Northern Elders Forum tasks Niger coupists on restoration of democratic rule

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has tasked the military junta in Niger Republic to ensure safety of ousted President Mohammed Bazoum and the immediate restoration of the constitutional order in the country.

Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the spokesperson for the forum stated this at a news conference on Tuesday in Abuja.

He said the forum had chosen to observe events in Niger Republic since the coup d’état a few weeks ago.

Baba-Ahmed said the silence was informed by a number of reasons.

“Firstly, we rejected in totality any attempt to overthrow the constitutional order by the Nigerien military, we had hoped that the military would be persuaded to stand down, release President Muhammed Bazoum and restore constitutional governance in Niger Republic in a matter of hours or days.

“Secondly, the forum had hoped that Nigeria and ECOWAS will utilise diplomatic and other strategies to persuade the military that it is unwelcome in Niger Republic, the ECOWAS, in Africa and in the global community.

“But after the junta failed to heed to ECOWAS warning to step down, Nigeria imposed a rash of sanctions against Niger, including cutting electricity supply and border closure.

“In the light of the facts above, Northern Elders Forum recommends that the safety of President Bazoum and his family and restoration of the constitutional order must remain non-negotiable priorities,” he said.

Baba-Ahmed also recommended that the military leaders in Niger should accord due cognizance and respect for the position of ECOWAS, whose fundamental principles, and goals the Niger Republic had submitted to.

He said that active negotiations regarding President Bazoum and the plans of the military leadership in Niger should commence immediately.

He said that Nigeria was uniquely placed to engage the leadership of Niger Republic to accept these with the minimum of delay.

“Tinubu is Chairman of ECOWAS and leader of Nigerians. He should explore ways of balancing these responsibilities without doing any injury to the position of Nigeria and Nigerians on Niger Republic and the unity of the ECOWAS.

“Nigeria should remove all sanctions and other measures intended to force the government and people of Niger into acquiescence.

“This will make negotiations led by Nigeria, using all assets that both countries value, easier to conduct.

“The forum notes the apology offered by the military leaders in Niger to Nigeria’s President over the manner his envoys, retired Gen. Abdussalami Abubakar and His Eminence, Sultan of Sokoto were received which served as a sign of respect.

“The signs that Nigeria could be a major facilitator in triggering potentially useful negotiations are good, these positive indicators should be built upon,” he said.

He said that negative sanctions were affecting the morale and welfare of citizens of both countries, and they would detract from the existing positive disposition toward Nigeria’s position.

He said that this was unlikely to achieve the goals of restoring the constitutional order and improving the frontiers of democratic systems in West Africa.

Baba-Ahmed said that it would also compound the security and humanitarian crises in the ECOWAS.

“It is likely to weaken and further divide the ECOWAS and provide greater access of non-African interests into the lives of Africans, with negative consequences.

” In the event that force is used in Niger, it should not involve Nigeria, at all cost,”he said

Baba-Ahmed said ECOWAS should actively re-assess the roles and designs of non-African interests in West Africa.

He said that in addition to multiple threats from armed groups in the Sahel and the region, the region was becoming increasingly victims of global military manoeuvres and a scramble for our assets.

“Ordinary Africans understand this, and they resent another wave of exploitation of their weaknesses and resources by parts of the world who have little respect for Africa.

“African leaders must improve the quality of elections and governance, so that African people can value and defend democracy in Africa with greater vigor,” he said.

Baba-Ahmed said that the forum commended all leaders and persons of influence, including the Nigerian Senate contributing to a genuine resolution of the situation in Niger Republic.

“We urge Tinubu to recognise this unique moment in history and conduct himself in a manner that records his role as defining statesmanship.

“We appeal to the people of Nigeria and Niger, as well as our leaders, to resist any attempt to poison our centuries of invaluable relationship.” (NAN)

Source: News Agency of Nigeria