New Telegraph

Nigeria, Ghana face-off worsens

 

 

 

A major diplomatic row might be brewing between Nigeria and Ghana over the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians in Ghana and the apparent justification of the actions by the authorities in that country. In recent weeks, the hitherto cordial relationship between both countries appears to have gone sour following daily reports of harassment of Nigerians resident in Ghana.

 

Nigerians, who are mainly traders, have on several occasions had their goods seized and shops locked by the Ghanaian authorities for alleged violation of the laws in that country. The hostilities towards Nigeria had also been extended to the seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 10, Barnes Road, Accra, which the Nigerian Government had used as diplomatic premises for almost 50 years.

 

Similarly, the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 19/21 Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge, Accra, the capital city of Ghana, was demolished early this year by some persons who laid claims to the land. The Federal Government, through the Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had last Friday condemned these actions and warned that Nigeria would no longer tolerate such acts of aggression directed against Nigeria and her citizens

 

In a swift response to this warning, the Ghanaian Minister of Information, Mr. Endkojo Nkrumah, fired back yesterday, justifying all the actions which Nigeria had complained about and wanted brought to a halt.

 

Nkrumah, who issued a statement dated August 30, expressed concern at the position Nigeria had taken on the issues in contention and took time to debunk all the complaints of harassment and violations of Nigeria’s sovereignty in that country. The minister, who also doubles as the cabinet spokesperson on the economy, said that Ghana remains committed to the maintenance of warm relations with Nigeria, for wellknown historical reasons.

 

Nkrumah said that Ghana was prepared to engage the Federal Government of Nigeria with a view to  resolve comprehensively and exhaustively any matters that have the potential to sour relations between the two countries.

 

However, he said, Ghana would want to place on record that the outline of complaints made by Nigeria was not reflective of the developments in Ghana and any protests, decisions or actions based on those claims would not be justified. Nkrumah said that contrary to the position of Nigeria that Ghana seized the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 10, Barnes Road, Accra, the Government of Ghana cannot take the blame because the transaction was a commercial arrangement between Thomas D. Hardy, a private citizen and the High Commission of Nigeria in Ghana on 23rd October 1959.

 

In addition, he said, the terms of the Commercial Lease expired 46 years ago, without any evidence of renewal by the High Commission of Nigeria in Ghana. The minister said that it was also wrong for Nigeria to blame Ghana for not giving her the right of first refusal or the notice to renew the lease as the government of Ghana does not, did not and never owned the land, and has not been involved in the seizure of any property of the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana.

 

On the demolition of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 19/21 Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge, Accra, which Nigeria said constituted a serious breach of the Vienna Convention, Nkrumah said the claim was not factual. “A search at the Lands Commission indicated that the Nigerian High Commission failed to complete the documentation process after paying for the land in the year 2000 A.D.

 

The High Commission failed to acquire the Lease and Land Title Certificate, which constitute documentation for the said property, as well as a building permit for construction. In Ghana, land is owned not only by the government, but also by Stools and Families.

 

“The demolition of the property was not carried out by agents of the Ghanaian Government, but by agents of the Osu Stool. Nonetheless, the Government of Ghana, valuing the relations between our two countries, has decided to restore the property, at its own cost, to its original state for the Nigerian High  and has duly communicated same to the Nigerian Authorities.

 

“The Government of Ghana has also 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,” he said.

 

Nkrumah also denied that Ghana had pursued a policy of aggressive and incessant deportation of Nigerians from Ghana. He argued that contrary to the allegation that 825 Nigerians were deported from Ghana within one year, only 700 Nigerians, who were found to have been involved in criminal activities such as fraud, prostitution, armed robbery and other offences were deported.

 

Nkrumah also debunked allegations that his country had pursued discriminatory trade practices against Nigerian businessmen in Ghana and had also launched a media war against Nigerians in Ghana.

 

The Nigerian government had on Friday made the alleged media war one of the planks of its protest and warned that it could trigger xenophobic attacks but again, Nkrumah disagreed with this position.

 

“There is also no negative reportage on Nigerian residents in Ghana by Ghanaian media, which could potentially lead to xenophobic attitude towards Nigerians, particularly Nigerian traders in Ghana.

 

“No Nigerian trader has been arrested. The closure of shops was as a result of infractions on Ghanaian laws. Even then, those affected who are not only Nigerians, have been given ample time to regularise their documents. Furthermore, no Nigerian-owned shops are currently closed.

 

“On the contrary, the negative reportage has been against the Ghanaian Government from high places (tweets by Foreign Minister of Nigeria and a Nigerian businessman, who appears to have political interests in Ghana), in Nigeria. This is inconsistent with established practice in our very good relations. “The Press Release by the Information and Culture Minister of Nigeria is a clear departure from the manner in which officials of the two countries have related with each other in the past.

“Ghana has always demonstrated her commitment to excellent relations with Nigeria which is evidenced by the manner in which Ghanaian Government officials dealt with recent issues, which have had severe economic impact on our country. “Ghana did not resort to any media war.

 

However, the Ghanaian Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade travelled to Abuja to try to resolve diplomatically the issue of closure of Nigerian borders, and to seek safe corridor for ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) exports from Ghana, all to no avail. It is expected that the response of Nigerian Authorities to situations that evolve in our relations should be guided by the merits of the matter and our mutual interests.

 

“Upon evidence that some individuals, including Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians, had been involved in various forms of trade, without complying with the laws and regulations of Ghana, several engagements and prior advice had been given to encourage compliance. “Ghana’s Minister for Trade and Industry personally intervened to ensure the reopening of closed shops, pending compliance with Ghana’s laws by their operators.

 

“Among other corrective measures, the Committee on Foreigners in Retail  Trade, comprising representatives of various regulatory agencies and institutions in Ghana, was tasked with the responsibility of conducting inspections of retail shops in designated commercial districts in both Accra and Kumasi to ensure compliance with retail trade laws and regulations.

 

“The compliance exercises conducted in the selected markets revealed gross violations of retail trade laws and regulations by Ghanaians and foreigners, including Nigerians. These violations included tax evasion, immigration offenses, trading in substandard products, violation of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) law, improper registration of firms, under-payment of business operating permits, falsification of documents, among others.

 

“In all cases, non-compliant shop owners are given adequate notice to regularize their documents, before action is taken to close any shop/business. “It is an incontestable fact that there is widespread abuse and disregard for local laws and regulations governing retail trade by some foreigners, including Nigerians, which need to be addressed without discrimination.

 

It is important to note that the compliance exercise under reference is not restricted to either ECOWAS nationals or Nigerians for that matter, but extend to all individuals engaged in retail trade, including Ghanaians,” he said. Nkrumah said Nigeria was guilty of double standards in accusing Ghana of violating the ECOWAS Protocol on free trade, while taking a number of steps in recent months, in pursuit of her national interests, which have gravely affected other countries in the region.

 

“The Federal Republic, on the other hand, is on record to have taken a number of steps in recent months, in pursuit of her national interests, which have gravely affected other countries in the Region.

 

These include the closure of Nigeria’s Seme Krake Border from August 2019 to date and the issuance of executive orders by Nigeria’s Presidency, preventing foreigners from getting jobs which Nigerians can do, to mention a few.

 

“Ghana and other West African countries continue to believe redress to even actions like these can be sought, diplomatically, without resort to media statements and related activities that have the potential to aggravate further the situation,” he said.

 

Nkrumah said that the current rift notwithstanding, the governments of both countries would need to meet at the highest levels to develop a framework for validating claims of ill treatment of citizens of either country, and ensure citizens enjoy the full exercise of their rights, while respecting the sovereignty and laws of both countries.

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