The good relations between Nigeria and Ghana have in the last two years experienced some notable hiccups, but the prompt diplomatic interventions by the officials of the two countries have always prevented the escalation of the contentious issues.Firstly, it was the yearly battle between the Nigerian traders association in Ghana and their Ghanaian counterparts over trading in Ghana, since according to them, the laws forbid foreigners, including ECOWAS citizens, from engaging in trading in Ghanaian markets. It took the intervention of the presidents of the two countries to put this sore point in the relations between the two neighbouring West African countries behind them.
As the storm raised by the issue of trading activities by Nigerians in Ghana appear to have calmed down, the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced the partial closure of Nigerian land borders to check smuggling of goods and arms into Nigeria. This policy affected trans-border businesses between the two countries, which were done largely through the land borders. The appeals from the Ghanaian government and other neighbouring countries like Benin Niger and Togo, whose economies were traumatized by the closure were not heeded before the outbreak of the coronavirus in the third quarter of 2019.
In February this year, President Buhari pleaded with the agitating neighbouring West African countries to continue to exercise patience over the partial closure of Nigeria’s land borders until the report of the tripartite committee made up of Nigeria, Benin and Niger Republic was submitted.
Receiving President Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, who led a delegation of ECOWAS on the Nigerian land border closure in Abuja, Buhari said that the issues revolving around the closure of the borders would be resolved based on the outcome of the report of the tripartite committee.
He, however, assured his Burkina Faso counterpart, who is also the Chairman of the ECOWAS Committee mandated to resolve the issue of border closure, that he would expedite action on the report once it is ready. “I will work as fast as I can as soon as I receive the report,” President Buhari said.
This promise could not be fulfilled before the devastating effects of Covd-19 hit Nigeria soon after when the first index case was declared on February 27 in the country.
Apparently, this was the mood in the relations between the two countries before the news broke out on Friday, June 19, that some unknown men demolished the building being constructed by the Nigerian High Commission in Accra for its staff.
While some Nigerian lawmakers were contemplating a revenge action since they claimed that the action of the Ghanaians amounted to “crossing the line”, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs invited Ghana’s High Commissioner in Nigeria for explanation on the incident. In addition, President Nana Akufo Addo of Ghana called his Nigerian counterpart and apologised for the breach of the premises of the High Commission of Nigeria in Ghana and promised that the perpetrators would be fished out and punished.
But the apology of the Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, helped to douse the tension. The Minister promised that Ghana would not only reconstruct the building, but investigate the incident and punish the perpetrators.
Barely a week after the demolition of the building, the Foreign Minister of Ghana on Wednesday, June 24, announced the findings of the panel set up to investigate the demolition of the building. She disclosed that following the incident regarding the breach of the premises of the High Commission of Nigeria on Friday, June 19, 2020 at about 23:00 hours, a committee comprising officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, the Lands Commission, National Security Secretariat, and the Ghana Police Service was constituted to investigate the incident and make appropriate recommendations.
According to the preliminary findings by the Committee, the High Commission of Nigeria presented letter referenced SCR/LCS 74/VOL.2/95 dated 7th August, 2000, granting allocation and right of entry to the High Commission, a 4-acre parcel of land in the Accra Osu Mantse Layout.
“The High Commission of Nigeria further presented receipts of payments on the said land, made by Bankers Draft payable to the Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission. However, Land Title Certificate had not been issued to the High Commission.
“The Lands Commission has confirmed that the letter of 7th August, 2000, presented by the High Commission of Nigeria granting allocation and right of entry to the High Commission, was genuine and, indeed, emanated from its Head Office.
“Unfortunately, owing to the fact that the High Commission did not obtain a lease, following the allocation letter, or proceed to obtain a Land Title Certificate or even a building permit for the new property, a search by the Lands Commission did not show that any proper documentation had been obtained in respect of the property.
“It is worth noting that Articles 22 and 30 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations stipulate that the premises of the Mission as well as the private residence of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. Thus, the incident of Friday, 19th June, 2020 constitutes a breach of the Convention,” she said.
In light of the above, she said, that Government of Ghana has decided that the Lands Commission will issue a letter to the Osu Traditional Council stating that in August 2000, a formal offer was made to the High Commission of Nigeria in respect of the parcel of land in question; the offer was accepted by the High Commission and payments made, accordingly constituting a contract;
“The Lands Commission will proceed to issue a Land Title Certificate to the High Commission of Nigeria to regularize its ownership of the property in question;
“The Government of Ghana will take immediate steps to engage the Osu Stool and all stakeholders on the impasse,” she said, promising that following the arrest of some persons connected to the breach of the premises of the High Commission of Nigeria, the Criminal Investigation Department would expedite action on investigations, given the delicate nature of the matter and its potential ramifications on.
Speaking on the Ghana–Nigeria relations, the minister noted that the Government of Ghana will ensure that the demolished building is restored to its original state, as soon as possible and that the High Commission of Nigeria would take appropriate steps to obtain building permits for the construction.
The Ghanaian Minister also promised that the Government of Ghana will actively engage the Nigerian Government at the highest level to address the impasse and help calm tensions in both countries.
“Finally, let me state emphatically that Government takes a serious view of the violation of the diplomatic premises. Whilst expressing deep regrets over the incident, I wish to assure the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the Government of Ghana will pursue this matter to its logical conclusion and ensure that the perpetrators are sanctioned in accordance with the laws of the land,” she said.
The minister reiterated that the relations between Ghana and Nigeria predate the independence of both countries and are bound by blood ties. “Over the years, these relations have been nurtured and have produced excellent cooperation between our two countries manifested by the excellent relations between our current Presidents, President Muhammadu Buhari and President Nana Akufo-Addo, who has spoken on this matter.
“Ghana remains a law-abiding country which upholds the principles of the rule of law where due process is followed at all times.
“In conclusion, let me assure the diplomatic community in Ghana, and the High Commission of Nigeria in particular, that the Government of Ghana will not relent on its primary obligation to protect and guarantee the safety of the Members of the Diplomatic Corps,” the minister added.