The Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), a coalition of over 70 labour and civil society organisations, has given tips to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that could help to end coups in the sub-region.

Ahead of the meeting of ECOWAS leaders on Thursday to address the Niger crisis, ASCAB said it is important for the regional body to focus on the causes of the coup which has become a pattern in West Africa, and arrest the ugly development.

In a statement signed by Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer and ASCAB chairperson, the group also called on ECOWAS to consider imposing more sanctions on the military junta in Niger and avoid military action.

“Since the call for the diplomatic initiative by the security chiefs reflects the wishes of the people of West Africa, the Authority of the Heads of State and Government should jettison the military option and impose more sanctions with a view to isolating the military junta in Niger,” the statement reads.

“Until about three years ago, all the member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were led by democratically elected governments. But, since some ECOWAS leaders decided to extend their tenure, there had been about nine successful and unsuccessful coups in West Africa.

“In view of the meeting of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, the highest decision-making organ of the ECOWAS scheduled to hold in Abuja on Thursday, August 10, 2023, it is pertinent to draw attention to the main causes of unconstitutional change of government and how to arrest the ugly development.”

According to ASCAB, the immediate cause of unconstitutional change of governments is the manipulation of constitutions and referenda by elected governments to extend the tenure of presidents.

The group noted that ECOWAS had attempted to restrict West African presidents to two terms in office but has been opposed by leaders of countries who are scheming to extend their tenure.

“The new chairman of ECOWAS, President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, should ensure that the amendment is passed forthwith while sanctions are imposed on democratically elected presidents who engage in amendment of the national constitutions to extend their tenure beyond two terms,” the group said.

ASCAB also noted that former colonial regimes and their allies have recklessly exploited the natural resources of ECOWAS member states which is compounded by the control of the national economy by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The result of such influences, the group said, was frustration with civilian governments by citizens and victims of human rights abuse who troop to the streets to celebrate coup plotters.

“The ECOWAS leaders should end the crude exploitation of natural resources and empower the people to control the commonwealth of member states in accordance with article 21 (1) of the charter,” the statement added.

The coalition said the charter provides that “all peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources. This right shall be exercised in the exclusive interest of the people. In no case shall a people be deprived of it”.