Finally, President Bola Tinubu has admitted he is under pressure to deploy troops in Niger Republic, he said on Thursday.
Tinubu stated this while hosting top Islamic clerics (Ulama) led by Sheikh Bala Lau at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
It was the second time the clerics were visiting the President. The first time they visited August 9, they were granted permission to travel to Niamey and hold talks with the junta.
The President okayed the Ulama’s request to continue the talks with the coup leaders.
He requested them to expedite action because time is of essence.
“I am managing a very serious situation. Even as of this (yesterday) morning, I have been inundated with phone calls on the readiness of countries with their military force and contributions. However, I told them to wait. I am meeting with the Ulama and I will get back to you.
”If you take ECOWAS aside, other people will react, those who are outside of our control. I am the one holding those sides back. I am the one holding back ECOWAS,” the President told the Ulama.
Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Ajuri Ngelale, said in a statement that Tinubu received a comprehensive briefing from the clerics on their visits to Niamey.
The Islamic leaders, according to Ngelale, informed the President that the coup leaders were open to deepening dialogue with ECOWAS in order to forestall armed conflict.
Tinubu told the Islamic clerics that the junta should be held accountable for putting the entire people of Niger in jeopardy.
‘’They cannot use the gun given to them to protect the sovereignty of the country and turn it against the people of the country,” he said.
He pledged again that ECOWAS would remain steadfast in its commitment to diplomatically engage with all stakeholders in order to achieve a peaceful end to the impasse in Niger.
“I will draw a line in the sand and ask you to make arrangements to go back to Niger Republic,” he stated.
Also on Thursday , Information and National Orientation Minister Mohammed Idris said that the President was ”interested in exploring peaceful options in this, but nothing is off the table. He has asked the Ulama to continue with their dialogue and they will continue to do that.”
Lau called for prayers from the entire West African sub-region, explaining that the body of clerics offered to intervene because they did not want war in the sub-region.
He said: ”We thank Allah for giving us the opportunity and we appreciate and commend the efforts of His Excellency the President.
“We have just met with him. We told him all that went on in Niger and he appreciated and he still wants us to continue the dialogue with the junta. We are sure we’ll be able to achieve what we want.”
“ We don’t want war; we want peace to reign in our region. May Allah continue to bless the President for giving us this opportunity.”
Also, Algeria’s Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General, Lounes Magramane was in the troubled Sahel nation on Thursday to pursue a diplomatic initiative with the coupists.
Magramane met with Niger’s military-appointed Prime Minister Ali Zeine, Defence Minister Salifou Mody, Foreign Minister Bakary Yaou Sangare and Justice Minister Alio Daouda.
Magramane’s visit is another step in Algiers’ “unceasing efforts… to contribute to a peaceful solution to the crisis in Niger, avoiding increased risks for this neighbouring and brotherly country and for the entire region”, the Algerian foreign ministry said.
Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf had on Wednesday begun a tour of West African countries in a bid to find a solution to the crisis.
Algeria, which shares a 1,000-kilometre (600-mile) southern land border with Niger, had previously cautioned against a military solution, which President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said would be “a direct threat” to his country.
He stressed, “There will be no solution without us (Algeria). We are the first people affected”.
The Algerian leader warned that in the event of a military operation, “the entire Sahel will go up in flames.”