Ebo Quansah in Accra .
Poor me , it took a while to raise the GH¢10,000 asking price for a plot of land I acquired at New Bortianor, near Accra, to construct my retirement home, after spending all my adult life in the service of this country.
Naturally, the first thing I did, after receiving the official documentation on my new plot, was to hire the services of a lawyer to conduct a search at the Lands Department. When all was clear, I proceeded in confidence with my entire household to prepare the land for construction.
I thought I need not battle the menace of any land guards when I approached the site, only to be struck by a calamity worse than the machinations of any land guards. My heart missed a beat on turning the corner. My land was sporting somebody else’s building.
Fuming with rage, I drove straight to the landlord’s compound, only to be told that a Nigerian had offered GH¢25,000 for the same property I bought for GH¢10,000, and that unknown to the chief, who sold the land to me, a brother of his had turned the plot over to the Nigerian.
I threatened mayhem on the entire household before another plot could be arranged for me nearby. Sadly, mine is not an isolated experience of the land tenure system in Ghana with the mass arrival of Nigerians with filthy cash.
The number of arrivals keeps increasing at a frightening tempo. A Nigerian is predicting that the number of those arriving with the naira could soon equal the population of a state in Nigeria.
“Ghana will soon become the 37th State of Nigeria,” predicts our friend the Nigerian who has found a permanent home in the plush Accra neighborhood of East Legon. “Thanks to the free movement of people, goods and services under the Economic and Trade Liberalisation Scheme of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), more Nigerians will be arriving,” he says.
One estimate puts Nigerians currently living in Ghana at six million. That figure could be an exaggeration, but the growing number of our eastern neighbours fleeing conflicts in their own territory, and finding peace in Ghana, suggests that Nigerians might constitute themselves into a very significant number of people ordinary resident in this country.
Our friend, name withheld in view of the image of Nigerians in Ghana following a spate of kidnappings allegedly traced to Nigerians, says, like most of his colleagues, he re-located to Ghana because of the peace in this country. Though, in his opinion, Ghana is not heaven, compared to events in Nigeria, this country is an oasis of peace.
He intends to educate all his children in Ghana, because he has lost faith in the Nigerian education module. He lists Boko Haram, the agitation in the east over the intention of the Ibos to re-create the lost state of Biafra, and insurgency in the Niger Delta, combine to make Nigeria an unstable society. Most of those re-locating have found peace and tranquility in Ghana.
He lists the number of other West African nationals who have found a new home in Ghana. He picks out Ivorians, Liberians, Togolese and Burkinabes as living peacefully with Ghanaians over the years. They are usually humble, law abiding and usually keep a low profile. They were not the loud type, he affirms.
“Unfortunately, I cannot express the same sentiments about my own people. Most of them do not obey the laws of their resident nation. A few months ago, last August to be precise, 26 Nigerian fraudsters were arrested in Accra, allegedly engaged in cyber fraud. Many have also been arrested for armed robbery and other serious crimes,” he said.
Another Nigerian, Ike Egbon, a street vendor in Accra, complains of Ghanaians treating him as if he was one of his country’s internet fraudsters. He says food sellers and taxi drivers sometimes refuse to patronise his services.
“They say you are Nigerian. Nigerians are no good, no good. Why don’t you go to your country,” complained Egbon who sells African hand drums on the streets of Accra. “They don’t help me. Ghanaians are in Nigeria. We are treating them fine.”
Egbon is not the only Nigerian complaining about mistreatment of Nigerians in Ghana. On October 8, last year, the Vanguard Newspaper of Lagos published an editorial inviting the Federal Government to intervene to save Nigerian traders under siege in Ghana.
Under the caption ‘Ordeal of Nigerians in Ghana,’ the paper said: “The Federal Government must hasten and wade into the ordeals of Nigerian traders doing business in Ghana. It requires serious intensive engagement else the issue might boil into xenophobic attacks which will seriously threaten the cordial relationship between Nigeria and Ghana.”
Apparently, shops belonging to Nigerians in Kumasi had been shut down because their Nigerian owners had ignored a basic law vesting petty trading solely in Ghanaians.
The paper claimed that 400 Nigerian-owned shops had been closed down in Kumasi. “We call on the governments of both countries to intensify efforts and clarify how the law affects ECOWAS citizens resident in Ghana, and explain it to the clear understanding of all. If this is not done, some aggrieved groups could take the law into their own hands and launch xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, especially Nigerians, in Ghana, as has been the case in South Africa.”
What the newspaper conveniently forgot to add is that the ECOWAS protocol of free movement of goods and human beings allows citizens visa-free travel to each other’s country for 90 days, after which the traveler is required to normalise his or her stay with the host country, if he or she intends to stay longer.
The same protocol demands that any such visitor wanting to work in the host country is required to acquire a work permit as well. Invariably, most West Africans, particularly Nigerians, enter the country without any documentation and begin to act like citizens of that country.
In the case of Nigerians, the youth especially engage themselves in all manner of crime. From cyber fraud they graduate into robbery, and then into armed robbery. It is becoming the norm more than the exception that most armed robberies in Ghana are spear-headed by Nigerians.
Quite recently, a new phenomenon is emerging of Nigerians involving themselves in kidnapping. The twin city of Sekondi-Takoradi is bearing the full brunt of unresolved kidnappings. So far, four young women have been kidnapped in the nation’s oil city. They are Maame Dakowa Anoma, 25, Priscilla Bentum 21, Ruth Love Quaye, 18, and Priscilla Mantebea Kuranchie.
The police have arrested a number of suspects. The first suspect to be arrested was Samuel Udoetuk Wills, a Nigerian national living illegally in the country. The odds are on more Nigerians involved in this latest scam.
The behaviour of Nigerians in this country should put the administration of Ghana on notice to do something drastic. Apart from harming the indigenous people of Ghana through murders and kidnappings, evidence is emerging of Nigerian connection to cyber fraud, currency counterfeiting and money laundering.
The downward spiral of the local currency, the cedi, against major currencies of this world, has quite a lot to do with black marketeering, which is carried out under the very noses of officialdom. A number of Nigerian nationals are involved in the black market. Other nationals from our other neighbouring countries like Togo, Burkina, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire, are also heavily involved in this black trade.
I am sorry to state this. It is not only in this country that scams involving Nigerians are becoming a major concern. I lived in London for 13-and-a-half years. For some time, I was a member of the Leytonstone Police Council in London.
The London Police have never been in any qualms. The conventional wisdom in maintaining law and order involving the nationals of Ghana and Nigeria is quite interesting. The average Ghanaian going against the law would in nine out of 10 cases have overstayed his/her visa or working without a permit. Nigerians arrested though, were more likely to be involved in cyber fraud, money laundering and other more serious crimes.
So it is around the world. Our eastern neighbours are gaining notoriety for robbery and more serious crimes. That is why we must be on the lookout for their misdeeds.
By the way, are we still tinkering with the so-called common currency, the Eco, with Nigeria and other West African countries? We may only be courting disaster. It is all rosy on paper to travel along West Africa without changing currencies. Even without the common currency, Nigerians are faking the Ghanaian cedi and forging the Ghanaian passport and other documents.
We must be more careful with the Nigerian influx. We cannot risk an invitation to Boko Haram to ruin this lovely country. And I am not xenophobic.
I shall return!