Date: 22nd Muharram 1445 AH
9th August 2023
ON NIGER COUP: DIALOGUE, NOT VIOLENCE!
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) is disturbed by the developments unfolding in the Republic of Niger following the seizure of power by the military from a duly democratically elected leader- His Excellency Muhammed Bazoum, through a coup d‘etat.
The Coup, which has attracted several reactions and different degrees of sanctions from nations and supranational institutions such as the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), has socio-economic negative implications for both Nigerians and Nigeriens, especially as we share common history and borders. The Council observes with dismay that although the military junta in Niger has remained defiant, ECOWAS has just lately further imposed more stringent sanctions against it. But it is well known that such kinds of economic sanctions are counter-productive and eventually end in futility. It is the masses that do suffer the pains and difficulties of the sanctions, while the junta that seizes power takes control of state resources and begins a life of indulgence. The Council, therefore, calls on ECOWAS and, in particular, the Nigerian Government to retrace their steps in this regard to avoid correcting wrong with another.
While Nigeria spearheads the imposition and heaping of sanctions on Niger, it should be reminded of the thousands of Nigerian refugees to whom Niger has provided succour and a safe abode for several years now. This is undoubtedly an act of good neighbourliness, rare hospitality and kindness that should not be reciprocated with measures that would cause disaffection, breed hate and hostility and aggravate the sufferings of the downtrodden people across both sides of the borders.
While it is understandable that the leadership of both ECOWAS and Nigeria must preserve and protect democracy by discouraging forceful take-over of power through military coup d’état, the NSCIA strongly implores the Federal Government of Nigeria and, by extension, the leadership of ECOWAS to continue to tread the path of dialogue rather than resorting to violence. This is because violence does more harm than intended good in any circumstance. Should violence break out in Niger, it is the helpless and hapless masses, who have already been devastated and impoverished by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world economy, that would pay the very costly price, not the coup plotters.
It is pertinent to state here that Nigeria has not gotten away with its own intractable issues and challenges of insecurity and violence that have been causing death incessantly, displacing millions and destroying livelihood in states that share borders with Niger. The Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast and the banditry in the Northwest have not been subdued. Given this situation, it would not only take a dance on the precipice to embark on a military expedition at this material time but would also smack of ingratitude to a neighbour that had consistently remained faithful in helping and supporting us in our fight against those extreme groups and criminal gangs.
The Council has consciously and keenly followed the reactions that have trailed the rather belligerent stand of the ECOWAS and its resolutions that include the possible use of violence in Niger. It can be asserted without fear of contradiction that Nigerians are very much united against military intervention in Niger. Many religious and civil society groups across religious, ethnic and regional divides, as well as elder statesmen and retired military veterans and security experts, have all categorically rejected the use of violence in intervening in Niger. In this regard, the Council hereby reiterates the need to pursue peace by peaceful means, as any war between Nigeria and Niger would severely strain the fraternal relationship between the two countries, which dates back to the pre-colonial era. There is, therefore, no option to dialogue, and to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
The Council prays that Almighty Allah would grant our leaders the wisdom and ability to resolve the crisis in Niger in a peaceful manner. May He also bestow peace upon us in Nigeria and the region at large.
Prof. Salisu Shehu