An ECOWAS delegation, led by former Nigerian military leader Abdulsalami Abubakar, faced a humiliating setback on Thursday in Niger as they were prevented from leaving the airport.
The Nigerian government sent a three-person team to negotiate with the Nigerien junta leaders. It was denied entry into the country, as disclosed by a Nigerian government source familiar with the visit. The delegation had informed Niamey of its mission before departing from Abuja, and Niamey had reportedly indicated its readiness to receive them. However, upon their arrival at the Niamey airport, the delegation was met by a five-person team led by General Moussa Barmou, Head of General Staff, who conveyed that they could not be allowed into the city due to security reasons.
Following the denial of entry, the ECOWAS envoys were confined to a room at the airport. A photograph surfaced online, showing the delegation seated at a table with Niger soldiers, leading to public confusion as to the nature of the meeting. However, it was later clarified that the picture captured the ECOWAS leaders being held at the airport by the soldiers who came to receive them.
Despite several hours of pleading to meet with the junta leader, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the delegation made no headway and eventually had to leave Niger. They were instructed to return to Nigeria while the junta reviewed their request.
The ECOWAS delegation, which included ECOWAS Commission President Omar Touray and the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Abubakar III, was appointed by ECOWAS on Wednesday to engage all stakeholders and facilitate a conclusive and amicable resolution of the situation in Niger for the advancement of peace and development in Africa.
Currently, the situation remains unresolved, and tensions between ECOWAS and the Nigerien junta persist. The incident has raised concerns about the diplomatic relations between the regional bloc and Niger, highlighting the challenges in addressing the ongoing crisis in the country.