The Nigerian senate is to discuss today (12 January) a motion on whether to grant asylum to Gambia's outgoing leader Yahya Jammeh. Gambia is facing a political impasse as the incumbent president is refusing to step down in spite of losing presidential election held in December 2016.
Jammeh, who lost to opposition leader Adama Barrow, initially conceded defeat. However, he now intends to contest the election result at the Supreme Court due to what he says are "unacceptable abnormalities".
The motion asks whether Jammeh should be given "safe haven as part of the reconciliation process of the crisis going on in Gambia", Emmanuel Yisa Orker-Jev, head of the rules and business committee in the House of Representatives, told state television channel NTA, according to AFP.
Orker-Jev added the debate would focus on whether granting a safe haven for Jammeh would allow Barrow "to take over power, as the majority of Gambians would wish".
The motion is not binding on the government.
Jammeh, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, is expected to step down on 18 January, when his term expires. However, the leader said he would resist pressure to leave office until the court hears his case, which is now expected to happen in May or even November, due to lack of judges available.
Barrow told IBTimes UK he considered himself the "rightful leader" of the country and was confident the issue could be resolved peacefully. He is due to be sworn-in on 19 January.
In December, west African leaders – led by Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari – met Jammeh and urged him to accept defeat. The leaders, who left without managing to secure a deal, are expected to meet Jammeh again in the capital Banjul on 13 January.
Can Gambia's political impasse end peacefully?
In December, Marcel Alain de Souza, the Chairman of the Economic Community Of West African States (Ecowas) , claimed that a military intervention to remove Jammeh was "possible" and that "stand-by forces" – likely led by Senegal – were on alert and would be deployed "to restore the people's wish".
"If Jammeh goes peacefully, it will send a wave to African leaders that gone are the days when free and fair elections are disputed in favour of strongmen. The collective peace of the African continent is bigger than that of any part of it,"David Otto, security analyst and counterterrorism expert at UK-based TGS Intelligence Consultants, told IBTimes UK.
"It is a good approach for leaders in the west African region to take front role and proactively engage with Yahya Jammeh and President Elect Adama Barrow to resolve the situation amicably and avoid the escalation of any sort of violence,"Otto, who is also a senior adviser for Global Risk International, continued.
However, Jeffrey Smith, human-rights consultant and founding director of NGO Vanguard Africa, believes that granting asylum to Jammeh – long accused of human rights abuses – could also send a wrong message.
"Many people have wondered whether this might be the sort of arrangement that Jammeh had been seeking all along, and might help explain his sudden refusal to accept defeat. For many reasons, a deal that would land Jammeh in another country, safe and avoiding prosecution for his many brutal crimes, would send the wrong message," he told IBTimes UK.
"However, Gambians by and large are ready to move on from dictatorship, uncertainty and anxiety. They want their lives back and their country to have a chance to get back on track. If that means shipping Jammeh off to Nigeria, and the possibility of avoiding more violence and collective trauma, then so be it. That, however, does not necessarily preclude Jammeh from one day facing justice – just look at what happened to Hissene Habre next door in Senegal," he concluded.