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Nigeriens welcome lifting of regional sanctions by ECOWAS

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Nigeriens on Sunday welcomed the lifting of some of the sanctions that were imposed on the country by West Africa’s regional bloc following last year’s coup.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended trade and imposed tough sanctions last July, after Niger Republic’s President, Mohamed Bazoum, was ousted in a military coup.

But the bloc’s warning of military intervention has fizzled out with little sign that Bazoum – still imprisoned in the presidential palace in Niamey – is close to being restored.

And on Saturday ECOWAS announced that it was lifting some of the sanctions, including a no-fly zone, border closures and asset freezes.

The sanctions have hit Niger hard, where the extreme poverty rate exceeds 40 per cent according to the World Bank, and the news that some were being lifted was welcomed.

“We’re very happy that the sanctions have been lifted (…) for us it’s like a day of celebration because everything is going to return to normal,” said Abdoul Aziz Issoufou in the Nigerien capital Niamey.

“The month of Ramadan is coming up (mid-March), and we’re hoping for a drop in the price of basic commodities so that rich and poor alike can find enough to feed their families,” he told AFP.

In Tahoua, in Niger’s south-west, the news was greeted by the honking of car horns and parades of motorbikes and cars.

Despite the celebrations, economist Hima Garba pointed out that Niger’s borders remain plagued by violence and jihadist attacks.

The Nigerien authorities had not yet commented on the lifting of sanctions.

Along with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea – which have also been rocked by coups – Niger was suspended from ECOWAS.

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