More voices of reason and caution are sounding as tensions rise over the handling of the impasse between the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the coup plotters who recently seized power in the Republic of Niger and detained the country’s erstwhile president, Mohamed Bazoum.
The Nigerian Senate has subtly come out to advice against armed intervention.
Senators from 19 northern Nigerian states have likewise sounded a call for caution and listed their fears of the likely consequences of military action against Niger on seven northern states which share common borders with that country.
It is typically the place of ECOWAS to intervene in rifts and fractures in sister nations but the new ECOWAS chair and president of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu, is perceived to have ruffled sub regional feathers by lacing his initial intercessory address on the rift in Niger, with threats of armed intervention and the issuance of a seven-day ultimatum for the coup plotters to stand down.
In a dangerous turn of events, military-ruled Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea have declared their support for the coup in Niger. Burkina Faso and Mali in a joint statement, warned that any military intervention against Niamey would be considered a declaration of war against their nations.
Bigger distant powers have also been posturing in favour of the coupists in Niger. To make matters worse, these powers have a strong affiliate mercenary force on ground in the region, spoiling for war.
Senators from the 19 northern states of Nigeria on Friday warned ECOWAS against any military actions in the Republic of Niger.
The spokesperson for the Northern Senators Forum, Suleiman Kawu Sumaila, said, “We, the Northern Senators of the Northern Senators Caucus of the 10th Senate, under the leadership of Senator Abdul Ningi, note with concern and condemn in its entirety, the unfortunate development in Niger Republic, where the military forcefully upstaged a democratically elected government of President Mohammed Bazoum.
“The Northern Senators also take cognizance of the efforts of the ECOWAS leaders under the chairmanship of our Dear President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in resolving the situation in Niger Republic. The emphasis, however, should be on political and diplomatic means to restore democratic government in Niger Republic.
“We also take exception to the use of military force until other avenues as mentioned above are exhausted, as the consequences will be casualties among the innocent citizens who go about their daily business.
“Besides, about seven northern states who share border with Niger Republic, namely Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno will be negatively affected.
“We are also aware of the situation in Mali, Burkina Faso and Libya, which may affect the seven Northern states, if military force is used. There is serious implication for our country, if military force is used without exhausting all diplomatic channels.
“As democrats and representatives of the people, we are here by urging our colleagues to observe due diligence in invoking section 5 sub section (4) (a) and (b).”
Sub Section (4) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) read, “Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section:
“(a) the President shall not declare a state of war between the Federation and another country except with the sanction of a resolution of both Houses of the National Assembly, sitting in a joint session; and
“(b) except with the prior approval of the Senate, no member of the armed forces of the Federation shall be deployed on combat duty outside Nigeria.”
Section 5 also reads, “Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (4) of this section, the President, in consultation with the National Defence Council, may deploy members of the armed forces of the Federation on a limited combat duty outside Nigeria if he is satisfied that the national security is under imminent threat or danger:
“Provided that the President shall, within seven days of actual combat engagement, seek the consent of the Senate and the Senate shall thereafter give or refuse the said consent within 14 days.”
These voices of caution and recourse to the constitution are most encouraging, as Nigerians will be depending on a leadership with sound judgment and conscience, guided by a commitment to the rule of law, to steer us away from peril.