Just yesterday, the media was awash with the video and story of the demolition of Nigerian High Commission’s property located in Accra, Ghana by a Ghanaian who reportedly claims ownership of the land where the property is situated. According to the security men on site, the diplomatic property in question is located about 5 minutes away from a Police Station, and the operation was carried out by a bulldozer for over an hour without Police intervention despite even being contacted early enough.
It would be recalled that the relationship between Ghana and Nigeria has remained at a very low ebb for some time now. For instance, for many years, Nigerian traders transacting business in Ghana have been repeatedly molested, harassed, intimidated and had their businesses locked or goods confiscated by the Ghanaian authorities. These have persisted despite interventions from the ECOWAS Commission, the ECOWAS Parliament and diplomatic mediations and interface between the two Countries. In all these Ghana has wilfully insisted on ‘crushing’ the businesses of Nigerians residing and investing in the economy. More so, courtesy of the tacit backing of the Ghanaian Government, Ghanaian traders under the auspices of Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) have given ultimatum to Nigerians to vacate their business premises and locations and leave Ghana, but the Authorities have also failed to caution, reprimand or apprehend these usurpers. GUTA has been surreptitiously emboldened by Ghana Police and Immigration authorities to lock up the businesses of Nigerians unhindered. Till date, over 600 shops belonging to Nigerian traders have been under lock and key in Ghana since the 1st of December 2019 despite all entreaties and interventions.
We recall that as a body, we have equally written officially and severally to the respective Governments, to ECOWAS Commission, the ECOWAS Parliament, to the African Union and of course to the United Nations on the various episodes and unfolding drama which is now escalating to a possible and interesting diplomatic row. WE further recall that we had at a time embarked on demonstration at the ECOWAS Commission and the Ghanaian High Commission in Abuja for intervention and final solution to the brewing crises. Regrettably, we make bold to indict the Countries (Ghana and Nigeria), ECOWAS, the African Union and the Global community for not acting enough to address this negative trend. It is sad that such unwarranted attack and xenophobia is brewing and the World is watching helplessly or perhaps enjoying the drama which may end tragically.
WE note a new trend that although Nigerians are not saints, but almost on daily basis, Nigerians living in Ghana are being labelled criminals even for crimes committed and confessed by Ghanaian citizens, and these are subtle ways of blackmailing Nigerians and rubbishing the reputation and integrity of Nigeria. We are of a strong opinion that for Ghana, the foundation of ‘Africanism’ ebulliently preached by Kwame Nkuruma of the blessed memory, to evoke such negative reputation of intolerance, there must be something or someone playing a background music somewhere. We observe with dismay that for some time now, even when Ghanaian Government speaks on issues related to Nigeria, the perception of underlying tone of war and the drums of battle keep raging from the voice of the Authorities. We further observe that such vituperation are always stylishly and subtly followed by a diplomatic Press Release as an afterthought suggestive of and resembling a ‘bite and blow’ strategy.
WE further wish to point categorically to clear violation of extant provisions of International Conventions by the Ghanaian Authorities using the following exploration:
By virtue of her subtle and quiet action and inaction, particularly over the demolition, the Ghanaian Authorities are complicit having violated key provisions of Article 1 (i) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1949), which specifically recognises the Nigerian High Commission in Accra, Ghana, as the premises of the Nigerian State; to wit, that: “The premises of the mission are the buildings or parts of the building and the land ancillary, thereto, irrespective of ownership, used for the purposes of the mission, including the residence of the head of the mission (in this case, the High Commissioner)”.
In addition, Article 22(1) of the same Convention confirms that: “The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The Agents of the receiving State (in this case Ghana) may not enter them, except with the consent of the Head of the Mission (in this case, the Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana)”.
There was no sense of protection provided for the Diplomatic property by the Ghanaian Security and this is a clear violation of Article 22(2) of that same Convention which states that: “The receiving State (Ghana) is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the Mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity”.
More so, by virtue of Article 30, the private residence of a Diplomatic Agent is bound to enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the Mission; and Article 34 even further protects Embassies, the buildings as well as the Mission Staff from liability to taxes, dues, development levies, etc. Therefore, claims or allegations of the High Commission being indebted to any kind of outstanding/commitment that could have resulted in the demolition is invalid.
The truth is that if the security of Nigerian Government’s diplomatic property is demolished with such affront, impunity and brazenness, then the security of lives of Nigerians living in Ghana is by no means guaranteed. This is especially so in the light of aforementioned uncountable harassments, intimidations and threats to their lives. This must be addressed and very urgently too so as to avoid the temptation of some Nigerians calculating their investments in Ghana and deciding to protect such, even if it is placed at the risk of paying the supreme sacrifice. Africa, nay, Ghana must learn that the pathway to crises is broad and easy, but the end is not always palatable to anyone.
While we are NOT advocating or fanning the embers of war, we are only hopeful that the Nigerian Government is effectively and unambiguously reading and translating the handwriting. Is there a script Ghana is playing, acting and rehearsing? Is Ghana up to something yet unfolding? What is it that Ghana is dragging with Nigeria, and what exactly does Ghana want? Is this a superiority game? It is indeed time for both Countries to seat boldly on a table to address each other. Nigeria and Ghana cannot afford to remain in enmity.
Finally, if the above option is hard to realize, WE wish to state clearly that diplomacy is good, and Nigeria has commendably taken the option of diplomacy till date; yet, as a principle in International law, diplomacy has an end. Nigeria should be reminded that reciprocity is also part of diplomacy. Perhaps, Nigeria may need to react with a view to uncovering the source of Ghana’s relentless insults that have culminated into a blow, else Nigeria and Nigerians may continue to be deemed not only by Ghana as a statue good for testing of bullets. For all we know, this may be the appropriate time for the sleeping Giant, yes, the Lion to wake up and roar. Perhaps, then, the silence of the International Community or supporters of Ghana will be broken. For emphasis, we advocate for poise and equanimity in handling all available options.
For: NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN TRADERS – NANTS