Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The government of Ghana has assured Nigeria that it will ensure that the demolished Nigerian High Commission building in Accra, is restored to its original state, as soon as possible.
Ghana’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Botchwey (MP), in a statement yesterday following the incident, which has sparked off a diplomatic row between the two countries, said a committee had been raised to investigate the demolition.
The minister added that the committee, comprising officials of the ministry, Ghana’s Lands Commission, National Security Secretariat and the Ghana Police Service, will make appropriate recommendations to the government on how to amicably resolve the issue.
Botchwey said preliminary findings by the committee revealed that the High Commission of Nigeria presented letter referenced SCR/LCS 74/VOL.2/95 dated August 7, 2000, granting allocation and right of entry to the High Commission, for a four-acre parcel of land in the Accra Osu Mantse Layout.
The findings also revealed that the High Commission of Nigeria presented receipts of payments on the land, made by banker’s draft, payable to the Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission, but added that the Land Title Certificate had not been issued to the high commission.
The minister noted that findings also showed that the Lands Commission stated that the four-acre parcel of land was part of vested land, which is owned by the Osu Stool and managed by the Lands Commission.
Botchwey stated that findings of the committee showed that in June 2019, the Osu Stool requested the Greater Accra Regional Lands Commission to grant a lease in respect of a part of the land to a third party.
The minister said: “Lands Commission stated that per its processes of granting leases, its records did not reveal any previous transaction in respect of the land in question.
“The Lands Commission revealed that a letter referenced AC 14826 of July 4, 2019, signed by the Regional Lands Officer and addressed to the High Commission of Nigeria, informed that the Osu Stool had requested the Lands Commission to grant a lease to a third party on the land in question. The Lands Commission, therefore, advised the High Commission of Nigeria to provide relevant documents on ownership of the land, but the former did not receive any response.
“Based on the silence of the High Commission of Nigeria, the Lands Commission went ahead and issued a land title certificate covering the said parcel of land to a third party.
“The Lands Commission has confirmed that the letter of August 7, 2000, presented by the High Commission of Nigeria granting allocation and right of entry to the High Commission, was genuine and, indeed, emanated from its Head Office.”
According to the minister, due to the fact that the High Commission did not obtain a lease following the allocation letter, or proceed to obtain a land title certificate or even a building permit for the new property, a search by the Lands Commission did not show that any proper documentation had been obtained in respect of the property.
Botchwey noted that Articles 22 and 30 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations stipulate that the premises of the Mission as well as the private residence of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable, adding that the incident of June 19 constitutes a breach of the convention.
The minister said the government of Ghana decided that the Lands Commission would issue a letter to the Osu Traditional Council stating that in August 2000, a formal offer was made to the High Commission of Nigeria in respect of the parcel of land in question; the offer was accepted by the high commission and payments made, accordingly constituting a contract.
The minister added that the Lands Commission would proceed to issue a land title certificate to the High Commission of Nigeria to regularise its ownership of the property in question.
Botchwey stated: “Following the arrest of some persons connected to the breach of the premises of the High Commission of Nigeria, the Criminal Investigation Department will expedite action on investigations, given the delicate nature of the matter and its potential ramifications on Ghana–Nigeria relations;
“The government of Ghana will ensure that the demolished building is restored to its original state, as soon as possible;
“The High Commission of Nigeria will take appropriate steps to obtain building permits for the construction. In view of the above, the government of Ghana will actively engage the Nigerian government at the highest level to address the impasse and help calm tensions in both countries.”