Two days after Nigeria declared it would no longer tolerate the maltreatment of its national resident in Ghana by the government of that country, Ghana responded on Sunday, defending its actions and blaming Nigeria for taking provocative actions.
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture had in his statement last Friday listed various acts of aggression against Nigeria and its citizens by the Ghanaian authorities, including the takeover of some Nigerian diplomatic property, discriminatory deportation of 825 Nigerians within one year, harsh jail sentences on Nigerian nationals, and an arbitrary increase of minimum capital requirement for Nigerians to $1m.
But in a statement issued in Accra on Sunday, Kojo Nkrumah, Ghanaian Minister of Information, defended the $1 million trade levy and other regulations that the government imposed on Nigerian traders in Ghana, asserting that Nigeria had also issued executive orders preventing foreigners from getting jobs which Nigerians can do.
Nkrumah said it was astonishing that Ghanaian laws could be described as outrageous, noting that it was on record that Nigeria had taken a number of steps in pursuit of its national interests.
He cited the closure of the Seme Krake borders since August 2019 as part of steps taken by the Federal Government, which, he said, had affected the neighbouring countries.
Nkrumah accused Nigerian traders in Ghana of gross violations of retail trade laws, including tax evasion, immigration offences, and selling substandard products.
He said there was widespread abuse and disregard for local laws and regulations governing retail trade by some foreigners, including Nigerians, which needed to be addressed.
Contrary to Mohammed’s claims that 825 Nigerians were deported between January 2018 and February 2019, the minister explained that 700 Nigerians involved in fraud, prostitution, and armed robbery were deported from Ghana.
Nkrumah stated, “The Federal Republic (Nigeria), on the other hand, is on record to have taken a number of steps in recent months, in pursuit of her national interests, which have gravely affected other countries in the region.
“These include the closure of Nigeria’s Seme Krake border from August 2019 to date and the issuance of executive orders by Nigeria’s Presidency preventing foreigners from getting jobs which Nigerians can do, to mention a few.”
The minister assured that the Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, would engage with his counterpart, President Muhammadu Buhari and develop a framework for validating the claims of ill-treatment of citizens of either country and ensure they enjoy the full exercise of their rights while respecting the sovereignty and laws of both countries.
Responding to the allegations raised by Mohammed point by point in a four-page statement, Nkrumah said his counterpart’s assertion on the alleged seizure of Nigerian Mission property located at No. 10, Barnes road, Accra, was incorrect, noting that the land was acquired by Nigeria from a private citizen, Thomas Hardy, on October 23, 1959.
The minister explained that the commercial lease on the land expired 46 years ago without any evidence of renewal by the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana.
“The Government of Ghana was not involved in the transaction and had not seized the property in question,” the minister stressed.
In response to the claim that the lease on some of the properties owned by the Ghana Mission in Nigeria had expired, Nkrumah explained that Accra had acquired a freehold land at Pope John Paul Street, Maitama, Abuja, through a commercial arrangement in 1989 and built a residential structure for the staff.
He stated that the residential building on the Nigerian Mission premises in Accra demolished in June was carried out by a representative of the Osu traditional stool and had nothing to do with the government.
On the high residency permit levies, including the $120 for COVID-19 test imposed by the authorities, Ghana stated that this applied to all foreigners and not just Nigerians.
Speaking on the closure of over 1,000 shops belonging to Nigerians over non-payment of the $1 million trade levy, the information minister stated, “The compliance exercises conducted in the selected markets revealed gross violations of retail trade laws and regulations by Ghanaians and foreigners, including Nigerians.
“These violations included tax evasion, immigration offences, trading in substandard products, violation of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre law, improper registration of firms, under-payment of business operating permits, falsification of documents, among others.”
On the allegation of an orchestrated media war against Nigerians living in Ghana, Nkrumah dismissed this as false.
“There is also no negative reportage on Nigerian residents in Ghana by Ghanaian media, which could potentially lead to xenophobic attitude towards Nigerians, particularly Nigerian traders in Ghana,” he declared.
“No Nigerian trader has been arrested. The closure of shops was as a result of infractions on Ghanaian laws. Even then, those affected who are not only Nigerians, have been given ample time to regularise their documents. Furthermore, no Nigerian- owned shops are currently closed.
“On the contrary, the negative reportage has been against the Ghanaian Government from high places, (tweets by Foreign Minister of Nigeria and a Nigerian businessman, who appears to have political interests in Ghana), in Nigeria. This is inconsistent with established practice in our very good relations.”
He cited Mohammed’s Press Release last Friday as being “a clear departure from the manner in which officials of the two countries have related with each other in the past”.
Mohammed had also accused Ghana of taking for granted Nigeria’s commitment to the long cordial relationship between her and Ghana. He declared that Nigerians in Ghana had become targets of harassment and objects of ridicule, noting that this would no longer be tolerated under any guise
Responding to that, Nkrumah asserted that “Ghana did not resort to any media war. However, the Ghanaian Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade travelled to Abuja to try to resolve diplomatically the issue of closure of Nigerian borders, and to seek safe corridor for ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) exports from Ghana, all to no avail. It is expected that the response of Nigerian Authorities to situations that evolve in our relations should be guided by the merits of the matter and our mutual interests.”