The possibility of a military intervention by Nigeria in neighboring Niger has sparked mounting opposition from political leaders in the country. President Bola Tinubu’s announcement of a threatened intervention against junta leaders in Niger has prompted calls from Nigerian political figures to reconsider the move.
The ECOWAS regional bloc, of which Nigeria is a key player, is at the forefront of the intervention threat.
Amidst the escalating situation, Nigeria’s Senate held a closed-door meeting on Saturday to discuss the matter. Afterward, Senate President Godswill Akpabio conveyed their stance to journalists, urging President Tinubu to explore diplomatic and political options with other ECOWAS leaders.
The Nigerian constitution necessitates Senate approval before deploying armed forces for combat duty outside the country, except in cases where the president deems a “national security imminent threat or danger.”
Senators from northern Nigerian states, which share a significant border with Niger, have cautioned against immediate military action. They stress the potential risks to civilians and express concern about the deep social and trade connections between northern regions and southern Niger, where cultural and religious ties are strong.
Furthermore, the senators fear that intervening militarily in Niger could exacerbate insecurity in the Sahel region, similar to ongoing challenges in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Libya, where military coups toppled democratically elected leaders.
The largest opposition group in Nigeria, the Coalition of United Political Parties, denounces the proposed military operation in Niger as “absolutely thoughtless.” They highlight the already stretched capabilities of the Nigerian military, facing terrorism, insurgency, organized crime, and separatist movements within the country.
The coalition argues that Nigeria’s economy, already suffering due to the end of fuel subsidies, cannot afford such a costly intervention in another country. President Tinubu’s decision to end fuel subsidies led to a significant increase in fuel prices, impacting nearly half of Nigeria’s population estimated to live in extreme poverty.
The potential military intervention in Niger has also drawn criticism on social media within Nigeria. Concerns are raised about the approximately 200,000 Nigerian refugees seeking shelter in Niger due to jihadist violence. There are also worries about a potential influx of refugees from Niger, further straining the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s north.
As the Sunday deadline approaches for the reinstatement of Niger’s elected government, tensions and concerns continue to rise in Nigeria over the potential consequences of military action in their neighboring country.