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Ghana-Nigeria relations intact - Nigeria Speaker of House of Representatives

BY: Donald Ato Dapatem
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo addressing Mr Femi Gbajabiamila  (2nd right), Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, and his delegation. Picture: SAMUEL TEI ADANO
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo addressing Mr Femi Gbajabiamila (2nd right), Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, and his delegation. Picture: SAMUEL TEI ADANO

The Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the recent impasse between Nigeria and Ghana is as a result of misconception and misinformation created by some people and fuelled by the media in both countries.

“The issues at hand are basically misconception and misinformation by some people and perhaps the media on both sides as to what exactly is going on in Ghana as far as Nigerians are concerned.

“We have taken time to educate our people here, because we met with them yesterday and today, about these misconceptions,” he noted.

Mr. Gbajabiamila said this when he paid a courtesy call on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House in Accra yesterday.

The Speaker and his entourage were in the country at the invitation of the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye.

“When I talk about misconception, this is it: a lot of people believe back home (and I believe even here in Ghana) that they {Ghanaian authorities} were asking for a million dollars in cash as initial equity, which we have since found out is not even the case,” he said.

He said that was an aspect of the communication gap that he was talking about and suggested that the amount charged by the authorities as initial equity could be reviewed and the equity funding spread over some time to meet the requirement.

“We want to appeal to you to look at the decrease dispassionately and give your blessings, approval and assent to the issues discussed,” he said.


Discussion
Mr. Gbajabiamila and his delegation arrived in the country last Wednesday and have engaged with the Speaker, some Ghanaian legislators, the ministers of Trade and Industry, Information and Foreign Affairs and the leadership of the Nigerian community in Ghana.

“We came on a peace-making effort through parliamentary diplomacy, which has worked in many countries all over the world. It is a modern tool for resolving knotty issues,” he said, and noted that “our forefathers have sewn seeds of friendship and we will not allow anything to make the seeds wither away”.

He said the discussions with Ghanaian officials were “rich and deep” and had led to the resolve that whatever needed to be done on both sides to ensure that the relationship remained stronger and more cordial would be pursued.

Ghana-Nigeria

He noted that one could not talk about West Africa and the African continent without talking about Ghana and Nigeria, saying it was that strength that “we seek to protect, not for today but for future generations”.

He said the Nigerian delegation preferred suggestions, which included the establishment of a Ghana-Nigeria Business Council, backed by legislation on both sides, and noted that it would allow both countries to have some coded statutes to guide their business relationships into the future.

Mr. Gbajabiamila noted that there was nothing as good as bilateral trade agreements backed by law because that would offer better understanding and produce better results.

Way forward

Commenting on the outcome of the deliberations between the two parliaments, President Akufo-Addo said the suggestions and the outcomes were acceptable, and that there should be legislation to promote a Ghana-Nigeria Business Council.

Such a council, he explained, would have oversight on trade and investment matters between the two countries, which he said was long overdue.

He said during his interaction with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, he had suggested a joint ministerial committee to be responsible for shepherding Ghana/Nigeria issues and report to both Presidents when issues cropped up to be dealt with timeously.

Review

President Akufo-Addo described as satisfactory the way the two Speakers had dealt with the matter and said it required the support of all, and gave an assurance that the review they had requested for would be taken seriously.

“We will have a look at these matters; at the end of the day, there is a line between national interest and common interest. It is always a difficult line to draw, but it’s one that has to be drawn, willy-nilly, and, hopefully, it can be done in such a way that you don’t trample on someone’s interest,” he said.

He added that it was incumbent on the current generation to ensure that they preserved and enhanced what had been built.

Strength

The President said when Ghana and Nigeria worked in tandem, it would strengthen West Africa and Africa, adding that the two countries would continue to work in that light.

Background

There had been simmering tension between a section of Nigerians living in Ghana and traders in markets in Accra and Kumasi.

Although the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act, 2013 (Act 865) reserves designated markets to Ghanaians for retailing, some Nigerians have opened shops there, to the chagrin of the Ghanaian traders.

The aim is to encourage large-ticket foreign direct investment and not retail trading, but the Nigerian traders said the law was an affront to ECOWAS trade liberation protocols.

The leaders of the Ghana Union of Traders Associations (GUTA) have, over the years, called on the government to enforce the law to bar foreigners from designated markets.

The government has responded in many forms, including setting up a taskforce to enforce the law.

In recent times, however, following the invasion of the country’s biggest spare parts dealership market, Abossey Okai, and the electronics trading centre, Tip Toe Lane, as well as the Suame Magazine in Kumasi, by some foreigners, Ghanaian traders, on their own, embarked on enforcement drives to lock shops of foreigners, many of them Nigerians.

The vociferous Nigerians resisted the closures and called on the leadership of their country to intervene or retaliate to settle scores.

Accusations, counter

In a response last Friday, the Federal Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, released a statement accusing Ghana of harassing Nigerians in Ghana and promoting hostility towards them.

Ghana’s Minister of Information, Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, however, refuted each of the claims and set the records straight.