The Nigerian government says it is deeply concerned by the “incessant harassment” of its citizens in Ghana and the acts of hostility toward the country by Ghanaian authorities, and will no longer tolerate such.
This comes on the back of the protracted retail war between Nigerian traders in Ghana and the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA).
The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre laws bar foreigners from retail trade but foreigners in the sector, especially Nigerians, say the law is against the ECOWAS protocols on free trade.
Recently, 92 foreign-owned shops suspected to belong to Nigerians were closed down in Kumasi, the capital of Ghana’s Ashanti region.
The Nigerian government, in a statement by its Information Ministry, said it is urgently considering a number of options aimed at ameliorating the situation.
The statement said: “The Federal government has been documenting the acts of hostility towards Nigeria and Nigerians by the Ghanaian authorities.
– Seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 10, Barnes Road, Accra, which the Nigerian Government has used as diplomatic premises for almost 50 years. This action is a serious breach of the Vienna Convention.
– Demolition of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 19/21 Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge, Accra, another serious breach of the Vienna Convention.
– Aggressive and incessant deportation of Nigerians from Ghana. Between Jan. 2018 and Feb. 2019, 825 Nigerians were deported from Ghana.
– Closure of shops belonging to Nigerians. Over 300 Nigerians shops were locked for four months in Kumasi in 2018; over 600 Nigerian shops were locked in 2019 and, currently, over 250 Nigerians shops have been locked.
– Residency Permit requirements, for which the Ghana Immigration Service has placed huge fees, far higher than the fees charged by the Nigerian Immigration Service. These include the compulsory Non-citizen ID card (US$120, and US$60 for yearly renewal); Medical examinations, including for Covid-19 which is newly-introduced (about US$120), and payment for residency permit (US$400 compared to the N7,000 being paid by Ghanaians for residency card in Nigeria).
– Outrageous stipulations in the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act. When the Act was initially promulgated in 1994, a foreigner is required to invest at least US$300,000 by way of equity capital and also employ 10 Ghanaians. This Act has now been amended twice, with the 2018 GIPC Act raising the minimum capital base for foreign-owned businesses to US$1m. Though targeted at foreigners, it seems GIPC’s definition of foreigners is Nigerians. The GIPC Act also negates the ECOWAS Protocol.
– Media war against Nigerians in Ghana. The negative reportage of issues concerning Nigerians resident in Ghana by the Ghanaian media is fuelling an emerging xenophobic attitude towards Nigerian traders and Nigerians in general. The immediate fallout is the incessant harassment and arrest of Nigerian traders and closure of their shops.
– Harsh and openly-biased judicial trial and pronouncement of indiscriminately-long jail terms for convicted Nigerians. There are currently over 200 Nigerians in the Nsawam Maximum prison in Ghana alone.”
The Nigerian government said it will like to put on record the fact that even though over one million Ghanaians are resident in Nigeria, “they are not being subjected to the kind of hostility being meted out to Nigerians in Ghana.”
Touching on the brouhaha concerning the demolition of a property allegedly belonging to the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana, the statement said: “Even though the main reason given for the seizure of Federal Government property at No. 10, Barnes Road in Accra is the non-renewal of lease after expiration, the Ghanaian authorities did not give Nigeria the right of first refusal or the notice to renew the lease. By contrast, the lease on some of the properties occupied by the Ghanaian Mission in Nigeria has long expired, yet such properties have not been seized.”
The statement noted that Nigeria has time after time demonstrated its fidelity to the long cordial relations with Ghana but indications, especially in recent times, are that Nigeria’s stance is now being taken for granted and its citizens being made targets of harassment and objects of ridicule. “This will no longer be tolerated under any guise,” the statement added.
In the meantime, Nigeria has appealed to its citizens resident in Ghana to remain law-abiding and avoid engaging in self-help despite their ordeal.