Niger: Niamey appeal court prosecutor confirms escape attempt by Bazoum

Salissou Chaïbou, the public prosecutor at the Niamey Court of appeal, said on Tuesday that there had been an escape attempt by President Mohamed Bazoum, who was overthrown by a coup in Niger and held hostage after the former head of state’s lawyers denied it.

“These are real facts, not an act,” said Salissou Chaïbou of Mohamed Bazoum’s escape attempt, in a statement broadcast on the national television station Télé Sahel.

Mr Chaïbou also asserted that there had indeed been an “exfiltration plan” detailed by the military regime in mid-October, “trumped-up accusations”, according to Mr Bazoum’s lawyers at the time.

“On the night of 18 to 19 October”, former president Bazoum, “his family, his security team and his cooks, carrying various parcels, were stopped” by “agents of the presidential guard, as they made their way out of the palace”, said Mr Chaïbou.

He added that a vehicle was waiting for them “to take them to a house” in a district of Niamey, “identified as belonging to Mohamed Ben Hamaye, a former member of Bazoum’s bodyguard” and “presumed mastermind of the operation”, specifying the destination of the rest of their planned helicopter journey: Birnin Kebbi, in north-west Nigeria.

Mr Chaïbou said that “a meticulous search of the packages and a search of the former president’s residence led to the discovery of large sums of money in (CFA) francs and foreign currency, as well as various precious goods”.”In particular, a sum of 86,250,000 CFA francs, 17,017 US dollars, 3,835 euros, 5 pounds sterling, 16 cedis, 2,800 grams of gold, 333 grams of silver”, electronic equipment and “numerous telephone chips” that “indicate unique uses for calls to cover their tracks”, he detailed. He also mentioned the discovery of “around ten destroyed mobile phones”.

Mr Chaïbou also referred to “espionage”, in addition to “intelligence on the Presidential Guard”, prior to the sending of images “to the French by the former President of the Republic”, Mohamed Bazoum. “Twenty-three civilians and military personnel have been arrested in connection with this affair”, he said, pointing out that an “investigation is underway”.

He also pointed out that Mohamed Bazoum was in his presidential residence, where he has been held with his wife and son since the coup that overthrew him on 26 July.