Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari will no longer lead a delegation of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders to The Gambia wednesday.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, issued tuesday said the postponement was at the instance of The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh.
Shehu said: “At the instance of President Jammeh of The Gambia, the high level ECOWAS mediation mission led by Nigeria’s President, Buhari, has pushed forward its visit to Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, to Friday.
“In accepting to postpone the visit earlier planned to take place today, President Buhari, who is mediating alongside Mr. John Mahama, the immediate past President of Ghana, said the delay notwithstanding, the mandate of the ECOWAS will be accomplished.”
The statement said Buhari reiterated the appeal last Monday by ECOWAS leaders that The Gambian leaders do everything they can to douse the tension in the West African country, which has led citizens to leave the country due to political uncertainty.
The Nigerian leader said ECOWAS was committed to the resolution of the crisis through inclusive dialogue with respect to the constitution and the will of the people of The Gambia.
ECOWAS leaders had last Monday met at the State House in Abuja and ruled out the use of force in resolving the political imbroglio in The Gambia.
They agreed “on the determination to resolve crisis in a manner that every step of the way conforms with the constitution of The Gambia and respect the will of the people of The Gambia.”
They also resolved to meet President Jammeh on Wednesday on the imperative for him to respect the constitution of the country.
Jammeh had rejected the result of the last month’s presidential election after he had earlier accepted defeat.
The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, who addressed journalists after the meeting, said: “President Buhari, in his capacity as the mediator of the crisis in The Gambia, hosted a meeting today (yesterday) with certain ECOWAS Presidents here in the State House.
“Present at this meeting were Presidents of Liberia who is also the Chairman of the ECOWAS authority; the President of Senegal and former President of Ghana who is also the co-chair mediator with President Buhari.
“They deliberated on the current state of affairs in The Gambia and shared views on the way forward. “They agreed on the determination to resolve The Gambian political crisis in a manner that every step of the way conforms with the constitution of The Gambia and respect the will of the people of the country.
“They expressed particular concern at the deteriorating situation that has been reported in respect of security in The Gambia in particular; the closure of some of the radio stations and media house, arrest that have been taking place and also the refugee situation that is being created with the mass exodus of a large number of people to the interior and to neighbouring countries.
“In view of this, the meeting agree that a certain number of presidents’ will visit in two days time, President Jammeh in The Gambia and that again will comprise the mediator, President Buhari, together with the President of Liberia and hopefully, the President of Sierra-Leon and the co-mediator the former President of Ghana (John Mahamma), as well as the President of the ECOWAS commission; the Special Representatives of United Nations and a representative of the African Union.
“So, this meeting will take place in two days time today (yesterday) to discuss with President Jammeh the need to respect the constitution.”