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Opinions of Monday, 24 August 2020

Columnist: Hardball

Ghana must stop!

Hostility against Nigerian citizens in Ghana has been a recurring decimal, and it’s time for that country’s authorities to make amends towards permanent redress.

The clamour now isn’t that shameful (yes, let’s own up) xenophobic battle cry of ‘Ghana must go!’ of the 70’s. There has been an ironic role change, and it is that Ghanaians should stop their underhand aggression against Nigerians who from indications are being pressured to go from their choice country of residence.

Nigerian entrepreneurs in Accra came under fire again lately as Ghanaian officials locked up their shops, allegedly on account of their being in default of requisite codes.

President of the Nigerian Traders Union in Ghana, Chukwuemeka Nnaji, said an inter-ministerial task force went round to identify shops owned by Nigerian traders, demanding evidence of business registration, tax payment, resident permit, standard control and Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) registration.

“Most of our members do not have the GIPC registration because it requires one-million-dollar cash or equity and they gave us 14 days within which to regularise,” Nnaji added inter alia.

It seemed apparent that Nigerians were being singled out for heavy hand. A viral video of a Nigerian shop owner who said he registered his business way back in 2007 showed his shop being pin-pointedly locked up amidst bustling commerce in an area of the capital city.

He protested vociferously that he pays his taxes, has his resident permit and other papers, with documentary evidence prominently displayed in his shop. Amid his protestations that they were not asking for those documents, Ghanaian officials were seen enforcing the closure of his business, telling him blandly he was operating illegally.

They had no answer to his assertion that he had all his papers except the $1million requirement, which he asked them if they themselves could muster, yet they proceeded to enforce the closure.

Nigerian government subsequently outlined a concert of measures by which it would get redress for affected citizens. Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said besides conventional bilateral engagements with the Ghanaian government, Nigeria may head to the ECOWAS Court for a lasting solution. He also didn’t foreclose the option of reciprocity if diplomacy fails.

Meanwhile, we must note that recurrent attack on Nigerian traders in Ghana is part of a larger picture of anti-Nigerian sentiments in that sister country.

Only in June, a building within Nigeria’s diplomatic mission in Accra was bulldozed by non-state actors, but with no immediate intervention from state agents.

It took diplomatic engagement to contain that situation. Now it is government agents dealing heavy hand on Nigerian traders. It sucks that there is latent ill-will against Nigeria running so deep in Ghana, and Ghana must stop the animus.

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