Condemnations have trailed the recent demolition of an official building on the premises of the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana. No doubt, the demolition was atrocious and also a direct affront on the sovereignty of Nigeria. It is sad that the incident happened in a supposedly friendly neighbouring country. Though Ghana has apologised over the incident, there is still need for a drastic action against the culprits. Bringing them to book will not only serve as a deterrent to others but it will also help in cementing the diplomatic relations between the two West African countries.
A certain Osu family had claimed ownership of the contentious land. But without following due process, they moved in with armed men and bulldozer on the fateful day and demolished the building, which is still under construction. Calls to Ghanaian security agents to intervene yielded no positive result as they allegedly failed to turn up.
Sadly, there appears to be some underlying factors militating against the cordial relationship between Nigeria and Ghana. For instance, Nigerian businessmen have continued to suffer one form of maltreatment or the other in the hands of certain Ghanaian officials. Last December, Ghana Union of Traders’ Association (GUTA) reportedly shut about 1,000 Nigerian shops as retaliation for the closure of Nigerian borders which began last August. The shops are said to be still under lock and key as the traders now live in fear.
Sometimes, the shop owners are either asked to pay outrageous fees or given one stringent condition or the other before they could open their shops. A few years ago, the Ghanaian Parliament reportedly passed a resolution that made the business environment hostile to foreigners. There was an eviction order dated July 27, 2018, which demanded that Nigerians must have a minimum of $1million as foreign investment capital to do business in Ghana. This rule affected over 400 Nigerians who could not raise the capital. Hence, they were shut out of their business premises.
Elsewhere on the continent, Nigerian interests are trampled upon with impunity. Sometime in 2018, some Nigerians lost their lives and more than nine shops to xenophobic attacks in Hillbrow, Central Johannesburg, South Africa. The attackers first looted the shops before setting them ablaze. This has been happening in that former apartheid enclave since 1998.
Unfortunately, some Nigerians also partake in the attack on our interests abroad. Barely a week after the Ghana incident, some of our countrymen in Jakarta, Indonesia, attacked the country’s Embassy in that Asian country. Their grouse was alleged discriminatory practices and infringement on their human rights by the Indonesian immigration officials. The placard-carrying protesters felt the Embassy was not helpful to them. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, described their action as absolutely deplorable and disgraceful.
However, there is no justification for anybody to invade the Embassy of any country under any guise. Article 22 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations specifically stated the inviolability of the premises of a diplomatic mission. The host country or any intruder must never enter such premises except by permission of the head of mission. The private residences of the diplomats are covered by Article 30 of the Convention. Thus, the demolition of the Nigerian building in Accra is a breach of this Convention. It is also against the spirit of unity of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
This insult to Nigeria and Nigerians in some foreign countries has continued because our leaders have not deemed it fit to stop it. There was a time Africa was the centrepiece of the country’s foreign policy. But it didn’t yield the expected results. Today, Nigerian leaders must pursue the interests of the country first before any other consideration.
It is imperative to note that Ghana and Nigeria are two major Anglophone countries in West Africa. They need to agree and push for a common cause if the quest for integration in the sub-region will be actualised. It is gratifying to note that the Ghanaian authorities have pledged to restore the demolished property to its original state. Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mrs Shirley Ayokor Botchewey, was reported to have said the Land Commission of Ghana would formally inform the Osu Traditional Council that in August 2000, offer was made to High Commission of Nigeria, in respect of the land. The offer was reportedly accepted and payment made 20 years ago. The Minister gave assurance that the Ghanaian government would actively engage the Nigerian government at the highest level to resolve the impasse.
We commend the Federal Government for accepting the apology from Ghana in the spirit of African brotherhood. However, we must warn that there should not be a repeat of such an incident in future. Those who demolished the building should also be made to face the full wrath of the law.