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ECOWAS Lifts Sanctions It Had Imposed on Niger

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has lifted the economic and travel sanctions it had imposed on Niger last July when the military leaders of that country removed President Mohamed Bazoum. The sanctions completely failed and Niger, along with Mali and Burkina Faso, left the regional block and formed their own Alliance of Sahel States.

''The sanctions will be lifted with immediate effect, the president of the ECOWAS Commission,'’ Omar Alieu Touray said after the bloc’s meeting in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Touray added the sanctions were lifted for Niger “on purely humanitarian grounds” to ease the suffering caused as a result. “There are targeted (individual) sanctions as well as political sanctions that remain in force,” he added.

ECOWAS also lifted a ban on the recruitment of Malians in professional positions within ECOWAS, and lifted financial and economic sanctions on Guinea, also led by a military junta.

“We must re-examine our current approach to the quest for constitutional order in our member states,” Nigerian President Bola Tinubu and current chairman of ECOWAS said at the start of the summit. “I therefore urge them to reconsider the decision of the three of them to exit their home and not to perceive our organization as the enemy,” he added.

Ecowas also invited officials of the three countries to “technical and consultative meetings of ECOWAS as well as all security-related meetings.” They also urged them to reconsider their withdrawal from the block.

There is strong evidence to presume that pressure to lift sanctions was exerted by Nigeria’s military and security establishment. On February 15, the former Head of State of Nigeria, Yakubu Gowon, who is also a retired Commander of the Nigerian army, wrote a letter to the leaders of the member state of ECOWAS to “immediately consider the lifting of all sanctions that have been imposed on Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger,” or see the regional group lose credibility.

Nigeria’s military chief, General Christopher Musa gave a lengthy interview to Al Jazeera which appeared on February 21 where the General urged the situation between ECOWAS and Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso be resolved peacefully, warning against the regional becoming a center of “proxy wars.” He emphasized that these three countries play an important role in the security of the region.