Leader of the military junta in the Republic of Niger, General Abdourahmane Tchiani, says the forceful takeover of power was to avert threats against the country and Nigeria.
This came as the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, for the second time in a week, appealed to the Federal Government to take head-on, the corruption, insecurity and skewed appointments in the country, rather than declaring war on Niger Republic.
Recall that prior to ECOWAS leaders’ decision to adopt a military option against the coup leaders in Niger Republic last weekend, the Catholic Bishops had advised the chairman, President Bola Tinubu, and other West African leaders not to give in to military intervention in the country.
This is even as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the February 25, 2023 election, Mr Peter Obi, advised the Federal Government and ECOWAS to prioritize diplomacy, instead of military force to resolve the standoff with the coupists in Niger Republic.
‘ECOWAS didn’t hear our side — Gen. Tchiani’
General Tchiani said it was painful to the coup leaders that the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Heads of State and Government leaders did not hear their side of the matter before issuing an ultimatum to them to quit office.
Speaking when he received Nigeria’s intervention team, comprising prominent Islamic scholars in the country in Niamey, the coup leader and the Nigerian team agreed to intensify the option of dialogue in resolving the political crisis in his country.
A statement by the leader of the Islamic Ulamma, Sheik Bala Lau, stated that General Tchiani, who accorded the team warm reception, welcomed their intervention.
According to the statement, the military leader said their doors are open to explore diplomacy and peace in resolving the matter.
He apologised for not according to the team sent by President Bola Tinubu, led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, retd, the required attention because they were angry about the ECOWAS ultimatum.
While tracing historical ties between the two nations, he said Niger Republic and Nigeria are not only neighbours but also brothers and sisters who should resolve issues amicably.
The statement explained that the Islamic Ulammas met with General Tchiani for several hours in Niamey during which they deliberated on all the issues, including the demand by ECOWAS leaders that former President Bazoum be reinstated.
Bala Lau, National Chairman of Jamatul Izalatu Bida Waikamatu Sunnah, said the clerics were in Niger on behalf of President Bola Tinubu who accepted their request to intervene.
Sheik Lau said the team had earlier told President Tinubu who is also the Chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government that their position was that the political impasse in Niger is resolved through dialogue.
He, therefore, told General Tchiani that the visit to Niger was to engage in constructive dialogue to encourage him and other military leaders behind the coup to toe the path of peace, instead of war, to resolve the crisis.
Speaking with journalists in Niamey after the meeting, another member of the intervention team and Chief Missioner of Ansar-ud-deen Society of Nigeria, Sheik Ahmad Abdulrahman, said contrary to reports in some sections of the media, the team was well received by General Tchiani and both parties had fruitful discussions.
He said: “We will now go back home and report to President Tinubu what we have discussed and press it on him that war is not an option in resolving the matter.
“We believe that war is an ill wind that will not blow any good and that peaceful resolution should prevail.”
Confirming Sheik Lau’s statement, Niger Republic’s Prime Minister, Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine, said General Tchiani gave the green light for talks with ECOWAS and was optimistic that the talks would take place in the next few days.
‘’We have agreed and the leader of our country has given the green light for dialogue. They will now go back and inform the Nigerian President what they have heard from us.
‘’We hope in the coming days, they (ECOWAS) will come here to meet us to discuss how the sanctions imposed against us will be lifted,” he said.
Among those on the delegation were Sheik Kabiru Gombe — Secretary, Jamatul Izalatul Bida Waikamatul Sunnah; Sheik Yakubu Musa Hassan Katsina, Director Daawah, JIBWIS; Sheik Ibrahim Dahiru Bauchi, who represented Sheik Ibrahim Bauchi; and Dr Khalid Aliya- Secretary General, Jammatul Nasril Islam, JNI.
Others are Sheik Karibullah Nasiru Kabara, leader of Khadriya Group Nigeria; Sheik Ahmad Abdurahman; Professor Salisu Sheri, Deputy Secretary-General Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA; Sheik Nasiru Abdul Muhayuid, Director Admin, JIBWIS Jos; Professor Mansur Sokoto; and Alhaji Mele Kyari.