A Statement By The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group; Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) Condemning The Clampdown Against Nigerian Traders By The Ghanaian Political Authorities And Tasking The Nigerian Government To Wake Up To Her Responsibility To Her Citizens By Defending Them From The Unwarranted Attacks By The Ghanaian Government Through Taking Immediate Retaliatory Action Against These Evil Actions Against Nigerians In Ghana.
The perception of any country is a vital ingredient in assessing her international standing. One of the areas that leave more to be desired in the administrative style of President Muhammadu Buhari is his lack of an effective approach to provide formidable shields to secure Nigerians at home and in the diaspora to the point that experts are beginning to conclude that Nigeria has virtually become a failed State.
On the African Continental, recent events have only shown that many African countries are not just backing off from our collective commitments to Africa; there is an outright rise in the quantum of hostility to Nigerians on the continent. There are waves of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in foreign jurisdictions. Meanwhile, these other hostile African nationals’ businesses and economic interests are thriving in Nigeria, leveraging on our large and imports-loving population.
Additionally, the declining powers of Nigeria outside of the Country which is evidenced by series of violent attacks targeted at both Nigerian citizens and the Embassies of Nigeria all over the World and the weakness on the part of the Federal Government to answer with an immediate reprisal action has turned Nigeria into a giant with a clay foot and diminished the respectability of the Country even within the West African Sub Region.
It is evident that hostile attitudes towards Nigeria and Nigerians by the Republic of Ghana and Ghanaians have been on the steady rise in recent years. Ghanaians have been on the margins of levying xenophobic attacks, especially on Nigerians in spite of the sisterly historic ties between the two Anglophone West African countries. As a result, many Nigerian nationals resident in Ghana have come under siege from their hosts who attacked their business for allegedly taking over the retail business in their country.
To frustrate Nigerian traders in Ghana, the Ghana Union of Trade Associations (GUTA) had pressured the government to make a law mandating any foreigner wishing to engage in trade in Ghana to show proof of having a deposit of US$300,000 in his or her company account or goods equivalent to that amount in stock.
Based on this legislation which ignores the revised ECOWAS protocol on free trade and integration of markets, Nigerian traders legitimately trading Ghana have also been on the come under a barrage of levying and xenophobic attacks, their business have faced illegal targeted shutdowns, harassments and evictions.
Article (3) of the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS stipulates the removal of trade barriers and harmonization of trade policies for the establishment of a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market and an eventual culmination in to a Monetary and Economic Union in West Africa.
In total disregard to this, between June and August 2018, a task force of the Ghanaian government closed about 400 shops belonging to Nigerians and other foreign nationals and arrested their owners for alleged failure to comply with the country’s laws, particularly the stipulation that foreign-owned businesses must have $300,000 capital base.
In addition to this amount, which was subsequently increased to $1m, firms were directed to employ at least 10 Ghanaians or shut down, following the pressure from indigenous petty traders who complained of being crowded out by foreign competitors of which Nigerians constitute a huge segment.
The law was reportedly targeted at protecting the interests of Ghanaian citizens, which runs contrary to the free trade policy of the Economic Community of West African States to promote economic cooperation among member states, to which both countries are signatories in order to raise living standards and promote economic development.
The recent shameful development, wherein some Ghanaian policemen and soldiers were spotted in a video, which went viral on Sunday, 16th of August, harassing and forcefully shutting a shop belonging to a Nigerian businessman in Accra, capital of the West African country allegedly over the non-payment of $1 million as tax to the Ghanaian government was not only a slap on the face of Nigeria, but also a gross violation of the ECOWAS Treaty on Free Trade.
We recall that not too long ago, in a desecration of Article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which regards a foreign mission’s property in any country as inviolable and must not be entered by anyone without permission, the Nigeria High Commission in Accra, Ghana, was invaded by a Ghanaian Citizen who destroyed a set of buildings under construction.
Intriguingly, more than a dozen police personnel supervised this act of aggression which reflects a well-orchestrated and brazen assault on Nigeria’s sovereignty and till date no action has been adopted by Nigeria, which is diminishing the status of Nigeria internationally and against the national foreign policy of Nigeria as provided for in Section 19 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Though President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana has personally apologised to Nigeria, the sheer temerity that informed the infraction on our sovereignty by a private citizen further shows the level of disregard to which all things Nigerian in Ghana have ruined.
*Our Position and Demands:*
It is without any doubt that Nigerian Laws provide one of the best legal protections for foreign investors in the world. The 1999 Nigeria constitution gives equal rights and treatment to foreigners and nationals alike.
The foreign investor has a right to life, a right to respect for the dignity of his person, he or she has right to personal liberty, right to fair hearing, right to private and family life, right to freedom of thought, right to freedom of conscience and religion, right to freedom and expression and the press, right to freedom of movement and the right to acquire and own moveable and immovable property in Nigeria.
The ECOWAS trade policy is meant to foster the smooth integration of the region into free movement without any quantitative restriction as well as non-payment of compensation. Why is the current administration too weak to protect Nigerians and the integrity of our sovereignty?
While African nationals living in Nigeria are thriving even more than most Nigerians, Nigerians live in fear in other African countries. Our foreign policy thrust must change. While we should maintain an open door to Africa, we must do so with Nigeria’s interests first and uppermost in all our doings. We should place more emphasis on advancing our economic interests. We are calling for a rejig; a fine-tuning of our foreign policy; one that emphasises the core, existential interests of our country and people. THIS IS WHY THE CRAZY IDEA OF BUILDING RUGA FULANI SETTLEMENTS ALL OVER NIGERIA TO SETTLE FULANIS FROM NIGER, CHAD AND MALI REMAINS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND ABSOLUTELY ILLEGAL.
The cases of breaches of both the diplomatic immunities of Nigerian Embassies and the universal human rights of Nigerian traders some of whom have valid papers to live in Ghana is an inconvenient truth to the Nigerian authorities; a phenomenon that reflects how low the country’s image abroad has sunk.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this act of naked aggression of the Ghanaian political authority on Nigeria and charge the Nigerian Government to wake up to her responsibility to her citizens by defending them from the unwarranted attacks by the Ghanaian Government.
More so, we demand that Nigeria takes immediate retaliatory action against these evil actions against Nigerians in Ghana by making a law mandating Ghanaian Traders in Nigeria to henceforth pay $5 million per trader as licensing fee to continue trading in Nigeria since Nigerian traders in Ghana are asked to pay $1 million.
Furthermore, we urge Nigeria to be more pro-active in protecting her citizens in foreign jurisprudence, starting with the case in Ghana by demanding that the Nigerian traders be allowed to legally do their legitimate businesses in Ghana or Nigeria drives away all Ghanaian traders in Nigeria. Nigeria’s diplomatic ties with other countries cannot be said to be sound, when its citizens abroad with legitimate rights of residence or visit are gratuitously harassed, killed and their property destroyed. Abike DABIRI Orewa who heads the Diaspora Commission should not pick and choose which set of Nigerians living abroad her commission will speak for on the basis of whether they are Yorubas or Igbos. Her office and the minister of Foreign affairs and his assistant minister must wake up and speak for Nigerians in Ghana.
Therefore, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration should stop making Nigeria the laughing stock of the international community and speak and take concrete reciprocal actions to defend Nigeria and Nigerians. Its time Nigeria reinvents its diplomacy for vibrancy, which in the past attracted respect in the comity of nations.
COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO; NATIONAL COORDINATOR.
Miss. Zainab Yusuf; Director, National Media Affairs.
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).
17th August 2020.