The Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of the Center For The Promotion Of Private Enterprise, CPPE, Dr. Muda Yusuf, has advised the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS not to be pressured into taking military action against the military junta in Niger in a bid to restore constitutional democracy.
Although Yusuf, said restoration of democracy in that country is advisable but Our President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, being the current chairman of ECOWAS is saddled with enormous leadership responsibility at this crucial time in the region’s history.
However, he said that any contemplation of military intervention should take into account the wider social, economic, welfare and security implications for the countries of the sub region and their citizens.
According to him, There are far reaching macroeconomic, trade and security and geopolitical ramifications which should be carefully considered as the risk of high collateral damage is also very high.
Yusuf, pointed out that this is a defining moment for ECOWAS which calls for rigorous thinking, robust consultation, sound diplomatic judgment, a deep sense of history and an exhaustive evaluation of the many ramifications.
It is also critical for ECOWAS to consider the geopolitical dimensions of the unfolding developments in the sub region, he said.
Listing implications of such action he said that one of the key mandates of ECOWAS is the promotion of economic integration and as such military actions among member states would surely negate this fundamental objective.
It would perpetuate fragmentation of the region and trade within the region will be severely impacted, he warned adding, “This has grave consequences for the economies of the economies of member states and the welfare of the citizens.
“Already the recent border closure is beginning to adversely impact on traders on both sides of the divide. The truth is that sanctions are typically double-edged sword which is why it needs to be cautiously and strategically applied.”
He went further to say that there is a risk that the fragile security situation in the sub region may further deteriorate in the event of a military assault on Niger. “Current acts of terrorism in the region require concerted efforts by ECOWAS countries to tackle them. Nigeria needs the cooperation of its neighbours to effectively confront terrorism in the country. A fragmented region cannot present an effective front to deal with the growing challenge of insecurity in the region. The countries in the region may become more vulnerable in the event of intra-regional conflict and fragmentation.”
He said, “It is instructive that the Sahel is rapidly becoming a theatre of geopolitical competition between Russia and the West. The Sahel is currently the hotbed of global terrorism. It is not in Nigeria’s interest to get deeply involved in the military adventures in the zone, with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger being major theatres of their operations. This could further complicate matters for the entire sub region. Nigeria should avoid getting entangled in these geopolitical dynamics.”
On cost implications, Yusuf, said that the financial cost of a military campaign could be quite staggering and unpredictable.
“There are valuable lessons to learn from the Nigeria’s military operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone over two decades ago. Nigeria was the arrow head of the then Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group [ECOMOG], the intervention force at the time. We lost over 500 soldiers during the Liberia war with hundreds sustaining various degrees of injuries. The war became protracted, lasting for about 7 years, [1990 to 1998]. At the peak of the war, there were 16,000 ECOMOG troops in Liberia, 80 per cent of them were Nigerian troops. The cost to Nigeria of the Liberia war was an estimated $8 billion dollars.”
He noted that shortly after the Liberia military operation, Nigeria led another military intervention in Sierra Leone to restore democracy in that country following the coup that toppled the then democratically elected President, Tejan Kabbah.
He said that the story of Nigeria’s military campaign in Sierra Leone was not different. Nigeria spent over $4 billion and lost about 700 soldiers and that the war lasted about five years from 1998 to 2002.
Speaking further, he said the lesson here is that the cost of military interventions can be very prohibitive. Similar military operation at this time may cost considerably higher, given the inflationary trend over the past 25 years, adding, “At the very minimum it would cost Nigeria a minimum of $2 billion annually to prosecute a military operation in Niger, taking into account the prevailing geopolitical dynamics in the Sahel. It will be difficult to accommodate such huge financial commitment at this time without putting a serious strain on our fiscal operations and foreign reserves.
“With the benefit of hindsight, it is doubtful whether Nigeria got any significant benefit from the military interventions in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. Yet the operation was a huge financial burden on Nigeria. The costs to Nigeria were colossal. Military spending in a war situation is largely in foreign currency. It could therefore be a major drain on the Nigeria’s reserves.”
He also warned that the loss of lives was also a tragic outcome of the war and at the end, there was no concrete benefit for Nigeria for expending so much of its financial and human resources.
Dwelling on military option, he said, Nigeria’s current balance of payment position is weak and may not be able to support any major military engagement outside our shores.
He observed that Nigeria’s external sector is fragile, posing a profound challenge of currency volatility.
Again, he reminded Government that the worsening of the external sector would adversely impact investors confidence , weaken growth prospects and decelerate the pace of economic recovery and that in a war situation, there are inherent risks of destruction of assets, damage to infrastructures, disruption of the livelihoods of innocent citizens, softening of investors’ confidence, deceleration of investment growth, aggravation of country risk and the dampening of GDP growth prospects.
He also stated that the recent reforms by the current administration have impacted positively on the fiscal consolidation efforts though he said prospects of fiscal deficit reduction in the near term looks very bright.
“However, in the event of a military intervention in Niger, these gains may be eroded. The reason being that we would see an escalation in the defense budget which would trigger a surge in fiscal deficit, worsening of inflationary pressures and a spike in debt levels and related debt service burden.
“Resources that would have been used for the funding of critical infrastructures such as roads, electricity, education health railway system would be deployed to funding military operations. While it may be easy to determine the commencement of a military campaign, it is often difficult to predict the duration, scope, intensity, dimension and the ultimate cost. Military operations are typically dynamic. Underlying assumptions may change as the military operations progress. And this may have significant budget implications.” he said.
He further warned that if Nigeria decides to go ahead with a military campaign in Niger, our defense spending may have to increase substantially possibly by 100 per cent or more. “Over 70% of the spending would have to be foreign exchange. Though the military option would be an ECOWAS decision, the burden of prosecuting the operation would have to be borne substantially by Nigeria. These are scenarios we need to worry about.” he advised.
Characteristically, he said it is difficult to predict what the scope of a military engagement because of the dynamic nature of such operations and extant strategies may therefore not capture all the variables, many of which may unforeseen and that the ECOMOG story is a classic example.