Niger power blackouts blamed on coup sanctions

Source: BBC

Major cities in Niger are facing rolling blackouts following last week’s coup in the West African country.

The power shortages are a result of Nigeria cutting supplies to its northern neighbour, Niger’s electricity company Nigelec says.

The West African trading bloc Ecowas has imposed sanctions on Niger over the coup but has not said if these include electricity supplies.

Ecowas defence chiefs are meeting in Nigeria to discuss the Niger crisis.

On Sunday, West African leaders gave Niger’s military junta a week to give up power or face possible military intervention.

European countries are currently evacuating its citizens from Niger.

Residents living in the cities of Niamey, Maradi and Zinder have power for about an hour at a time before it is switched off for up to five hours.

Power cuts like these are unusual in Niger, which normally has regular and reliable supplies.

But the country is heavily dependent on its wealthier neighbour to the south, Nigeria, as its main supplier of electricity.

The Transmission Company of Nigeria has declined to comment on the power cuts in Niger.But an anonymous source told the BBC the supply to Niger was cut on Tuesday following a presidential directive.

Niger’s democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown in a military coup last week by his own presidential guards who stood watch outside his palace.

The constitution was suspended and Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, chief of the presidential guard, was installed as the head of state.

The military government has now announced the re-opening of Niger’s borders with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali and Chad. Its borders with Nigeria remain closed.

A delegation from Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) is meeting in Niger on Wednesday as mediation continues following the coup. It is being led by Nigeria’s former military head of state Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, who oversaw that country’s transition from military rule to democracy in 1999.

Nigeria’s most senior Muslim leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar III, is also reported to be part of the team. He also wields huge influence in Niger, part of which used to be in the Sokoto Caliphate, a powerful kingdom before colonial rule.

Evacuation flights have now started to arrive in Europe. Some 262 French citizens touched down in Paris early on Wednesday amid anti-French sentiment in the country.

The coup has prompted demonstrations against the former colonial power, with the French embassy coming under attack.

France says it has no plans to repatriate about 1,000 French soldiers stationed there as part of efforts to counter Islamist militants.

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