Why Nigeria Should Stay Out of Niger

On the 26th of July this year, citizens of the Republic of Niger awoke to a new ‘dynasty’, one established by the Presidential Guard and other key officers of multiple branches of the country’s Defence and Security Forces. These officers established a junta which was named the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland – quite a mouthful – and was later joined the next day by the Nigerien Armed Forces. The reason cited by these officers for the power grab was the poor governance and worsening security conditions of the country, due to widespread banditry and terrorist activity.

While the response of the country’s citizens remains far from a clear consensus, there appears to be significant support from some quarters, a far contrast from the stance taken by the international democratic community, with France and the US publicly denouncing the coup and international organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations and African Union  withholding aid from the region. In addition, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has given an order for the activation of its standby forces to intervene so as to restore democracy in the country. With Nigeria being a key member of ECOWAS as our president is the organisation’s chairman, our armed forces will be expected to make up the bulk of any intervention force. However, it seems most Nigerians hold the opinion that our military involvement in any war with Niger is a bad, bad idea and this is a sentiment that I share for the reasons I’ll expound in this article.

Firstly, our proximity to Niger makes the probability of a spill-over of hostilities into the country rather high. To make matters worse, the Northern region, which shares borders with Niger, is already ravaged by insecurity, terrorism and banditry. As the “border” is more or less a fancy joke with no proper security measures, any war in Niger will definitely lead to an increase in instability and insecurity in the region, an increase that will definitely trickle down to the Southern part of Nigeria along with its attendant effects on the standard of living. Furthermore, the porosity of the border makes it such that there is frequent trade and travel of citizens into and out of our neighbouring country. Any hostilities we initiate with Niger will lead to putting our nationals that reside in the country in serious danger  and will bring any trading activities between both nations to a halt.

Nigeria/Niger Border (Channels Television News, 2023)

Still on the subject of borders, Niger is the only country that provides a geographical shield between Nigeria and the chronic political turmoil and refugee crisis in Northern Africa. War in Niger will add the country to that mix thus leaving us as our own buffer to this concern, a buffer that will be largely ineffective as our border with Niger – as highlighted before – basically looks like and is as effective an estate gate against a bullion van.

Secondly, The Nigerian Military is already spread quite thin in a bid to combat the growing levels of insecurity and crime in the country. While this is actually the job of the police, it just goes to show just how unpalatable the situation is within the country. Additionally, there are reports of poor remuneration and low morale spread through the ranks of the lower officer grades in the military. All these factors paint a picture that does not instill confidence in the possibility of a successful campaign against a military that appears to be backed by its populace. One need not look too far to see live examples of what was initiated as a decisive battle turn into a protracted war – as in the case of Ukraine and Russia.

As highlighted in above, the levels of insecurity in Nigeria are such that the police are overwhelmed thus leading to my next point – One can not fight a war with another country when there are several battles to be won within. As a country, we should be more concerned with restoring peace within our borders instead. We are faced with high levels of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism, a situation that calls for all hands to be on deck and not fighting a futile war in another country.

An Overview of Nigeria’s Military Operations in 2022 (SBM Intelligence, 2022)

Also, I find it quite ironic that the push for our involvement in a possible war is based on the intention to restore constitutional order and democracy in our neighbouring country. Despite our being a democracy, our rights are constantly being trampled upon by the political elite and the security agencies which are meant to defend us. We can all remember how in the year 2020, protesters were gunned  down for daring to raise their voices against needless oppression. Even more recently, there was widespread violence, voter suppression and outright result tampering in the just concluded presidential elections – the result of which is still being contested in the court of law. The constitution is often neglected and seems to be only reserved for the poor and the common man, who can not afford to “hire” our beloved security parastatals in the pursuit of those who have wronged us. Seeking legal recourse in our country is commonly referred to as a fool’s errand and yet, we want to ensure constitutional order in another country when all the order we have in ours is not even on paper. 

As a final point, I raise the current economic situation of the country. We literally cannot afford to fund a war as a good percentage of our budget is being generated by loans with the country already swimming in debt. As a result of all the subsidy cuts here and there –  side eye to the government that will not cut their own salaries – the cost of living has drastically risen and there is a lot of hardship being faced by average Nigerian families. All our efforts should be towards reviving our slumbering economy instead of sedating it further by leading the country into a drawn out and needless war.

– Osisiogu Onyinyechi


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