Nigerian defence chief admits there will be hurdles and complications in any potential military intervention in Niger as junta remain defiant
General Christopher Musa, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Defence Chiefs has said any military intervention in Niger will be filled with hurdles and complications.
He made the declaration following a meeting of ECOWAS defence chiefs in Abuja Wednesday.
“The task of restoring democratic governance in Niger is fraught with potential hurdles and complications,” the Nigerian chief of defence staff (CDS) said at the press conference.
“Our decisions will send a strong message about our commitment to democracy, our intolerance for unconstitutional changes of government, and our dedication to regional stability,” he said.
An unverified Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQ) signal leaked Wednesday detailed that Abuja was allocating two battalions of Army soldiers to secure Naimey, a company of Navy special forces to rescue ousted President Bazoum and aircraft to enforce a no fly zone over Niger.
ECOWAS has imposed sanctions on Niger and said it could authorise the use of force if the coup leaders do not restore Bazoum’s presidency within a week from last Sunday.
The bloc also sent a delegation to Niger on Wednesday to negotiate with the military officers who seized power, hoping to find a diplomatic solution before they have to decide whether or not to intervene.
In a televised address, General Abdourahamane Tchiani said the junta “rejects these sanctions altogether and refuses to give into any threats, wherever they come from. We refuse any interference in the internal affairs of Niger.”
Tchiani, the former head of Bazoum’s presidential guard, shut Bazoum in his palace last Wednesday and later declared himself head of state.
The 15-nation regional bloc has taken its hardest line yet on the coup, prompting Mali and Burkina Faso, also ruled by juntas, to say that any military intervention in Niger would be considered a declaration of war against them too.
Nigeria cut power supplies to Niger, a Niger state utility document showed on Wednesday, while truckers in Niamey were stranded by border closures – early signs of fallout from the bloc’s sweeping sanctions that Tchiani described as “illegal, unjust, and inhumane.”
Niger is a main Western ally in a fight against Islamist insurgents, and the coup has been condemned by foreign powers who fear it could allow the militants to gain ground.
“The UK very much welcomes ECOWAS’ actions and (they) are indeed decisive actions with a strong commitment to democracy,” said British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly after meeting Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday.
Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, said that resorting to force to overturn the coup would only be considered as a final option. “The military option is the very last option on the table, the last resort, but we have to prepare for the eventuality.
“There is a need to demonstrate that we cannot only bark but can bite,” Musah told reporters in Abuja.
Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has warned against a Western military intervention in Niger, saying such a move would be interpreted as a “new colonization.” Russia has encouraged dialogue, arguing that the threat of military involvement will only worsen rather than resolve the situation.
The United States said it was set to evacuate some staff and families from its embassy in Niger even as the mission remains open and senior leadership continues working there.
Akowe reporting from Abuja with materials from newsagencies