The Irritation From Ghana

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The ill will towards Nigerians in Ghana is misplaced. Both countries should sit down and talk
The warning by the federal government that it would no longer tolerate the incessant harassment and acts of hostility towards Nigerian citizens in Ghana is long overdue. Kicking against what is fast becoming “an emerging xenophobic attitude towards Nigerian traders and Nigerians in general” that has led to the closure of their shops as well as biased judicial trial, Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, said the federal government was already considering a number of retaliatory options to deal with the challenge. We say it is about time!

In the past few years, there has been a consistent pattern to the hostility of Ghana against Nigerian interests and our nationals. The federal government has highlighted a few of them to include the seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property that has been used as diplomatic premises for almost 50 years, deportation of no fewer than 825 Nigerians from Ghana between January 2018 and February 2019, and the closure of over a thousand shops belonging to our nationals within the past two years. Other policies directly targeted at Nigerians include stringent residency permit requirements and outrageous financial demands for doing business by the Investment Promotion Centre Act. Yet these are policies that run counter to the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) protocols.

There have been other threats against Nigerians in Ghana that come directly from their nationals. That the Ghanaian authorities have not shown sufficient will for dealing with the problem can be glimpsed from the pronouncements of some of their officials which tend to provide justifications for violence. This is despite historical ties between the two preeminent African countries. On regular basis, many of our female nationals are being deported from Ghana for alleged illegal stay and prostitution, in what was seen as unfair targeting of Nigerians. Besides, policy instruments that are arbitrary are also usually pushed out in some of the sectors in which Nigerians operate which include real estate, textile and garments, electronics, banking, tourism and telecommunication. Aside imposing high tariff on Nigerian movies, our actors are also restricted from shooting films in Ghana.

Perhaps the most egregious of these hostile acts against our country was the demolition of Nigerian High Commission in clear violation of article 22 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) which states: “The premises of a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy, are inviolable and must not be entered by the host country except by permission of the head of the mission. Furthermore, the host country must protect the mission from intrusion or damage….” Even though President Nana Akufo-Addo personally apologised to President Muhammadu Buhari over the attack on the high commission, that incident is a pointer to how much things have degenerated between the two countries.

Now that Nigerian residents in Ghana feel sufficiently threatened along with their businesses, it is good that the federal government is finally making it clear to their authorities that they bear responsibility for what has become hate mongering against our country. Since the principle of reciprocity drives diplomacy, we must always insist that other countries treat our citizens the same way we treat theirs.

The deteriorating diplomatic relations between Ghana and Nigeria is a direct assault on a long tradition of cultural and economic bonding between the two countries that dates back to the colonial days. And for that reason, we want to believe that the avenues for diplomatic engagement have not yet been exhausted. While Nigeria should deploy a bit of proportionate reciprocity in the present circumstances, both countries should do the difficult work of diplomatic engagement to resolve the issues at stake. Even then, Nigeria should leave no Ghanaian in doubt that our national interest begins and ends with the welfare and security of our citizens wherever they may reside.

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Since the principle of reciprocity drives diplomacy, we must always insist that other countries treat our citizens the same way we treat theirs