By Eric Elezuo
Amid the cold war silently ravaging the diplomatic relationship between Nigeria and Ghana, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila in company of five other legislators, have jetted out of the country to Ghana to broker peace.
However, The Boss exclusively learnt that the government of Ghana made the arrangements to invite the head of the Nigeria’s lower legislative arm and the five other legislators to Accra in apparent attempt to portray a veiled impression that all is well.
A source, who confided in The Boss, said the effort is aimed at rubbishing whatever attempt the Nigerian government is making to call the Ghana government to order concerning the maltreatment of its nationals in the Ghanaian territory. The source had expressed hope that the legislators would shun the invitation, and rather prevail on Ghana to come to Nigeria to appease the government. But that was not to be as the officials are now in Ghana.
In their reactions across board, Nigerians have said that the Speaker or any Nigerian delegation has no business traveling to Ghana on a peace mission, but it should be the other way round. This is because, according to the respondents to the Boss, it is Ghana, who offended, and they should be the ones running down to Abuja to apologise and seek the way forward.
The cross section of Nigerians frowned at the speed with which Nigerian officials run to countries that have despised its citizens. In October, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, reportedly travelled to South Africa to see President Cyril Ramaphosa amid tensions generated in the killing of Africans, especially Nigerians during a new wave of xenophobia attacks in that county.
Recall that a few weeks ago, the government of Ghana had closed over 200 trading centres owned by Nigerians while making a demand of a whopping $1 million fee. The number of traders affected exceeded 131.
Consequently, the Federal Government of Nigeria, had over the weekend issued an ultimatum threatening repercussions while vowing not to tolerate Ghana’s actions anymore.
Over the years, according to the press release made available to newsmen by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed where he itemised a catalogue of offences perpetrated by Ghana against Nigerian businessman and its foreign mission, the Ghana government has held Nigeria in contempt by her actions against Nigerians
In a strongly worded statement, Mohammed stated that the FG has reached a stage where enough is enough, while mandating citizens of Nigeria not to seek self help but remain law abiding in and with their host country.
The statement titled “Nigeria Will No Longer Tolerate Harassment of Its Citizens in Ghana” revealed attempts made by Ghana in the past to scuttle relationship with Nigeria.
Read below Mohammed’s statement
“The Nigerian Government is deeply concerned by the incessant harassment of its citizens in Ghana and the progressive acts of hostility towards the country by Ghanaian authorities, and will no longer tolerate such.
“In this regard, the Federal Government is urgently considering a number of options aimed at ameliorating the situation.
“The Federal Government has been documenting the acts of hostility
towards Nigeria and Nigerians by the Ghanaian authorities. These include:
– Seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 10, Barnes Road, Accra, which the Nigerian Government has used as diplomatic premises for almost 50 years. This action is a serious breach of the Vienna Convention.
– Demolition of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 19/21 Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge, Accra, another serious breach of the Vienna Convention.
– Aggressive and incessant deportation of Nigerians from Ghana. Between Jan. 2018 and Feb. 2019, 825 Nigerians were deported from Ghana.
– Closure of shops belonging to Nigerians. Over 300 Nigerians shops were locked for four months in Kumasi in 2018; over 600 Nigerian shops were locked in 2019 and, currently, over 250 Nigerians shops have been locked.
– Residency Permit requirements, for which the Ghana Immigration Service has placed huge fees, far higher than the fees charged by the Nigerian Immigration Service. These include the compulsory Non-citizen ID card (US$120, and US$60 for yearly renewal); Medical examinations, including for Covid-19 which is newly-introduced (about US$120), and payment for residency permit (US$400 compared to the N7,000 being paid by Ghanaians for residency card in Nigeria)
– Outrageous stipulations in the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act. When the Act was initially promulgated in 1994, a foreigner is required to invest at least US$300,000 by way of equity capital and
also employ 10 Ghanaians. This Act has now been amended twice, with the 2018 GIPC Act raising the minimum capital base for foreign-owned businesses to US$1m. Though targeted at foreigners, it seems GIPC’s definition of foreigners is Nigerians. The GIPC Act also negates the ECOWAS Protocol.
– Media war against Nigerians in Ghana. The negative reportage of issues concerning Nigerians resident in Ghana by the Ghanaian media is fuelling an emerging xenophobic attitude towards Nigerian traders and Nigerians in general.
The immediate fallout is the incessant harassment and arrest of Nigerian traders and closure of their shops.
– Harsh and openly-biased judicial trial and pronouncement of indiscriminately-long jail terms for convicted Nigerians. There are currently over 200 Nigerians in the Nsawam Maximum prison in Ghana alone.
The Federal Government will like to put on record the fact that even though over 1 million Ghanaians are resident in Nigeria, they are not being subjected to the kind of hostility being meted out to Nigerians in Ghana.
Also, Even though the main reason given for the seizure of Federal Government property at No. 10, Barnes Road in Accra is the non-renewal of lease after expiration, the Ghanaian authorities did not give Nigeria the right of first refusal or the notice to renew the lease.
By contrast, the lease on some of the properties occupied by the Ghanaian Mission in Nigeria has long expired, yet such properties have not been seized.
Nigeria has time after time demonstrated its fidelity to the long cordial relations with Ghana. But indications, especially in recent times, are that Nigeria’s stance is now being taken for granted and its citizens being made targets of harassment and objects of ridicule.
This will no longer be tolerated under any guise.
In the meantime, the Federal Government wishes to appeal to its citizens resident in Ghana to remain law abiding and avoid engaging in self help, despite their ordeal.”
Now that the Nigerian officials are already in Ghana, it can only be hoped that good tidings will follow them back at the end of proceedings.