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West Africa faces pivotal moment as Niger coup leaders take on regional powers, West

High-level delegation from Nigeria, led by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, arriving in Niamey on Thursday

After denouncing military agreements that have been in place with France for several decades, the coup leaders in Niger have gone ahead and cut off ties with neighbouring Nigeria, triggering further chaos in the terror-infested Sahel region of Africa.

The latest development comes as a big setback to the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) – a regional economic bloc of 15 countries – which has been making frantic efforts to resolve the ongoing impasse.

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is also the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, had dispatched a high-level delegation to Niger’s capital Niamey on Thursday.

The delegation was headed by former Nigerian Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (Retd) and also included the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray.

It was to hold negotiations with the newly-formed National Council for the Safeguarding of the Fatherland (CNSP) led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the commander of the country’s presidential guard, who ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in a military coup on July 26.

However, the local media reported Friday afternoon that General Abdulsalami and other ECOWAS delegation members left Niger a few hours after they landed in Niamey without meeting the coup leader or the deposed President of the country.

Just before their departure, Tinubu gave a detailed briefing to the delegations – another team was sent to engage with the leaders of Libya and Algeria on the Niger crisis – in Abuja as the one week deadline given by ECOWAS to restore constitutional order in Niger neared.

“President Tinubu charged them (delegation members) 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 rather than a move to adopt the geopolitical positions of other nations,” a statement from the Nigerian President’s office said on Thursday.

ECOWAS has made it clear already that in the event its demands are not met by Sunday, the grouping will take all measures necessary to restore democracy in Niger with measures that may include “the use of force”.

On Thursday, as the defence chiefs of 15 countries in Western Africa were wrapping up their ‘extraordinary meeting’ in Abuja, the coup leaders in Niger warned ECOWAS of immediate retaliation in the event of any planned “aggression or attempted aggression”.

Tchiani-led CNSP also announced its decision of recalling Niger’s Ambassadors to the United States, Nigeria, Togo and Paris and banning broadcast of France 24 and RFI in the West African nation.

Meanwhile, a top General of the Niger Armed Forces Corps travelled to Burkina Faso to meet the country’s new leader Ibrahim Traore, who has just returned home after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin during the second Russia-Africa Summit in Saint Petersburg.

Burkina Faso and and Mali, currently facing suspension from ECOWAS following similar military takeovers, have warned that any military intervention against Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against them as well.

General Salifu Modi met with Traore with talks focusing around how Niger should be prevented from becoming the “new Libya”.

Even as the United States, France, European Union, ECOWAS and several other countries and international organisations remain diplomatically engaged at the highest levels to reject all efforts to overturn Niger’s constitutional order, protests against Western policies. are now spreading all over the continent.

Widespread demonstrations have begun in Senegal against the ruling government’s decision to send military forces to support any kind of armed intervention led by ECOWAS against Niger.

France is not only the leading investor in Senegal but also its number one trading and a major defence partner.

On Thursday, Senegal President Macky Sall received in Dakar the first Senegalese missile patrol boat acquired from French shipbuilder Piriou.

Also Read: Niger coup splits West Africa, Captain Traore emerges icon of anti-West camp