DEBORAH TOLU-KOLAWOLE and GIFT HABIB
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has said that he takes a queue from no nation, but will only advance the interest of the Nigerian state in his approach toward ECOWAS’ handling of the regional standoff, particularly in Niger Republic.
He also received an invitation to a sideline event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York from the US President, Joe Biden, a statement by the Presidency indicated on Saturday.
Tinubu was also said to have advised U.S. Presidential Envoy & Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Molly Phee, to ensure that U.S. policy is intentionally collaborative with independent African democracies at a time when they are under assault by anti-democratic forces within and outside of the continent.
The President noted that American-backed development finance and multilateral institutions, which were designed to support war-torn Europe after World War II, require swift and comprehensive reform to meet the developmental requirements of younger democracies in Africa, which operate in authoritarian-crowded environments, would no longer be manipulated to serve self-seeking demagogues through unconstitutional takeovers of power.
“Yes, the private sector will lead the way within an enabling environment we create for them, but the U.S. Government must be innovative in its thinking and systematically create incentives for U.S. industrial investment in Nigeria.
“Under my leadership, Nigeria stands ready to address their specific regulatory, tax and environmental concerns. I am determined to create prosperity for all Nigerian families,” the President declared.
The Nigerian leader affirmed that the crisis in Niger Republic would not deter him from concluding his economic reform programme successfully for the benefit of Nigerians and that he takes a queue from no nation, but will only advance the interest of the Nigerian state in his approach toward ECOWAS’ handling of the regional standoff.
“We are deep in our attempts to peacefully settle the issue in Niger by leveraging on our diplomatic tools. I continue to hold ECOWAS back, despite its readiness for all options, in order to exhaust all other remedial mechanisms. War is not ideal for my economic reforms, nor for the region, but the defense of democracy is sacrosanct. The ECOWAS consensus is that we will not allow anyone to insincerely buy time,” the ECOWAS Chairman affirmed.
Pledging its support for the position of ECOWAS, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy expressed the high regard the U.S. Administration has for the leadership of the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Bola Tinubu, and extended an exclusive invitation from U.S. President Joe Biden to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City to advance discussions further in late September.
“We know there is more we can do to incentivize large-scale American investment in Nigeria and we are committed to working closely with you to achieve that, as part of efforts to strengthen the Nigerian economy and the regional economy. We appreciate your willingness to create an enabling environment for that. President Joe Biden is asking to meet with you on the sidelines of UNGA and you are the only African leader he has requested to meet. It is a mark of his high regard for your leadership,” the U.S. Special Envoy said.
The President concluded that he accepts the invitation to meet the U.S. President on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and that the work of perfecting democracy is never done, even in developed democracies, as seen recently in America, as well as other emerging democracies in the world.
Junta puts armed forces on red alert
Meanwhile, the Niger junta has ordered its armed forces to go on highest alert, citing an increased threat of attack.
This was according to an internal document issued by its defence chief on Friday that a security source in the country confirmed was authentic.
According to Reuters, the document, which was shared online on Saturday, indicated that the order to be on maximum alert would allow forces to respond adequately in case of any attack and “avoid a general surprise”.
“Threats of aggression to the national territory are increasingly being felt,” it said.
Meanwhile, the President, Economic Community of West African States Commission, Omar Touray, on Friday said the sub-regional body had neither declared war on the people of Niger Republic nor planned to invade the country.
Touray clarified that the ECOWAS would employ all measures, including the use of standby force to restore civil rule in Niger Republic.
Also, he noted that Niger Republic as part of the West African region bloc subscribed to its rules and regulations to deploy measures to support its fight against terrorism to ensure the restoration of democracy, peace, and security in the community.
President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted July 26 in a military coup led by the former commander of Niger’s presidential guard, Abdourahamane Tchiani.
Leaders in the ECOWAS bloc said that they would keep all options on the table for a peaceful resolution to the crisis and ordered the activation of an ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in Niger.
FG denies envoy’s sacking
In a related development, the Nigerian government on Saturday debunked viral report that the country Ambassador to the Republic of Niger, Mohammed Usman, has been expelled from the country.
In a statement signed by the Spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Francisca Omayuli, urged the general public to disregard such news.
The statement read “The attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to news making the rounds on social media that the Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Niger, H. E. Mohammed Usman was on Friday, August 25, 2023 expelled and given 48 hours to leave the country.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to inform the general public that this information is false and as such should be disregarded.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria warns against the circulation of unverified information capable of jeopardizing the ongoing mediation efforts by ECOWAS in the political impasse in Niger.”