President Mohamed Bazoum’s son, Salem, is critically ill, ECOWAS leaders were told at their meeting on Thursday, according to an official present at the meeting.
The West African leaders were told that Salem had lost about 10 kilograms since he was detained alongside his father following the 26 July coup in Niger.
ECOWAS and other international organisations and countries have demanded the release of Messrs Bazoum and Salem, as well as all the civilians detained by the junta in the aftermath of the Niger coup.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a phone call with former Nigerien President Mohamed Issoufou, expressed his “grave concern” at the continued detention under “deteriorating conditions” of President Bazoum and his family, according to a US statement.
“The Secretary shared that he is particularly dismayed by the refusal of those who seized power in Niger to release Bazoum’s family members as a demonstration of goodwill.”
Mr Bazoum has been held in the presidential palace in Niamey since 26 July alongside his wife Hadiza and Salem.
Mr Bazoum’s daughter, Zazia Bazoum, told UK Guardian that her family is living in a very difficult situation. She said her parents had lost five kilograms each and her brother 10.
ECOWAS felt humiliated by the actions of the junta towards the Abdulsalami Abubakar-led delegation, reiterating during the meeting that it was an insult to the bloc and Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former Nigerian military head of state, the source told this newspaper.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the junta leaders prevented the ECOWAS delegation, led by Mr Abubakar, from leaving the Niger airport and meeting with the coup leaders or Mr Bazoum.
At the Thursday meeting, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and others called for the deployment of force in Niger to restore constitutional rule.
President Alassane Ouattara reportedly told the heads of state at the closed-door meeting that his government was ready to mobilise $150 million to support the troops’ deployment.
He later told journalists in Abuja when he was leaving the meeting that he considered Mr Bazoum’s detention an act of terrorism which ECOWAS cannot allow to continue.
“We do not accept, we will not accept coup d’etat and I think these putschists must go if they don’t let Bazoum out to be able to exercise his mandate. I think we should move ahead and get them out,” Mr Ouattara said.
The ECOWAS Heads of State at the end of the closed-door meeting vowed to use force to dislodge the junta in Niger if it remains recalcitrant.
As part of their decisions, the ECOWAS leaders directed “the committee of the chief of defence staff to activate the ECOWAS standby force with all its elements immediately.”
The defence chiefs will meet to finalise plans on how to proceed with the deployment, the source said, adding that things will be clearer by the new week.