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Nigeria-Ghana’s old rivalry threatens relations between the two nations

ON August 30, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Ghana’s minister of information signed a six-page document in which he simply debunked claims that his country was being hostile towards Nigeria and Nigerians.

The statement is in response to the allegations made by Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed last Friday.

Mohammed stated that the Nigerian Government would no longer tolerate mistreatment of Nigerians in Ghana, a conclusion that stemmed from several hostile actions from Ghanaian authorities such as the demolition of Nigeria’s High Commission property, seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property, as well as the imposition of tax for Nigerian traders in Ghana.

In addition, the information minister had also disclosed that not less than 825 Nigerians have been deported from Ghana between 2018 and 2019, despite that over one million Ghanaians reside in Nigeria and haven’t been subjected to any ill-treatment by the Nigerian government or its citizens.

Nkrumah, however, described the allegations as inaccurate.

In respect to the seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 10, Barnes Road, Accra, the minister said the Nigerian government went into a commercial agreement with a private citizen identified as Thomas D. Hardy in 1959 and while the terms of the commercial lease expired 46 years ago, there’s no evidence of renewal by the High Commission of Nigeria in Ghana. He added that the property wasn’t seized by the Ghanaian government.

Regarding the demolition of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 19/21 Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge, Accra, Nkrumah said the information is false. According to him,  the Nigerian government had failed to acquire the Lease and Land Title Certificate despite paying for the land in the year 2000 A.D. This, he said, resulted in the demolition of the property by agents of the Osu Stool and not the government.

In a statement released in June, the Osu Paramount Stool disclosed that the land on which the Nigerian High Commission was developed is an illegal structure. It accused the Nigerian government of “forcibly taking over land under the cover of diplomatic mission from the stool land without redress and without the permission of the traditional authority and its council of elders.”

The Ghanaian government said it had decided to sanction those who destroyed the building, as a way of fostering peace.

Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs had also confirmed that the Government of Ghana has assured that it would impose severe sanctions including the arrest of those who demolished the residential building of the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana.

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However, months after the demolition, no known arrests have been made but the Ghanaian government has announced its plan to restore the building at its own cost. This was also reflected in a statement from Nkrumah’s office, in which it reiterated that the Ghanaian government would rebuild the fallen structure as well as help the Nigerian government secure the appropriate papers of ownership.

On trader’s tax and deportation

Contrary to Nigeria’s minister of information claim that not less than 825 Nigerians have been deported from Ghana in the period of one year, the Ghanaian minister of information submitted that the real figure is 700 and the deportation occurred in 2019. In justification, he disclosed that those deported were found to have been engaged in prostitution, fraud, and other criminal activities.

In retrospect, in 1983, the former President of Nigeria, Shehu Shagari issued an executive order mandating immigrants without proper documentation to exit the country. Over two million West Africans were affected by the new law, with most of the population being Ghanaians.

However, the ‘Ghana Must Go’ revolution wasn’t a lone incident. Infact, all over West Africa, mass deportation of Africans residing in other African nations was recurring in that era. In 1958, Cote d’ivore carried out mass deportation of Togolese, Dahomeyans and Nigerians. Also in 1969, Ghana deported ‘aliens’ (mostly Nigerians) from its country.

Eventually, immigrants find their way back and settle in different African nations. It’s why when some Nigerian traders in Ghana recently raised alarm that their stores were being shut down by the Ghanaian government, it triggered public outrage.

Chukwuemeka Nnaji, president of the Nigerian Traders Union in Ghana, told NAN in an interview that shops belonging to Nigerian traders in Accra were locked up by Ghanaian authorities who demanded evidence of their Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) registration.

Under ‘minimum equity contribution’ on the GIPC website, it is stated that a payment of $1 million either in cash or in capital goods, or a combination of both is required to carry out trading activity, adding that a minimum of 20 skilled Ghanaians must be employed by such an enterprise.

This clause included in the GIPC Act was identified as the driver for Nigerian businesses in the country getting shut down. But in defence, Nkrumah argued that the laws have not attracted the rebuff or criticism of any regional organization, especially the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and is not directed at Nigerians alone but all foreigners looking to engage in trading activities in Ghana.

Rivalry between the two countries  predates current administrations

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While the Ghanaian government posits that no attack is being made against Nigeria and Nigerians, the incidents that drive the narration suggest otherwise and the comments by some stakeholders prove the opposite.

Some believe that Nigeria launched the first missile when it closed its borders, harming Ghanaian businesses.

A group dedicated to highlighting the ‘bright side of Ghana’ identified as Ghana The Black Star of Africa on Facebook, in a post which has garnered over 300 likes, quizzed why Nigeria shut only its western border in a bid to curb smuggling.

“Have people asked why Nigeria closed its border immediately Ghana won the bid to host the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)? And they didn’t close all their borders but the western border, the one that borders Benin, Togo and Ghana. That’s the only border smuggling can take place, no other place, they claim,” the post read in part.

Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Ghana’s Foreign Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey also stated that Nigeria’s border closure in 2019 hurt Ghanaians and nearly bankrupted many Ghanaian businesses because their goods were stuck in the Seme Border for months.

“Of course, this decision ended up hurting Ghanaian exporters and brought many of them to their knees financially as trucks were stuck at the Seme Krake border for months.”

Nkrumah had also reflected this in a statement released on Sunday, where he stated that Nigeria has been taking steps to pursue its national interest but has proved negative for 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,” he said.

What is Ghana’s true plan?

In a recent interview, Dele Momodu, a Nigerian journalist and publisher of ovation magazine who has been residing in Ghana for over a decade described the actions of Ghana against Nigerians as a calculated step towards expunging Nigerians from the country.

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While speaking on a Channels Television program, Momodu disclosed that in all his years of doing business in the West African country, he has noticed a pattern in which, every cycle of election brings about a cruel attitude towards Nigerians by the Ghanaian authorities – a move he classified as political.

According to Momodu, there seems to a continuous attempt to disrupt the livelihood of Nigerians in the country and so far, it is working.

Musliu Obanikoro, the former High Commissioner to Ghana also confirmed that Nigerians in Ghana have been for many years been given the short end of the stick. He recalled during an interview on Channels Television that he worked to tackle demands for hiked taxes from Nigerian traders.

Obanikoro stated that in his time as high commissioner, he sought the help of Asantehene, the foremost traditional ruler in Ghana to engage Ghanaian authorities against demanding exorbitant amounts from traders in the name of taxes. While his intervention proved successful, over time, things gradually returned to normal.

He said his time in office brought about the creation of platforms that helped to promote trade and business between both countries but after his tenure, these platforms were neutralized, resulting in a lack of relations between Nigeria and Ghana.

In proffering a solution, Obanikoro submitted that deepened engagement between both countries is the solution to the brewing cold war.

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