The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) has intensified its pressure on the military junta that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum in Niger Republic on July 26.
The regional bloc had given the coup leaders a seven-day deadline to restore constitutional order or face severe consequences, including possible military intervention.
However, the coup leaders defied the ultimatum and declared their readiness to resist any foreign interference. They also cut off diplomatic relations with Nigeria, Togo, France and the US, and closed Niger’s airspace indefinitely.
On Monday, ECOWAS convened an emergency meeting to review the situation in Niger and decide on its next steps.
On Tuesday, presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngeale announced that more sanctions had been imposed on the individuals and entities associated with the coup through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He did not give details, but said the sanctions were in line with the preexisting consensus of ECOWAS heads of state.
Ngeale also clarified that the ECOWAS mandate and ultimatum were not a Nigerian initiative, but a collective position of the sub-regional body.
He said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is the current ECOWAS chairman, had consulted widely with international and domestic stakeholders, especially the governors of Nigerian states bordering Niger, on the implications of the coup.
He added that Tinubu had emphasized that the ECOWAS response was devoid of ethnic and religious biases, and represented the diversity of the sub-region.
The coup in Niger is the seventh in West and Central Africa in three years. It has destabilized the Sahel region, which is already facing security challenges from armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS), as well as poverty and underdevelopment.
ECOWAS has condemned the coup, suspended Niger from its decision-making bodies, and imposed economic and travel restrictions, including cutting off Niger’s power supply.
The bloc’s defence chiefs have agreed on a possible military action plan, including when and where to strike if the coup leaders do not comply with their demands.