$1m levy: FG knocks Ghana for ‘incessant harassment’ of Nigerians
Nigerians sentenced to long jail terms by Ghanaian courts
The Federal Government, on Friday, highlighted several atrocities committed by Ghana against Nigerians living in that country, warning that it would no longer tolerate further hostile actions.
The government noted that 1,150 Nigerian shops were shut in the country since 2018, and that over 200 Nigerians were sentenced and languishing in Nsawam Maximum Prison alone in Ghana, while 825 Nigerians had been harshly deported from Ghana since 2018.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement titled, ‘Nigeria will no longer tolerate harassment of its citizens in Ghana – FG,’ said the government was deeply concerned over the incessant harassment of its citizens in Ghana and the continuous acts of hostility towards the country by Ghanaian authorities.
This is coming against the backdrop of the imposition of a $1m trade levy on Nigerian traders in Ghana and the shutdown of their business premises by the Ghanaian authorities.
Ghana’s Ministry of Trade had also given the traders a 14-day ultimatum to pay the fee, failing which it would close their shops. The deadline for the payment was August 24.
Over the past two weeks, the Ghanaian authorities had ordered the closure of shops owned by Nigerians doing businesses in the country. Since August 10, a task force went across the country’s capital to identify shops owned by Nigerian traders and shut them.
Mohammed stated, “The Nigerian Government is deeply concerned by the incessant harassment of its citizens in Ghana and the progressive acts of hostility towards the country by Ghanaian authorities, and will no longer tolerate such.
“In this regard, the Federal Government is urgently considering a number of options aimed at ameliorating the situation. The Federal Government has been documenting the acts of hostility towards Nigeria and Nigerians by the Ghanaian authorities. These include 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. Also, aggressive and incessant deportation of Nigerians from Ghana; between January 2018 and February 2019, 825 Nigerians were deported from Ghana.
“Also, 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.
“Furthermore, residency permit requirements, for which the Ghana Immigration Service has placed huge fees, which are 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).”
The FG further complained that the Ghana Investment Promotion Council law appeared targeted at Nigerians, noting that it negated the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Trade.
The minister also cited outrageous stipulations in the GIPC 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.
“The Federal Government would 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.”
Mohammed also stated that “the negative reportage of issues concerning Nigerians resident in Ghana by the Ghanaian media is fueling 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. There is 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. 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. This will no longer be tolerated under any guise.
“In the meantime, the Federal Government wishes to appeal to its citizens resident in Ghana to remain law-abiding and avoid engaging in self-help, despite their ordeal.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana and Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, said it was important for Nigeria and Ghana to sign a formal bilateral trade agreement to end the lingering crisis over harassment of Nigerian traders in Ghana.
The Ghanaian High Commission in Nigeria could not be reached for a reaction to the Federal warning as the High Commissioner, Ambassador Rashid Bawa, was said to be out of the country.
The former commissioner, who was Nigeria’s envoy to Ghana between 2008 and 2012, stated this during an interview on Channels Television on Friday, which was monitored by our correspondent.
“A number of them have been in Ghana for 30, 35 years and they have invested a lot in that system. So, we must get Ghana to expunge our name from the list of countries that must comply with the 300,000 dollars or $1million by the GIPC,” he said.