President Muhammadu Buhari will lead a delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to The Gambia on Wednesday, 11 January.
The trip is seen as a last-ditch attempt to resolve the political impasse in the country.
The decision to undertake the trip was taken on Monday, 9 January in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja, following an extra-ordinary meeting of ECOWAS leaders on the situation in The Gambia hosted by Buhari and attended by Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Macky Sall of Senegal and the immediate former president of Ghana, John Mahama.
Briefing reporters on the outcome of the meeting, Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said that the delegation will aim to press President Yahya Jammeh to hand over power to opposition leader and winner of the 1 December election, Adama Barrow.
Onyeama said the leaders condemned the media clampdown by Jammeh’s administration.
“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,” he said.
“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 houses, 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.”
Onyeama revealed that other members of the delegation that will visit Banjul on Wednesday are President Sirleaf, Mahama and as well as the president of the ECOWAS commission, Marcel Alain de Souza and the Special Representative of United Nations for West Africa, Dr Ibn Mohammed Chambas, among others.
The Gambia Supreme Court is set to listen to the election petition by President Yayha Jammeh challenging the 1 December election on Tuesday, 10 December but reports say that the foreign judges from Sierra Leone and Nigeria will not be travelling to Banjul.
Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia for 22 years, initially accepted his loss in the 1 December election, shocking Gambians who have lived through his rule since he took power in a 1994 coup.
But a week later he changed his mind, saying the electoral commission had been biased by “foreign influences” and vowing to hang on despite regional and international condemnation.
Meanwhile, reports say that Information Minister Sheriff Bojang has fled the country and other officials could be following him, say observers.