Atiku Calls for Caution Over Withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger from ECOWAS

As the Federal Government of Nigeria keeps mute over the announced exit of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger republics from the Economic Committee of West African States (ECOWAS), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has cautioned over what he described as a “diplomatic meltdown.”

Atiku who was the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections in a statement on Sunday said that Nigeria must thread softly on the issue as the withdrawal of those three countries may further pose serious security issues to Nigeria.

“Reports about the withdrawal of three countries from our sub-regional body, ECOWAS, is concerning. It is a matter of serious diplomatic meltdown. We must keep the country’s national security interest, especially the fight against terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and others in focus while we appraise the situation,” Atiku cautioned.

President Bola Tinubu who is in faraway France on a “private visit” is the current Chairman of ECOWAS. Despite the gravity of the tripartite withdrawal from the regional economic bloc, the office of the ECOWAS chairman has not  reacted to the development.

In a joint statement on Sunday, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger announced their withdrawal from ECOWAS citing failure of the regional body to fight on the side of the citizens.

According to the statement read by the leaders of the three countries they said that they  have “decided in complete sovereignty on the immediate withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), because ECOWAS has “moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and pan-Africanism after nearly 50 years of its establishment.”

“After 49 years of existence, the brave people of Burkina, Mali and Niger note with much regret, bitterness and great disappointment that their Organization has moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and Pan-Africanism

“Furthermore, ECOWAS, under the influence of foreign powers, betrayed its founding principles and has become a threat to its member states and populations whose happiness is supposed to ensure.

“Indeed, the Organization 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 texts, all things which have further weakened populations already bruised by years of violence inflicted by instrumentalized and remote-controlled.”

“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.”

In a reaction, however, ECOWAS stated that it has not been officially communicated of the new development. “ECOWAS remains committed to finding a negotiated settlement to the political challenges in the sub-region,” a statement issued by the regional organisation was quoted to have stated.

ECOWAS had suspended the three  breakaway countries in July 2023  following military coups that overthrew democratically elected governments in them. The last to be overthrown was Niger in  July 2023, that of Burkina Faso was in 2022 while Mali  had happened since 2020.

A “make or mar” diplomatic meeting was scheduled for Niamey, the Niger capital on January 25, 2024 but the ECOWAS team failed to show up citing technical issues with the plane that was hired to convey its delegation to the meeting.

Explaining why they failed to attend the meeting, ECOWAS in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday evening said, “The Community delegation waited the whole of Thursday at the Abuja airport, in readiness to fly to Niamey. Unfortunately, owing to technical issues with the aircraft chartered by the Commission, the special flight scheduled to convey the ECOWAS delegation could not depart Abuja for Niamey.”

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