Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has expressed hope that Nigeria and Ghana would arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution of the diplomatic row between both countries.
The speaker, who led a delegation of lawmakers to a meeting with his Ghanaian counterpart, Hon. Mike Oquaye, in Accra, said the two-day visit to Ghana was to explore legislative diplomacy towards resolving the issues affecting both countries.
Gbajabiamila, in a statement issued yesterday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Lanre Lasisi, while thanking his counterpart for the warm welcome, said within the next two days of discussions, they would be able to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution of the diplomatic crisis.
He said: “There’s something in modern-day parlance called legislative diplomacy or parliamentary diplomacy, and that’s what obtains all over the world today. Diplomacy is done from all angles, including backchannel such as what we are doing now and sometimes you get results that you can only imagine. So, I look forward to a fruitful discussion as we move forward.
“Like you rightly said, Nigeria and Ghana are more like Siamese twins and brothers. I love the analogy you came up with, like the tongue and the teeth. Brothers will always have squabbles, healthy ones, national interest on both sides will always come to play, but it’s not the misunderstanding that matters, it’s how you resolve it that matters.
“In Africa, you cannot talk about Nigeria without talking about Ghana and you cannot talk about Ghana without talking about Nigeria; and therefore, it has become incumbent on us, one, as leaders of parliament, and two, generally as parliamentarians, to bring to bear this concept of legislative diplomacy for fruitful results.
“The weight and the burden of our international relationship rest actually on parliamentary shoulders and it is my hope that we will, in two days, reach some resolutions that will settle both countries.”
While welcoming the Nigerian delegation, Oquaye expressed confidence that there would be an amicable resolution of the issues.
He said: “Ghana and Nigeria are like the tongue and the teeth, they must interact, and sometimes the teeth may do havoc, and yet it never regrets the taste that the tongue gives to it. That’s what happens if we don’t interact.
“Even when we step on one another’s feet, in the process, we should come to realise that there’s a need to continue to be together and we, therefore, welcome you, thank you very much for your keenness in responding to my call that we should meet and you took a quick step in arranging to be here today. I trust in the next two days we will bring a beautiful reunion to our two nations.”
Gbajabiamila also led his delegation to the Nigerian High Commission where they met with leaders of the Nigerian Union of Traders and selected stakeholders.
The leader of the Nigerian traders in Ghana, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nnaji, informed Gbajabiamila and his entourage that Nigerian traders had been subjected to hardship by the Ghanaian authorities since 2007.
He noted that despite complying with laws, Nigerians traders were always the target for harsh treatments whenever both countries are having issues.
Nnaji stated that Nigerian traders have their trades registered with appropriate agencies, pay their taxes as and when due, yet they are still subjected to harsh treatment by the authorities.
He added: “For instance, while many Nigerian traders could not afford the latest $1 million trade registration fees, those that paid still had their shops under lock and key.”
Nnaji said with about 250 shops locked up by the authorities, the situation has led to the death of some of their members.
He appealed to the speaker to follow up on the legislative diplomatic initiative in order to ensure that the resolutions arrived at are implemented by the Ghanaian authorities.
Besides Gbajabiamila, others on the delegation are: Chairman of House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Buba Yusuf; Chairman of House Committee on Media, Hon. Benjamin Kalu; House members of ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Bayo Balogun, Hon. Ikenna Elezieanya, Hon. Ephraim Nwuzi and Hon. Balarabe Shehu.