Nigerian delegation meets with Niger junta

A delegation of religious leaders from Nigeria led by the head of an Islamic movement met over the weekend with members of the military junta in Niger in a bid to engage in dialogue. 

Sheikh Abdullahi Bala Lau, a prominent Islamic scholar and the leader of the Izala Salafist Movement in Nigeria, met Saturday with coup leader Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani and junta-appointed Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine in the capital Niamey. 

The latest visit comes as the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) has threatened to intervene militarily if the leaders of the coup do not reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum, who was deposed by members of the Presidential Guard on July 26.

Zeine said that after meeting with the delegation, Tchiani had expressed readiness for dialogue with ECOWAS.

‘’We have agreed, and the leader of our country has given the green light for dialogue,” he said.

He added that the delegation “will now go back and inform the Nigerian president what they have heard from us. We hope in the coming days, they (ECOWAS) will come here to meet us to discuss how the sanctions imposed against us will be lifted.” 

Sheikh Lau said in an interview with a local radio station in Nigeria that President Bola Tinubu had given approval to the delegation to travel to Niger.

He said Nigeria was not at war with Niger and that Tinubu was only carrying out ECOWAS’s resolutions as its chairman.

On Aug. 10, ECOWAS directed its Committee of defense chiefs to “immediately activate” standby troops for military action against the Niger junta and the restoration of President Bazoum.

It also agreed, however, to also exhaust diplomatic means to convince the junta to return the country to constitutional order.

The junta had refused to meet with an initial Nigerian delegation led by former President Abdulsalami Abubakar.

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