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Top Islamic Clerics Get Tinubu’s Nod to Intervene in Niger Political Crisis

Some leaders of major Islamic groups in the country Wednesday met with President Bola Tinubu and got his approval to negotiate with their colleagues from neighbouring Niger where military officers last month ousted the democratically elected President of the Republic, Mohammed Bazoum.

Bazoum is still being held in detention by the military high command in Niamey, the capital of Niger.

The clerics (Ulama), who are opposed to war with the Nigerien military, as threatened about two weeks ago by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said apart from the dire consequences of armed conflict, they were enjoined by their religious faith and the Quran to seek mediation in cases like this.

Sheikh Bala Lau of Izalla group and Sheikh Abdurahman Ahmad of Ansar ud Deen, flanked by leaders of other sects,  addressed newsmen after their meeting in the evening with President Tinubu.

According to Sheikh Lau: “We thank Allah that He gave us the opportunity to meet with Mr. President and the delegation of Ulama from here in Nigeria met with Mr. President on the issue of Niger Republic. We want to find a lasting solution, we want peace and harmony to reign, not only in Nigeria, but in the sub-Saharan region and in globe as well.

“The Ulama advised Mr. President that we want peace and reconciliation. If anything happens between you and your neighbor, the holy Quran commands you to reconcile, so we want reconciliation.

“That’s why we are here and our able leader and President accepted the offer that he wants us to intervene and to talk to our brothers in Niger Republic, the scholars also there on how we can come together and bring a lasting solution to this problem.

“That is why we are here and Insha Allah, by the grace of Allah, we’re optimistic that Allah will do it for us and we’ll find a lasting solution to this issue.”

Also speaking, Sheikh Ahmad said: “The President, like he said, welcomed our intervention and he has promised that if we could also talk to the people on the other side, for them to be ready to give concession, then ECOWAS that he’s Chairman of will also be ready.

“Other than that, the President deplored coup d’etat in the Sahel region and as a democrat himself, he said he would do everything to ensure that there is democracy, justice, freedom and peace in the subregion.

“We as the Ulama are also committed to peace and justice and the government will be enabling the Ulama to mediate as it is appropriate. This is why we are here and it is a mission accomplished because the President responded positively and in turn he has given us assignment to also mediate to ensure reconciliation between the warring factions in Niger.”

Earlier on Wednesday, some other islamic clerics warned against the use of military action in bringing back President Mohammed Bazoum.

The clerics, after meeting with President  Tinubu at the State House, Abuja, advocated for diplomacy in resolving the political crisis in Niger Republic.

Speaking with newsmen in Hausa language after the meeting with President Tinubu, Secretary General of Jamaatu Nasrul Islam (JNI), Prof Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, said  the meeting discussed the proposed military action in Niger.

Aliyu said they were invited by President Tinubu based on their positions as clerics and they respectively honoured the invitation.

Said he: “Our visit also serves as working (official) visit. We discussed on important matters relating to our dear country and we gave our advise on good leadership, we discussed on subsidy removal and we gave our own advice on that too and we told him we wish he had had this consultation before subsidy removal so that its implementation would have been smooth, devoid of all this hardship.

“Regarding Niger issues, we told him our stand which is dialogue. Diplomacy is the best option, military intervention will not yield the desired outcome. We do not support military intervention, we are emphasising the use of diplomacy.

“When we intervened in Liberia how did we get out of the mess. Look at what is happening in Libya, we should try as much as we can to avoid that scenario. Niger has all the tendencies of becoming Libya if we are not careful.”

Commenting on the assurance given to them by the President, he said, “We are on the same page. He is not insisting on military intervention too. All peaceful means will be followed and exhausted.”

Asked if they are worried that ECOWAS position may strain long good brotherhood between Nigeria and Niger Republic, the cleric said: “Nigeria and Niger are just like two brothers, we share border, culture, family, languages and even religion. Definitely we have to tread with caution and solve the issue amicably.”

Meanwhile, former Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi, who was in Niamey, capital of Niger Republic, earlier on Wednesday  and met with the military officers, returned home and headed straight for the State House, Abuja to brief President Tinubu.

Speaking with newsmen after meeting with the President, the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor said he was at the State House to brief  President Tinubu about his meeting with the coupists in Niger, adding that this period requires the attention of all to resolve the crisis in neighbouring Niger Republic.

His words: “I came to brief him on the details of my discussions with leaders of Niger. We’ll continue to do our best to bring the two parties together to improve understanding. This is the time for public diplomacy, it’s not a matter that we leave to governments, all Nigerians, all Nigeriens need to be involved to find a solution that works for Africa, a solution that works for Niger, that works for Nigeria and a solution that works for humanity.

Sanusi also said his visit to Niger was a personal initiative although he informed top Nigerian government officials about his trip.

According to him:  “I was not sent by the government. Government officials were  aware I was going, but it was my personal initiative, using my personal contacts to get there and I will continue to do my best. It is my duty as a leader to do that”.

He added that he was well received by the military juntas in Niger.

ECOWAS had in a communique issued penultimate Sunday after an extraordinary summit of the Heads of member-states and government and read by President of ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, called for the immediate release and reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum as President and Head of State of the Republic of Niger and for the full restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.

Other resolutions of ECOWAS included:

“Reject any form of resignation that may purportedly come from His Excellency, President Mohamed Bazoum; considered the illegal detention of President Bazoum as a hostage situation and hold the authors of the attempted coup that are solely and fully responsible for the safety and security of His Excellency President Mohammed Bazoum, as well as members of his family and government.

“In the event the Authority’s demands are not met within one week, take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Nigeria.

“Suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS Member States and Asia. Freeze all service transactions including energy transactions.

“Freeze assets of the Republic of Niger in Aqua Central Bank. Freeze of assets of the Niger State and the state enterprises and parastatals in commercial banks.

“Suspension of measure from all financial assistance and transactions with all financial institutions, particularly EBID”, he said.

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