of their lives. Threatening great Nigeria with war is no small matter and, if carried out, will prove costly for them.”

However, a war would be costlier to the Nigerian economy. It is the biggest in Africa but is fraught with challenges, some blamed on the scrapping of the fuel subsidy and lifting restrictions on forex trading.

The umbrella organisation of the political parties in the country thus has dissuaded the government from leading the ECOWAS war against the errant northern neighbour, Niger.

They believe the government of President Bola Tinubu cannot afford to fund such an exercise that would be expensive, at a time the country is facing economic challenges.

The view of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) comes ahead of a seven-day deadline given by ECOWAS to Niger’s military junta to release and reinstate toppled president Mohamed Bazoum, setting in.

ECOWAS, chaired by Tinubu, gave the ultimatum last Sunday, following the July 26 coup. It threatened military invasion if the military in Niger defied the order.

CNPP believes a war led by Nigeria would be detrimental to the country’s fragile economy.

“In view of the economic realities in the country, Nigeria cannot afford to fund the war as many West African countries are opting out of the war option,” James Ezema, CNPP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, argued.

CNPP has urged ECOWAS to instead negotiate with the military junta in Niger and “find a middle ground.”

“No sacrifice too much in a bid to save lives and very limited resources,” the organisation stated.

CNPP’s sentiments came amid reports the Nigerian Armed Forces was assembling some troops to be deployed to Niger as ECOWAS’ deadline neared.

Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau, Defence spokesperson, denied such.

“The AFN is yet to receive any order from the appropriate authority to commence military action against the Military Junta in Niger,” he stated.

Tinubu on Thursday meanwhile deployed a delegation led by former military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (Rtd), as envoys of the ECOWAS to Niger.

Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, confirmed the deployment.

Abubakar seems a tactful choice, having been the last military leader (1998-99) after years of coups in Nigeria. His administration set Nigeria on a return to civilian rule, which began in 1999.

– CAJ News





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