The military junta in Niger Republic has closed the country’s airspace following the threat of military invasion by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Recall that ECOWAS, a regional political and economic union of 15 countries located in West Africa, had threatened to restore order in Niger by force.
The regional bloc had issued its ultimatum a week ago, and threatened the use of force if the coup plotters led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani failed to relinquish power by midnight of Sunday (2300 GMT) and reinstall President Mohamed Bazoum, who they toppled on July 26 when members of his own guard detained him.
“Faced with the threat of intervention, which is becoming clearer through the preparation of neighbouring countries, Niger’s airspace is closed from this day on Sunday… for all aircraft until further notice,” the junta said in a statement released shortly before the deadline passed.
Any attempt to violate the country’s airspace would meet with an “energetic and immediate response,” the statement added.
However, reports on Monday indicated that there were no aircraft operating in Niger’s skies, according to the flight tracking website, Flightradar24.
In a separate statement, the now-ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) said there had been a “pre-deployment in preparation for intervention” made by two Central African countries, without naming them.
“Any state involved will be considered co-belligerent,” the council warned.
Thousands of coup supporters had gathered on Sunday in the capital Niamey to cheer on the CNSP.
At the 30,000-seat Seyni Kountche Stadium, named after Niger’s first coup d’etat leader in 1974, CNSP leaders, including General Mohamed Toumba, greeted a jubilant crowd.
The venue was draped in Russian flags and supporters carried portraits of CNSP leaders.
Also, Mali and Burkina Faso resolved yesterday to send a joint delegation to Niamey, the capital of Niger, in a show of solidarity.
“Burkina Faso and Mali are sending a delegation to Niamey to show the solidarity of the two countries with the brotherly people of Niger,” the Malian army said.
The transitional governments of Burkina Faso and Mali, which were established after the military took power by force in 2020 and 2022 in the two countries, also declared their support for the Nigerien soldiers who overthrew Bazoum.
The two countries also warned that any military intervention in Niger would be considered as a declaration of war against them and would lead to the withdrawal of Burkina Faso and Mali from the ECOWAS.
In a reaction to the Niger crisis yesterday, a prominent northern group, Gamji Members Association (GAMA), opposed military rule in any African country and hailed the efforts of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and ECOWAS at resolving the imbroglio.
GAMA said military rule is no longer fashionable and called for an immediate restoration of democratic rule in the West African country.
While restating its support for any effort towards the promotion and protection of democratic rule in the African continent, the association, however, cautioned against military action in resolving the Niger Republic’s crisis.
GAMA, an association committed to the promotion of ideals of the late premier of Northern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello made its position known in a statement issued in Ilorin, Kwara State yesterday.
The statement was signed by GAMA’s president-general, Alhaji Mohammed Tunde Akanbi, and director of publicity, Alhaji Abdullahi Olesin.
The association noted that democracy remains the best form of government which all and sundry, including the military, should allow to flourish in Africa, despite the perceived shortcomings of the elected representatives at all levels.
It added that if there is the need for a change in leadership of any African country, it should be through balloting and not barrel of guns, urging Africans and their friends all over the World to allow Africa’s democracy to evolve.
“We should also note that the security situation in Nigeria is fragile, hence, the need to guard against military options in Niger Republic, more so that Nigeria shares a border with Niger Republic,” it added.
GAMA implored African leaders to ensure good governance across the continent and concentrate on providing the citizens’ needs, including infrastructure needed to achieve economic buoyancy which will in turn ensure the wellbeing of the people.