There is anxiety in parts of Northern Nigeria as the deadline given to coup leaders in Niger Republic by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), chaired by the Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, to return power to ousted President Mohamed Bazoum or be confronted with military intervention elapsed on Sunday.
The coup leaders have taken President Bazoum hostage since July 26.
ECOWAS last Sunday gave the coup leaders a week to comply with its demands or it would “take all measures… [which] may include the use of force”.
But in Nigeria – where the bulk of the troops are likely to come from and with about seven states sharing borders with Niger – many people have warned President Tinubu and the ECOWAS against military intervention in the country.
The Nigerian lawmakers in the Senate have rejected Tinubu’s proposed military force in Niger and asked him to look at “political and diplomatic options”.
However, as the deadline elapses in a few hours, in the northern Nigerian city of Sokoto, bordering Niger, which is home to the army’s 8 Division, the anxiety is increasing, BBC reports.
One in every five residents in Sokoto is reportedly from Niger or has connections with the country.
Sokoto city’s sprawling suburb of Sabon-Gari Girafshi is predominantly inhabited by people from Niger. They fear that military intervention by ECOWAS could greatly affect their family members and even jeopardise their own security here in Nigeria.
“Now I want to call my wife Fatima to hear from her, because since the day of that coup, I have not heard from her,” 51-year-old jewellery maker, Sulaiman Ibrahim, who lives in Sokoto with one of his wives and some of his children in Niamey, Niger capital said.
Ibrahim, who tried calling his wife but the network response told him the number was not available said, “Every time I called, this is what they’re telling me, either no service or whatever, I don’t know.
“If military action is going to be taken on Niger, this will bring more anxiety. I’m in terrible situation because my family is not with me and I don’t have any information about them.”
Also, 43-year-old Mohamdu Ousman, expressed similar sentiments, saying that use of force to restore the ousted president in Niger could be catastrophic.
He said, “For ECOWAS to go to Niger with the intention to take back power from the military to civilians, we don’t wish for that, God forbid. It’s like erasing our history.”
Zainab Saidu, 59, from Dosso in Niger but has lived most of her life in Sokoto after getting married to a Nigerian man told BBC that her youngest son is currently in Niger and she fears for his safety.
She said, “I’m disturbed, I swear we’re in fear all of us, everyone who is from Niger. Everybody is terrified most especially when we heard that Nigeria [might] go to Niger for a war purpose.”
West African military chiefs convened in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja last week where they agreed on a plan for possible military intervention.
In an effort to apply other pressure, the regional bloc has also imposed sanctions on the coup leaders and closed the borders into Niger.
In addition, Nigeria has cut electricity supplies to its northern neighbour.
But this has meant that those on the Nigerian side of the border are also affected.