Niger’s coup leaders have closed the country’s airspace until further notice.
This is as they rejected an ultimatum from West African states to reinstate deposed President Mohamed Bazoum or risk military intervention.
Daily Trust reports that the seven-day ultimatum given the military junta expired on Sunday, with the putschists remaining obstinate even as they have gone ahead to rally unprecedented support from the civil population who joined them in keeping vigil on the streets of Niamey and other major cities like Maradi on Saturday through Sunday.
Aljazeera news reported last night that an estimated 30,000 coup supporters gathered at a stadium in Niger’s capital, Niamey, to cheer on the generals who seized power.
It quoted Amadou Abdramane, a spokesman for the now-ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), as citing the threat of military intervention from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the airspace closure.
In a statement read out on national television, Abdramane said there had been a pre-deployment of forces in two Central African countries in preparation for intervention, but did not give details.
“In the face of the threat of intervention, which is becoming clearer through the preparation of neighbouring countries, Niger’s airspace is closed from this day on Sunday… for all aircraft until further notice.
“Niger’s armed forces and all our defence and security forces, backed by the unfailing support of our people, are ready to defend the integrity of our territory,” the statement said.
Daily Trust correspondents who are now at the Nigerian borders with Niger in Sokoto, Katsina, Jigawa and Borno states, said though there was no fight, millions of people are in dire straits due to fear of the unknown occasioned by high cost or shortage of basic necessities of life like food and drugs.
The residents, Nigerians and Nigeriens alike, said they detest war and called on ECOWAS to have a rethink in line with a clarion call by prominent groups and individuals.
ECOWAS has not yet announced what its next move will be after the expiration of the deadline given to the coupists.
The military regime in Niger, which declared their Commander General, Abdourahamane Tchiani the new head of state, has vowed not to bow to outside pressure.