The newly appointed Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja, on Saturday vowed that the Nigerian military would continue to defend the nation’s democracy no matter the challenges it faces. Lieutenant General Lagbaja gave the assurance while speaking at the Passing Out Parade of officers of Executive Commission Course One at the Army School of Infantry located in Jaji, Kaduna State.
He said the desire of every Nigerian is flourishing and uninterrupted constitutional democratic governance which would promote the interest of all well-meaning citizens.
The Chief of Army Staff also warned the officers against indulging in any form of insubordination, stressing that they should remain apolitical in discharging their constitutional duties. According to his words; “I, therefore, charge all Nigerian Army personnel to be proud champions of our flourishing democracy and remain apolitical in discharging their constitutional duties.”
Daily Post however reports that Lagbaja made the assertions amid the current tension in the country over the military junta in the Niger Republic. Niger soldiers, had, seized power from their democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum last week over alleged poor governance.
Niger Republic has closed down Air Space citing threat of intervention. ECOWAS last Sunday issued Niger’s new military rulers with an ultimatum of one week to stand down or face possible military intervention. For that reason, Niger’s military rulers announced on Sunday that they had closed down the country’s airspace, warning that any attempt to violate it would meet with an energetic and immediate response.
According to their statement; “Faced with the threat of intervention, which is becoming clearer through the preparation of neighboring countries, Niger’s airspace is closed from this day being Sunday 6th August 2023 for all aircraft until further notice,” the country’s new rulers said in a statement. The announcement came as the deadline from the West African bloc ECOWAS for them to hand back power to the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum was due to expire.
ECOWAS last Sunday issued Niger’s new military rulers with an ultimatum to stand down within the week or face possible military intervention. President Bazoum was overthrown on July 26, 2023 when members of his own guard detained him at the presidential villa.
However, it seems Nigeriens are in support of the military coup as thousands Of Niger coup supporters gather in Niamey stadium to welcome the new military leadership of the country. A delegation of members of the ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) arrived at the 30,000-seat stadium to cheers from supporters. Protesters hold a Niger flag during a demonstration on Independence Day in Niamey. Hundreds of people backing the coup in Niger gathered for a mass rally in the capital Niamey with some brandishing giant Russian flags.
Thousands of supporters of the military coup in Niger gathered at a Niamey stadium on Sunday, when a deadline set by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to return the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum to power is set to expire. ECOWAS military chiefs of staff have agreed a plan for a possible intervention to respond to the crisis, the latest of several coups to hit Africa’s Sahel region since 2020.
Former colonial power France, with which the junta broke military ties shortly after taking power on July 26, said it would firmly back whatever course of action ECOWAS took after the Sunday deadline expires. “The future of Niger and the stability of the entire region are at stake,” the office of French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said after she held talks in Paris with Niger’s Prime Minister, Mahamadou.
ECOWAS military chiefs of staff have agreed a plan for a possible intervention to respond to the crisis, the latest of several coups to hit Africa’s Sahel region since 2020. All the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out,” ECOWAS commissioner Abdel-Fatau Musah said on Friday.
These included “the resources needed, and including the how and when we are going to deploy the force”, he added. “We want diplomacy to work, and we want this message clearly transmitted to them [the junta] that we are giving them every opportunity to reverse what they have done,” Musah said. Niger has played a key part in Western strategies to combat jihadist insurgencies that have plagued the Sahel since 2012, with France and the United States stationing around 1,500 and 1,000 troops in the country, respectively.
Yet anti-French sentiment in the region is on the rise, while Russian activity, often through the Wagner mercenary group, has grown. Moscow has warned against armed intervention from outside Niger. The coup “is an error of judgement that goes totally against the interests of the country”, French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu told AFP journalists in an interview on Saturday.
Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, relies heavily on foreign aid that could be pulled if President Mohamed Bazoum is not reinstated as chief of state, he added. The junta has warned it will meet force with force. Mali and Burkina Faso, where military juntas have taken power since 2020, have also stated that any regional intervention would be tantamount to a declaration of war against them.
President Bazoum, 63, has been held by the coup plotters with his family in his official Niamey residence since July 26. 2023. In a column in The Washington Post on Thursday, his first lengthy statement since his detention, President Bazoum said a successful military intervention would have devastating consequences for our country, our region and the entire world”. President Bazoum, who in 2021 won an election that ushered in Niger’s first-ever transfer of power from one civilian government to another, urged “the US government and the entire international community to help us restore our constitutional order”.
Nigeria has cut electricity supplies to its neighbour Niger, raising fears for the humanitarian situation in the country, while Niamey has closed the vast Sahel country’s borders, complicating food deliveries. Washington said that it had suspended some aid programmes but pledged that “life-saving humanitarian and food assistance will continue”.
In Nigeria, senior politicians have urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to reconsider the threatened military intervention. “The Senate calls on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as chairman of ECOWAS to further encourage other leaders of ECOWAS to strengthen the political and diplomatic options,” he said. Senators from northern Nigerian states, seven of which share a combined border of roughly 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) with Niger, have already advised against any intervention until all other options had been exhausted. On Saturday, the country’s largest opposition grouping denounced the potential military operation in Niger as “absolutely thoughtless”.
The Coalition of United Political Parties argued that; “The Nigerian military have been overstretched over the years battling terrorism and all manners of insurgency that are still very active.” Tinubu himself on Thursday urged ECOWAS to do whatever it takes to achieve an “amicable resolution of the crisis in Niger.
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