Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of Nigeria and Chairperson of the Economic group of West African States (ECOWAS), has cautioned that the group will not accept acts that undermine democratically elected governments in the sub-region.
Tinubu’s warning comes in response to coup fears in Niger Republic, where soldiers have taken hostage the country’s President, Mohamed Bazoum, at the presidential palace.
The Nigerian leader, who issued the warning in his capacity as ECOWAS Chairman, termed the blockage of the presidential residence in Niamey by soldiers as ‘unpleasant developments’ in a statement issued on Wednesday.
Tinubu’s statement read: “I wish to say that we are closely monitoring the situation and developments in Niger and we will do everything within our powers to ensure democracy is firmly planted, nurtured, well rooted and thrives in our region.
“I am in close consultation with other leaders in our region, and we shall protect our hard-earned democracy in line with the universally acceptable principle of constitutionalism.
“As the Chairperson of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, I state without equivocation that Nigeria stands firmly with the elected government in Niger and equally conveys the absolute resolve of leaders in our sub-region that we shall not waiver or flinch on our stand to defend and preserve constitutional order.”
The Niger presidential guard on Wednesday morning, took President Bazoum hostage.
Reports said the Army and the National Guard are currently deploying around the Presidential Palace.
A close ally of France, Bazoum was elected in 2021, taking the helm of a country mired in poverty and burdened by a history of chronic instability.
The landlocked Sahel state has experienced four coups since independence from France in 1960 as well as numerous other attempts on power, including against Bazoum himself.
The country’s last coup occurred in February 2010, overthrowing then president Mamadou Tandja.
There was an attempted coup just days before Bazoum’s inauguration in April 2021, according to a security source at the time.
Several people were arrested, including the suspected ringleader, an air force captain named Sani Gourouza.
He was arrested in neighbouring Benin and handed over to the Niger authorities.
Ousmane Cisse, a former interior minister under a military government of transition that ran from 2010-2011, was detained in April 2022 for his suspected role.
He was acquitted in February this year, but five others, including Gourouza, were jailed for 20 years.
A second bid to oust Bazoum occurred in March this year “while the president… was in Turkey”, according to a Niger official, who said an arrest was made.
The authorities have never commented publicly on the incident.
In January 2018, nine soldiers and a civilian were sentenced by a military court to jail terms ranging from five to 15 years for having attempted to topple Bazoum’s predecessor, Mahamadou Issoufou, in 2015.
Those convicted included General Souleymane Salou, a former army chief of staff and a member of the junta that had forced out Tandja in 2010.