The predicament of Nigerians in Ghana

JUDGING by reports in the Nigerian media, diplomatic relations between the country and Ghana, arguably Nigeria’s most trusted ally in the West African sub-region, have never been worse. If, for the past three decades, both countries have enjoyed perhaps the best period of mutual collaboration and amity in their post-independence history, over the past several months, a certain chill appears to have crept into their diplomatic intercourse as Nigerians have expressed disaffection over a series of perceived injuries.

Of these perceived slights, three have stood out. The first is the accusation that the Ghanaian authorities, without any advance warning to their Nigerian counterparts, and contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Convention, occupied and seized the Nigerian Mission located at No. 10, Barnes Road Accra. Second, and again in apparent violation of the Vienna Convention,  the Ghanaian authorities are believed to have given their backing to the demolition of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 19/21, Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge Accra. Third, the Ghanaian authorities are believed to have embarked on an aggressive and arbitrary deportation drive, leading to the deportation of hundreds of Nigerians.

Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, must have had these perceived injustices in mind when, in a statement issued on August 28, he warned that Nigeria would no longer condone “acts of hostility by the Ghanaian authorities towards Nigeria and Nigerians.” The minister’s statement included a reference to “The negative reportage of issues concerning Nigerians resident in Ghana by the Ghanaian media” which is believed to be “fueling an emerging xenophobic attitude towards Nigerian traders and Nigerians in general. The immediate fallout is the incessant harassment of Nigerian traders and closure of their shops.”

As is to be expected, the Ghanaian authorities have pushed back against these allegations. In a statement released on August 30 by Ghana’s Ministry of Information, the country denied that it had anything to do with the seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property at No. 10, Barnes Road, insisting that “The transaction was a commercial arrangement between Thomas D. Hardy, a private citizen and the High Commission of Nigeria,” and that “The terms of the Commercial Lease expired 46 years ago, without any evidence of renewal by the High Commission of Nigeria in Ghana.” With respect to the property located at No. 19/21, Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge Accra, the statement insisted that “The demolition of the property was not carried out by agents of the Ghanaian Government, but by agents of the Osu Stool,” the presumed owners of the said property.

Nevertheless, as a peaceful gesture, the Ghanaian authorities offered to “restore the property, at its own cost, to its original state for the Nigerian High Commission, and has duly communicated same to the Nigerian Authorities.” Also, the Government of Ghana “agreed to facilitate the proper acquisition of title by the Nigerian High Commission, as announced by Ghana’s Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time of the incident.” On the alleged arbitrary deportation of Nigerians, the Ghanaian authorities insisted that the 700 Nigerians deported were all individuals“found to have been involved in criminal activities such as fraud, prostitution, armed robbery, etc.”

We are pleased that the Government of Ghana has extended an olive branch to its Nigerian counterpart by promising to restore the property at No. 19/21, Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge Accra, at its own cost, and we encourage the Federal Government to meet the Ghanaian authorities halfway by accepting their proposal and committing to such additional measures as would lessen friction between the two countries. To this end, we would like to commend the Federal Government for empaneling a ‘Legislative Diplomacy’ team led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila to travel to Accra with a view to having a series of meetings with top Ghanaian diplomatic officials.

It goes without saying that decades of mutual collaboration between the two countries have strengthened the bonds of sisterly affection and solidarity. Neither country has anything to gain from a thaw in diplomatic relations. As such, both countries should commit to measures and policies that will put diplomatic relations back on an even keel.

 

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