West Africa: Nigerian Businesses Say ECOWAS Niger Sanctions Affecting Livelihoods

Abuja, Nigeria — Nigerians in the border regions with Niger are calling on West African bloc ECOWAS to rethink sanctions on the country following last month’s coup. Residents say the closure of land borders has impacted their businesses and the cost of living has increased with no goods entering Nigeria from its neighbor.

When the West African regional bloc ECOWAS announced border closures with Niger on July 31, Nigerian truck driver Buwa Mohammed did not expect immediate repercussions.

For more than 10 years, he had been shuttling goods and passengers from Nigeria’s Jigawa state to Niger. Jigawa shares a border with the Zinder region in the Republic of Niger.

But now, speaking to VOA by phone, Mohammed said his business has come to a halt and it’s impacting his family.

Soldiers from Niger’s presidential guard overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 and have held him hostage in defiance of calls from ECOWAS and Western allies for him to be released and restored to power.

In addition to closing land borders, ECOWAS has declared a no-flight zone over Niger and announced the seizure of public assets in member states.

The regional bloc had issued a seven-day notice for the military leaders to restore democratic order and threatened to unleash regional security forces on Niger if they failed to respond.

The deadline passed Sunday and anxiety is rising over the uncertainty of the situation.

Like Buwa Mohammed, Hassan Mohammed, a phone trader, worries that a military invasion would make matters worse.

“I’m not happy with that because we trade, they come to do business here and we also do business in their market but this has all stopped,” he said in Hausa. “Things are even worse for these past two weeks. Even eating has become a problem. We are begging the government to resolve this issue. We pray for God to intervene.”