Nigeria and Ghana are two independent, friendly nations that have maintained diplomatic relations in the last 60 years.
Although both countries are not immediate neighbours, the fact that they were both colonies of Great Britain, they passed through similar political and economic developments and gained their independence about the same time, have kept them as close as brothers to each other.
Archival records indicate that trade between the people of both countries dates as far back as 50 years before colonial rule. However, in recent times, this cordial relationship appears to have gone sour with Nigeria alleging harassment of its citizens resident in Ghana.
In the last couple of weeks, over 250 shops owned by Nigerians doing business in Ghana have been placed under lock and key. In 2018, more than 300 Nigerian shops in Kumasi, Ghana were locked up for four months, while over 600 Nigerian shops were shut down in the following year.
There has also been an aggressive and incessant policy of deportation of Nigerians from Ghana. No fewer than 825 Nigerians were deported from Ghana between January 2018 and February 2019. The Ghana Immigration Service has also placed huge fees as Residency Permit requirements for Nigerians living in their country.
These include the compulsory Non-citizen Identity Card which costs as much as $120 to procure and an extra $60 for yearly renewal. It also includes the newly introduced medical examinations for COVID-19 which costs $120 and payment for residency permit which costs $400, compared to the N7,000 being paid by Ghanaians for residency card in Nigeria.
Similarly, the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) has some outrageous provisions in the law setting it up. When the Act was initially promulgated in 1994, a foreigner was required to invest at least $300,000 by way of equity capital and also employ 10 Ghanaians.
This legislation has now been amended twice, with the 2018 GIPC Act raising the minimum capital base for foreign-owned businesses to $1 million.
According to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the hostilities has degenerated to the seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 10, Barnes Road, Accra, which had been used as diplomatic premises for almost 50 years. A Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 19/21 Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge, Accra, has also been reportedly demolished by a citizen of the host country.
These are not just serious breaches of the Vienna Convention, but contraventions of the protocols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Federal Government of Nigeria has not only condemned these acts, but has read the riot act to Ghana, wherein it vowed to resist all further acts of hostility towards Nigeria.
If this is a true reflection of what is going on in Ghana, then the government of Nigeria stands justified in its assertions that Ghana may have launched a deliberate policy of tactically expelling Nigerians from their country.
We note with pains that the various trade laws and policies appear skewed against foreigners and from the mode of their implementation, it seems as if they are primarily targeted at Nigerians.
However, we have also taken note of the response of the Ghanaian authorities wherein they presented a different narrative to justify the laws, policies and actions.
Ghana claims that the allegations made by Nigeria were more or less exaggerated and certain facts, twisted to paint the picture of an unfriendly country.
In a bid to absolve itself, Ghana has shown that the feeling is mutual as it is also bitter about Nigeria’s closure of its own borders with other ECOWAS countries for about one year. In situations like this, it is only dialogue and constructive diplomatic engagements that could resolve the issues at stake.
We are glad about the current moves from both countries to explore an amicable resolution of the conflict. We commend the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, for embarking on a legislative diplomatic shuttle to Ghana.
We also applaud the recent visit of a delegation of top Ghanaian government officials, led by their Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Allan John Kyeremanteng, to meet with their counterparts in Nigeria.
Already, President Muhammadu Buhari and his Ghanaian counterpart, Nana Akufo-Addo, met on Sunday in Abuja in furtherance of talks to resolve the dispute between the two countries. This is a laudable development. We appeal to both countries to eschew bitterness against each other, but rather sit at a roundtable to review their relationship.
They should remember that as the two leading economic hubs in West Africa, they cannot afford to fight each other. We want to remind the government of both countries that as much as they remain competitors and would want their trade laws respected by others, they must abide by the ECOWAS Protocol and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) which both countries are signatories.
We advise both countries to desist from launching media wars against each other as that could aggravate an already tense situation and could trigger xenophobic attitudes among citizens of both Ghana and Nigeria.
In 1969, during a similar squabble, Ghana had cause to expel Nigerians living in their country. We recall that Nigeria also retaliated in 1983 when it sent Ghanaians who had taken refuge in Nigeria, packing.
We do not want a return to that ugly era where two friendly nations would turn against each other. The present crop of leaders on both sides must be very sensitive to history and continue to honour our common bonds of brotherhood and our diplomatic relations, based on mutual respect.