The plight of many Nigerians in Ghana has reached a stage the Federal Government should take a decisive action. In a recent Save-Our-Soul letter, about 753 Nigerian traders urged the government to evacuate them from that West African country. In the letter delivered to the Chairman of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the traders alleged constant harassment, intimidation, torture, threat to their lives and total lockdown of their businesses in Ghana. They lamented that their shops were locked up for almost one year.
Obviously, Nigerian traders in Ghana are being maltreated by Ghanaian authorities. Since 2007, Ghanaian officials have reportedly subjected them to hardship despite registering their businesses and paying their taxes. In December 2019, the Ghana Union of Traders’ Association (GUTA) shut down about 1,000 Nigerian shops in retaliation for the closure of Nigerian Seme Krake Border in August 2019. The border closure was necessitated by the need to stop smuggling and protect local industries from imported rice. The action reportedly hurt many Ghanaians and other Nigerian neighbours.
The major issue is the imposition of $1 million business equity on Nigerians doing business in Ghana. In July 2018, there was an eviction order which demanded that Nigerians must have this minimum capital or close shop. Consequently, over 400 Nigerian businesses were shut down. A few months ago, a similar action was taken against many Nigerian businesses in Ghana. Ghana also explained that the $1 million capital investment was not targeted at Nigerians only but to other foreigners doing retail trade meant only for Ghanaians.
We believe that the $1 million capital imposition is draconian and outrageous. It is not only against the spirit of good neighbourliness, it is also a violation of the principles of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocols on free trade and the movement of goods and services. Besides, ECOWAS citizens should be able to live anywhere in West Africa without molestation.
No doubt, Ghana’s latest action will seriously affect its already fragile relation with Nigeria. Earlier in the year, an official building at the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana was demolished. A certain Osu family that claimed ownership of the property took that action without due process. It claimed Nigerian High Commission in Ghana failed to purchase the land and lease title certificates after acquiring the property in 2000. Regrettably, the Ghanaian authorities didn’t do much to stop the demolition. It later apologised over the incident and pledged to restore the building to its original state. But it is not yet certain if anything concrete has been done in that direction.
However, the shutting down of Nigerian traders’ business premises for almost one year, despite diplomatic efforts to mend fences, is unfair. Last year, the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was in Ghana on a legislative diplomatic mission. At the end of the two-day visit, Gbajabiamila and his Ghanaian counterpart, Professor Mike Oquaye, disclosed that the contentious issues would be resolved amicably. Surprisingly, nothing much has been done in that regard. We wonder why the matter is taking much time to resolve.
Nigerians in Ghana do not deserve this type of unfriendly treatment. It is quite unfair and highhanded to say the least. It is no longer something to be waved aside. The Federal Government through the Diaspora Office and the Foreign Affairs Ministry must intervene to save the stranded Nigerians. The government had threatened to drag Ghana to the Community Court of Justice of the ECOWAS if found to have breached the sub-region’s free movement of peoples protocol. This is probably the time to do so. Since economic diplomacy is the bedrock of this administration’s foreign policy, Nigeria should protect the economic interests of its citizens abroad. We cannot build a sustainable economy if our citizens’ interests are not protected.
A citizen’s unalloyed loyalty to his country is derived from the realisation that his government cares for him and protects his interests. For instance, the spirit of patriotism was evoked when some foreign governments, such as the United States and the United Kingdom evacuated their stranded citizens from Nigeria in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, emotions ran high when stranded Nigerians were evacuated from South Africa following xenophobic attacks last year. Immediately the Air Peace aircraft which brought them back free of charge landed in Nigeria, they burst into spontaneous chant of the national anthem.
As an interim measure, the Federal Government should consider the request of her citizens in Ghana and evacuate them. Let it also review the Seme border closure and discourage the migration of Nigerians abroad by making life better and enhancing the ease of doing business. In addition, it must provide the necessary infrastructure such as roads and electricity to enable businesses to thrive. We encourage Nigerians in Ghana to continue to live in peace with their hosts and in accordance with the laws of the land.