The Defence Headquarters of Nigeria has reiterated that the country’s Armed Forces cannot engage in any operations within an ECOWAS member state without obtaining prior approval from the Authority of Heads of State and Government. This statement comes amidst the ongoing crisis caused by the coup d’etat in Niger Republic, which led to the removal of President Mohammed Bazoum.

The Defence Headquarters emphasized that military intervention in Niger would only be considered as a last resort. Instead, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government are currently exploring alternative measures to address the situation. The statement was issued by Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, the Director of Defence Information, on Thursday.

“The AFN is yet to receive any order from the appropriate authority to commence military action against the military junta in Niger,” the statement read in part.

It added: “Military option was the last option to be taken in case every other option fails to reverse the situation and return the Government of Republic of Niger to constitutional order.”

The political tension began July 28, after the head of Niger’s presidential guard, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, overthrew Bazoum and declared himself head of state.

ECOWAS, under the new leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria, has vowed to go hard on the coup plotters and has slammed heavy sanctions on Niger.

However, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso have now taken sides with the Niger military junta, warning against any military action.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people backing the coup in Niger gathered on August 3, 2023 for a mass rally in the capital Niamey with some brandishing giant Russian flags.

The demonstrators converged at Concertation Square in the heart of the city, following a call by a coalition of civil society associations on a day marking the country’s 1960 independence from France.

Thousands of people rallied Thursday in Niger’s capital in support of the coup that toppled the democratically elected government, as security concerns mounted among Western nations.

Issiaka Hamadou, one of the protesters, said that it was “only security that interests us”, irrespective of whether it came from “Russia, China, Turkey, if they want to help us”.

“We just don’t want the French, who have been looting us since 1960 — they’ve been there ever since and nothing has changed,” he said.

The crowd at the rally around him was shouting “Down with France”, “Long live Russia, long live (Vladimir) Putin”.

A week after the toppling of elected President Mohamed Bazoum, European citizens have been evacuating from Niger, which has had a key role in French and Western strategies to combat a jihadist insurgency that has plagued the Sahel since 2012.

The clock is ticking down on Sunday’s ultimatum from West African regional bloc ECOWAS for the coup leaders to restore Bazoum to power within a week or face the possible “last resort” of military intervention.

Senegal said Thursday it would send soldiers to join ECOWAS if it decided to intervene militarily in Niger.

“It is one coup too many,” said Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall.

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