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Sani Raises Concerns Over ECOWAS Military Intervention in Niger

Senator Shehu Sani, a former Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, has cautioned against the potential military intervention by an ECOWAS standby force in Niger Republic, suggesting that such an action could equate to a declaration of war by Nigeria. Sani spoke on Saturday in Abuja.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced on Thursday its decision to deploy a “standby force” to Niger with the aim of reinstating constitutional order in the country.

This decision came after the junta that assumed power following the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum on July 2 failed to adhere to an August 6 ultimatum set by ECOWAS leaders to restore the previous status quo.

Sani acknowledged the importance of exerting diplomatic pressure on the junta in Niger in response to the coup. However, he expressed reservations about resorting to military force against the junta, particularly considering the implications for Nigeria, given its significant role and financial contributions to ECOWAS.

“The armed invasion of Niger by ECOWAS could essentially escalate into a conflict between Nigeria and Niger, as Nigeria bears the brunt of ECOWAS funding,” Sani cautioned.

He raised pertinent questions about the consequences of engaging in a war with Niger, especially for the Nigerian states that share borders with the country, including Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, Sokoto, Yobe, and Borno. Sani also highlighted the presence of over 303,000 Nigerian refugees, displaced by terrorist groups, currently residing in villages within Niger Republic.

Sani pointed to historical instances, such as Nigeria’s involvement in the ECOMOG mission in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s, where Nigeria undertook significant responsibilities and incurred substantial costs without commensurate international support.

He stressed that entering into a prolonged armed confrontation in the 21st century could result in protracted conflicts, drawing parallels with the experiences of other nations.

Referencing conflicts like Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen, Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, Sani underscored the potential for extended periods of conflict with uncertain outcomes.

Sani further questioned the strategic wisdom of Nigerian forces becoming engaged in a war in Niger, especially given Nigeria’s ongoing security challenges within its own borders. He pointed out that the recent coup in Niger occurred despite the presence of French and U.S. military bases, leading to doubts about the efficacy of external military support.

In conclusion, Sani emphasized that the Nigerian military’s resources, experience, and existing security commitments should be carefully considered before embarking on any military intervention in Niger Republic. He urged a cautious approach that prioritizes diplomatic efforts and regional stability.

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