By Luka Binniyat
KADUNA — Nigeria government was Monday miffed with three francophone countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger republics after they announced their exit from the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) on Sunday.
This was coming after months of tense relationship between the three countries run by defiant military juntas and the 12 other member countries of the West Africa regional cooperation bloc.
Nigeria, which Chairs the ECOWAS seat, scolded the juntas and accused them of “public posturing”, saying their decision will deprive their citizens of the gains and privileges of membership of the body.
The ECOWAS commission on its part declared that it was yet to get official notification from the three countries whose land mass is roughly equal to the total land size of the other 12 member countries.
In a press statement Sunday which was simultaneously aired from the capital of both countries by the military heads of states of Africa Sahelian countries, Capt. Ibrahim Traoré (Burkina Faso), Col. Assimi Goita (Mali), and Brig. Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani (Niger Republic) confirmed that they have exited the body formed in 1975.
“After 49 years of existence, the valiant people of Burkina, Mali and Niger note with much regret, bitterness and great disappointment that their organisation has moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and pan-Africanism,” Punch reports the three leaders as saying.
“Furthermore, ECOWAS, under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to its member states and its populations whose happiness it is supposed to ensure,” the statement continued.
“Indeed, the organisation has not provided assistance to our states in the context of our existential fight against terrorism and insecurity; worse, when these states decided to take their destiny into their own hands, it adopted an irrational and unacceptable posture by imposing illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions in violation of its own texts; all things which have further weakened populations already bruised by years of violence imposed by instrumentalised and remote-controlled terrorist hordes,” they noted.
It was based on these considerations that the juntas withdrew their membership from ECOWAS with immediate effect.
In reaction, Nigeria, in a rather disparaging manner, accused the juntas of bravado and of being insensitive to the wellbeing of their citizens, according to Reuters report, Monday.
“Nigerian foreign ministry in a statement said those seeking to leave ECOWAS were not acting in good faith.
“Instead, unelected leaders engage in a public posturing to deny their people the sovereign right to make fundamental choices over their freedom of movement, freedom to trade and freedom to choose their own leaders,” it said.
On its part, the ECOWAS Commission, Monday said it was yet to get any notification from the three countries.
The Cable reports that: “The attention of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Commission) has been drawn to a statement broadcast on the National Televisions of Mali and Niger announcing the decision of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to withdraw from ECOWAS.
“The ECOWAS Commission is yet to receive any direct formal notification from the three Member States about their intention to withdraw from the Community.
“The ECOWAS Commission, as directed by the Authority of Heads of State and Government, has been working assiduously with these countries for the restoration of constitutional order.
“Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali remain important members of the Community and the Authority remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse.”
ECOWAS said it would make further pronouncements as the situation evolves, says the report in conclusion.
In August last year, ECOWAS Defense Chiefs met in Ghana and threatened to invade Niger Republic shortly after the civilian elected President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown in a military coup.
But Mali and Burkina Faso declared their solidarity with Niger’s new rulers, saying an attack on the 80% desert country, almost twice the size of France, was an attack on them also.
In furtherance with the forged solidarity, the three countries agreed to form a military alliance in December 2023 which may led to a confederate state.
Niger, the uranium rich country, has a crucial relationship with Nigeria about 1,015 miles it shares with Nigeria’s northern boundary.
The Hausa ethnic groups, who speak the Hausa language and form the majority of the population of most core Northern State of Nigeria, form 54% of the population of Niger Republic.
Nigeria supplies the 70% of electricity to Niger, but has shut supply as part of sanction imposed on the military rulers to put pressure on them to hand back power to Bouzum.
ECOWAS has a population of 424 million, in which Nigeria alone bears about 200 million.
Its land size is 2,007,731.22 square miles, not less than the total land area of 8 of the largest states in the United Staes.
ECOWAS states are blessed with abundant natural and human resources, but are among some of the world’s poorest countries and also war ravaged from what has been described by social scientists as “resource course.”
Luka Binniyat is Kaduna based award winning journalist with over 27 years of experience and reports on politics, crime and social issues.