Niger’s junta asks West Africa's court to compel neighbors to lift coup sanctions, citing hardship

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Niger’s junta on Tuesday asked West Africa’s regional court to order the lifting of sanctions imposed on the country by its neighbors following a July coup in which the democratically elected president was deposed.

“There is no sector of the Nigerien society that has not been affected by these sanctions” which have caused untold economic hardship in one of the world’s poorest countries, Younkaila Yaye, one of the junta’s lawyers, argued at the hearing in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

After elite soldiers toppled Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum, the country faced economic sanctions from West Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS, as well as countries including the United States that had provided aid for health, security and infrastructure needs.

Neighbors shut their borders with Niger and more than 70% of its electricity, supplied by Nigeria, was cut off after financial transactions with West African countries were suspended. Niger’s assets in external banks were frozen and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid were withheld.

The sanctions were the most stringent yet imposed by the regional bloc in an effort to stem the tide of coups in Africa’s volatile Sahel region. But they have had little or no impact on the ambition of the junta which has consolidated its hold on power while millions in Niger face growing hardship.

At the hearing, the junta's lawyers described the ways the sanctions are hurting Niger: Children are unable to return to school because of limited supplies. Drug stores are running out of supplies. Businesses are shutting down because of rising costs,

Yaye accused ECOWAS of punishing Nigeriens over the coup in ways harsher than it has handled coups in other countries, “especially regarding financial transactions.”

The junta asked the court to relax the sanctions pending the final judgement. But ECOWAS protested against their request.

Francois Kanga-Penond, the ECOWAS lawyer, argued that the junta is not recognized under the bloc’s protocol and does not have the power to institute such a case in court.

The court adjourned until Dec. 7.