(Bloomberg) -- Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States on Saturday lifted far-reaching sanctions imposed on Niger after a coup last year.

Land and air borders are reopened, the suspension of trade will be lifted and Niger will regain access to its accounts at the regional central bank “with immediate effect,” Ecowas Commission President Omar Touray said following a meeting of West African leaders in Nigeria’s capital Abuja. The bloc had imposed the sanctions in a bid to compel the junta to restore democracy and reinstate the nation’s elected President Mohamed Bazoum. 

The sanctions are being lifted based on “humanitarian considerations” and in preparation for a return to democracy, Touray said. He called for the immediate release of Bazoum. 

Niger has said that the sanctions — including an asset freeze, border closures and exclusion from the regional market — had a disproportionately harsh impact on the population. Border closures and Nigeria’s decision to cut power supply to the country had led to shortages of food, medicine and electricity.

The country last week missed debt payments of $24.2 million adding to the country’s total of over $600 million default since the coup.  

“The sanctions that we contemplated might help lead our brothers to the negotiating table have become a harsh stumbling block. In my mind and heart, that which is hurtful yet ineffective serves no good purpose and should be abandoned,” Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, the current chairman of Ecowas, said in a statement.

Read more: Niger Misses Three Bond Payments as Sanctions Erode Finances (1)

Once seen as an important ally to the US and Europe in its fight against militancy in West Africa’s Sahel region, Niger’s new rulers have refused to hand over power and instead moved to cut military ties with France and its West African neighbors.

Last month, Niger said it would quit the regional bloc — together with Mali and Burkina Faso — which pushed Ecowas to reiterate its commitment to a negotiated solution to the crisis and swift return to democracy.

Read more: Juntas Will Be Biggest Losers If They Quit Africa Bloc, IMF Says

It also overturned a controversial anti-migration law, dealing a blow to Europe’s effort to stop African migrants from reaching its shores. 

--With assistance from Ruth Olurounbi.

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