Ebo Quansah in Accra .
The headline on the front page of one of the private daily newspapers in Ghana yesterday made interesting reading. ‘Chinese Training for Immigration Officers.’ At first glance, the reader is left with the impression that Chinese officials are in this country to train our immigration officers.
With Chinese money doing everything under the sun in Africa, it would not be out of place for this country’s immigration officials to benefit from some sort of training funded from Beijing. This one though, has a different connotation. The story was about our immigration officers taking tutorials in the Chinese language.
“The programme is aimed at breaking the language barrier between Chinese nationals arriving in the country in their numbers on a daily basis and immigration officers,” according to the story.
Those who thought of initiating this kind of programme, obviously believe that training our immigration officers, especially those at the Kotoka International Airport, would equip them to appreciate the need for the Chinese to come to Ghana in their numbers. The problem with this kind of programme is not the arrival processes per se.
The issue is about the ability to trace these immigrants when they overstay their visas from galamsey (illegal mining) pits, retail trade in textiles, and many ventures reserved exclusively for Ghanaians.
The Chinese might have provided financial facilities to aid the development drive of this state and many nation-states in Africa. But it is not every aspect of the Chinese operations in this part of the world that has inured to the benefit of this society. Day in and day out events are unfolding of Chinese nationals doing damage to the local economy. The fight against galamsey has brought out several cases of Chinese nationals infiltrating the small scale mining sector reserved exclusively for Ghanaians.
In some very unpalatable cases, Chinese nationals virtually live on our rivers and water bodies and ease themselves into our sources of drinking water. The case of Aisha Hwuan, the Chinese national said to be married to a Ghanaian who was arrested for acting as the main facilitator for Chinese nationals entering the illegal galamsey expedition, is a major reference point.
The Chinese are not the only group of foreigners causing harm to the state economy and raising the profile of insecurity in Ghana. The wanton acts of armed robbery, cyber fraud and other criminal activities involving nationals of our Eastern neighbouring country, Nigeria, is threatening to overwhelm our security forces.
Yesterday, almost all national dailies reported the arrest of two Nigerian suspects who robbed a shop at Tema brazenly in a broad daylight adventure. When the police raided the hide-out of the criminals, nine other suspected robbers were busted. It will interest readers to know that all the nine suspects are Nigerians.
On March 30 last year, the police in Achimota announced the arrest of a gang of cyber fraudsters numbering 30. Apart from a single Ghanaian involved, the remaining 29 were identified as Nigerians. They were arrested in an early morning swoop at a house at Alhaji Tabora, a suburb of Accra.
The police recovered 34 laptop computers and 48 mobile phones used by the miscreants to commit crimes. We were told that the suspects were linked to the murder of a dead body that was found at the Apenkwa neighbourhood in Accra.
According to DCOP Osabarima Oware Asare Pinkro II, then Accra Regional Police Commander, “the suspects were all living in one big house, from where they undertake their nefarious activities.”
The Police Commander affirmed that the deceased was one of a number of Nigerian suspects who had gone missing. The information was that he was beaten to death, wrapped up in used clothes, and dumped there for leaking information on the group’s activities to a third party, who the police would not name for security reasons. “They saw it as a betrayal. We are investigating this case in addition to cyber crimes,” the Police Commander told newsmen.
In another expedition, the police swooped on 22 Nigerians involved in on-line fraud. Only one Ghanaian was involved in this venture. He was identified as a cab driver hired by the foreigners for the operation.
Writing about crime involving Nigerians reminds me of a Whatsup message a friend dispatched to me just before I started this piece. The message says the first Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, spelt out his commitment to the development of his one-city state thus: “There are two options for me. Either I get corrupted and I put my family in the Forbes list of the richest people in the world and leave my people with nothing, OR I serve my people and let my country be in the list of the best ten economies in the world. I chose the second option.”
Contrast this with what a Nigerian politician is alleged to have said in response. “There were two options for us too, but the second option was already taken by the Singapore Prime Minister.”
It is unfortunate, but the sprawling West African nation of Nigeria is gaining notoriety as the headquarters of crime and criminality along the West Coast of Africa. In London, Scotland Yard Police has developed a profile of Nigerians and Ghanaians living in that country at any point in time.
The British police will tell you that the main problem with Ghanaians in Britain is the tendency to overstay their visas and doing odd jobs without a work permit. Nigerians tend to add major crimes to overstaying their visas and working without a permit.
The Akans, the largest ethnic group in Ghana, would tell you: The true character of human beings, like pregnancy, cannot be hidden. Since Nigerians began returning to Ghana in their numbers, after the biggest economy in West Africa began developing cracks, Nigerians have mainly been identified with crime, even though a number of Nigerian banks and businessmen are contributing positively to building the national economy.
The other day, one-time Nigeria High Commissioner to Ghana Mr. Obanikoro was complaining bitterly about the tendency to identify Nigerians in Ghana with crime. He thought Ghanaians were becoming xenophobic.
A Nigerian street vendor expressed the same sentiments to newsmen. Mr. Ike Egbon complained that Ghanaians often treated him as if he was one of his country’s notorious internet fraudsters.
Read his lips: “They say ‘you are a Nigerian. Nigerians are not good. Why don’t you go to your country,” said Egbon who was selling African hand drums on the streets of Accra, said. “They don’t help me. Ghanaian people are in Nigeria. We are treating them fine.” Stories emerging of how Nigerians are treating Ghanaians in that country do not suggest Ghanaians are having a nice time in that country though.
I am not xenophobic, but I am nursing the feeling that something ought to give to stem the tide of foreigners undermining the national economy and undermining the security of state.
The other day, I wrote at length on how black market dealers in foreign and the local currencies are undermining the economy. If you undertake a census on the operators of the black market in the local currency, the cedi’s exchange with the dollar, the pound and CFA, you are likely to compile a list of Nigerians, Togolese, Nigeriens, Burkinabe and Togolese in the majority.
Why should we sit idle while foreigners are seriously contributing to the collapse of our state economy? I bet my bottom cedi that officialdom tends to believe that they are constrained to act because of the fear of breaching ECOWAS protocols on the movement of goods and persons.
It is true that ECOWAS protocols prescribe the free movement of goods and persons in member countries, but they do not tie down the hands of officialdom to act against foreign miscreants undermining the economy and threatening the security of member states.
In my article last week, I alluded to the swamping of our streets and many joints by beggars tracing their nationality to West African states other than Ghana. I also stated that those asking for alms on the streets in cities and major towns in La Cote d’Ivoire have been sent packing, and that most of those sent away have re-located to Ghana.
As you read this piece, the streets in Nima, Tudu and many suburbs in Accra, Kumasi,
Takoradi, and other towns and even villages at the centre of the earth, are inundated with beggars, many of who are definitely not Ghanaians.
I will like to believe that this country has a duty to deal decisively with foreigners undermining our economy and state security. I also believe that we do not have to wait for the deadly Boko Haram group begins to operate in Ghana before we realise that state security could be under threat.
The decision to act is in the hands of state officials.
I shall return!