President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday gave his backing to the declaration by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), demanding a 12-month transition process to civilian rule in Mali.
Buhari who joined other ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments in a virtual meeting charged the military junta in Mali to set an acceptable time table for return to democratic government, since the country cannot afford to stand alone in the sub- region.
Talks between a delegation of West African envoys and the military officers who overthrew Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had ended without a deal on how the country should return to civilian rule following last week's coup.
Mali's military junta had put forward a plan for a soldier-led transitional body to rule for three years and agreed to release the ousted president.
The regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediation team had met the junta but no concrete agreement was reached. The coup leaders previously said they would stage elections "within a reasonable time".
The proposal was reportedly presented during negotiations between the rebel soldiers and West Africa's regional bloc late Sunday.
Separately, the two sides meeting in the capital, Bamako, said Keita - whose return to office had been initially demanded by ECOWAS - no longer wished to resume duties.
The ECOWAS delegation met the 75-year- old former president, who was held at the military barracks in Kati, near the capital, Bamako.
However, in his remarks at the third Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS on the socio-political crisis in Mali, President Buhari said from the briefings presented by the Special Envoy, former President Goodluck Jonathan, it was clear that the regional body's engagements with the new military leadership in Mali were yet to achieve the desired results in several key areas.
"I am, however, personally happy to hear of the release from detention of the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who is reported to be in good condition. The disposition of the new leadership to free the remaining senior officials is noted as this should contribute to the renewed sense of belonging to the Malian people.
"With regards to other areas being negotiated, Nigeria believes that the people of Mali and the military leaders need to Buhari appreciate the fragility of their country and the imminent danger which it poses to the citizens of Mali as well as the ECOWAS sub-region, "the President in a statement by his special adviser media, Femi Adesina said.
He added that the military leadership should be flexible in negotiations by putting the interest of all Malians and the harmony of the sub-region into consideration.
"For the people of Mali, specifically the leadership, embracing Democracy and Good Governance is crucial to the country's political stability. Mali cannot therefore afford to stand alone, hence the need to come to terms with the realities of an acceptable and workable transition compact that inspires the confidence of all Malians.
"Meanwhile, I urge the military leadership to consider: the immediate release of all the remaining senior Government officials in detention, without pre-conditions; a transition process, to be completed in not more than 12 months, and which shall include the representatives of Malian stakeholders.
"This is a critical consideration for the new government to enjoy the cooperation and collaboration of regional and international community, and to allow the easing of sanctions imposed on Mali."
President Buhari also emphasized the need for Mali's Constitutional Court to
work hand in hand with all the Malian stakeholders to ensure an early and hitch- free return to a democratic government through free, fair and inclusive election.
According to President Buhari, "In this connection Nigeria will, alongside ECOWAS, provide necessary logistics support to facilitate the conduct of elections to re-establish democratic governance in Mali.
"As I conclude this intervention, let me thank once again, the mediator, Dr Jonathan, as well as my colleagues in the sub-region, who have continued to demonstrate sincere commitment to the resolution of this crisis. Nigeria stands in solidarity with the good people of Mali."
President Buhari commended the chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic for convening the Extraordinary Summit.
The President also condoled with Alassane Ouattara, President of Cote D'ivoire, on the loss of a close aide, Mamadi Diane.
Among Declarations of the Summit adopted by ECOWAS leaders were that the transition government in Mali must be led by civilians, and that the return to constitutional order should be concluded within 12 months.
Malian military was also encouraged to focus on securing the country, faced with severe security threats from its
northern part, instead of an incursion into governance.
The 15 member nations of ECOWAS sent a high-level delegation to Bamako on Saturday to press its demands for the "immediate return to constitutional order
The bloc has suspended Mali from its decision-making institutions, shut borders and halted financial flows with the country.
Security crisis While last week's coup met with international condemnation, thousands of opposition supporters celebrated the president's removal in the streets of Bamako, and the coup leaders said they "completed the work" of the protesters.
The coup followed months of protests calling for Keita to step down as public discontent with the government grew over alleged corruption, persistent economic woes and worsening security in large parts of the country where affiliates of al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) are active.
Mali has struggled to regain stability since 2012, when ethnic Tuareg rebels and loosely aligned armed groups seized the northern two-thirds of the country, leading former colonial power France to intervene to temporarily beat them back.
Nigeria Vows To Support MNJTF
Meanwhile, despite being at what he calls "The low ebb of resources caused by COVID-19 and fallen oil prices," Nigeria will continue to provide support for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) based in N'djamena, Chad Republic, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured.
The President, in a statement by his special adviser on media, Femi Adesina, spoke, yesterday, at the State House, Abuja, while receiving Ambassador Mamman Nuhu, executive secretary, Lake Chad Basin Commission and head of mission, MNJTF.
President Buhari said: "Despite paucity of resources, security of Nigeria and that of her neighbours must have pride of place; so, I will consult with all the relevant officials, and we will do our best."
Ambassador Nuhu gave the President updates on the proposed recharge of Lake Chad, which he said was one of the priorities of Lake Chad Basin Commission, "and for which he (President Buhari) has great passion," informing that the governments of China and Italy were of great support, and positive action should commence soon.
He also commended countries which had contributed troops to MNJTF, adding, however, that kinetic military approach alone would not eradicate insurgency, and emphasis must also be placed on the root causes, particularly poverty.