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Crime Has No Nationality – John Apea
Crime Has No Nationality – John Apea

By - Adedoyin Shittu

Posted - 21-06-2019

About 50 shops belonging to Nigerian spare parts dealers were locked up by agitated Ghanaians, who said they would not sit down and watch while foreigners flout the laws governing retail marketing in their country.

This action against Nigerians was carried out as a result of anxiety between nationals of both countries in Ghana brought about by the security challenges Ghana is facing. Some Nigerians have been flagged as culprits  in some high profile cases.

This made the Chief Executive Officer, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, made the demand of assurance of the protection of Nigerians in Ghana and to ensure that the xenophobic attacks against them don’t re-occur. This demand was done during a visit to the High Commissioner of Ghana to Nigeria, Rasheed Bawa, at the Ghanaian High Commission in Abuja on June 20, 2019.

Why is it that when some miscreants erred, a whole nation is castigated. Nigeria with a population of over 200 million has had its fair share in naming calling and victimisation in and out of the continent. The Nigerian identity is synonymous to a criminal for so long that other African nationals readily pick up this identity after committing a crime to save the face of their country.

As a result of  some insignificant few atrocities, other Nigerians in foreign countries also pay the price. Nigerians are checked and double checked to ensure that they conform to rules where other nationals move on without a second glance.

However Nigerians do not expect this treatment from Ghana. Ghana – Nigeria relationship dates back to the pre-colonial era and it was reinforced because the countries were colonised by the same master (Great Britain). With the way both countries relate, one would forget that there is Benin Republic and Togo between them. Both countries feel like the distance between them is like walking to your next door neighbor to pay a visit. A closeness that has been envied by other nations in and out of the continent, though the relationship has also bothered on economic rivalry and relevance in the Sub Saharan region, at the end of the day, they have got each other back.

As the two largest economies in West Africa, the relationship between Nigeria and Ghana is a crucial one for the region. Trade ties are particularly important, and Nigeria’s high levels of liquidity serve as an important source of capital for Ghana.

Recently, the hate toward Nigerians living in Ghana has been rolling like waves towards them. These have been as a result of crimes perpetrated by some Nigerians in Ghana.

  • Five Nigerians were arrested for Robbery and rape of a woman In the presence of her husband.
  • Kidnapping of two Canadians in Kumasi, Ghana, Police later arrested five Ghanaians and three Nigerians in Kumasi
  • Kidnapping of the three Takoradi girls by Nigerians  

These are just a few crimes linked to Nigerians in the country  and these high profile crimes has been widely publicised by media houses.

However, it would seem that the media houses in Ghana, both print and electronic as well as social media seems to have enjoyed a field day in demonising Nigeria as a whole for the sins of these few criminals. Nigeria is portrayed as the fraternal brother who eats off from Ghana.

In a talk show programme hosted in a Ghanaian radio station, 91.3FM, the talk show which was talking about the crimes committed by Nigerians could easily be mistaken for a call to arms against Nigerians in Ghana. A guest on the program suggested Nigerians are responsible for a significant proportion of crimes committed in Ghana. I do not know the basis for her statistics but how many Ghanaian in relation to Nigerians are in the Ghanaian prison? In response, the host, in an attempt to dissociate himself from this xenophobic sentiment, asked if the government ought not to monitor Nigerians in Ghana more closely, given the “criminal tendencies” of its citizens.

Does this mean Nigerians in Ghana are responsible for all the crimes in Ghana? This sound so  hypocritical to place the total blame for criminality at the doorstep of Nigerian migrants. It is too simplistic a solution to crimes committed in Ghana and amount to wrong generalization.

Crime has no nationality but it is a citizen of every country; no country nationals have a monopoly of crime but can be committed by citizens of any country.

Also speaking to a Ghanaian who choose to remain anonymous; “Nigerians are known the world over. Who doesn’t know Nigerians? Be it drugs, fraud, cyber crime, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery etc.

Another said, “Close down the Nigerian embassy in Ghana as soon as possible. Nigerians want to destroy Ghana like their country. The government of Ghana must protect Ghanaians to live in a harmonious society. Many Ghanaian abroad want to go back to Ghana but they really afraid of their safety. The truth is that Nigeria must go period”.

Past issues both countries have had with one another

Despite the closeness between both countries, relationship between them have not always been rosy.

On 18th November, 1969, under Prime Minister, Kofi Abrefa Busia, Ghana implemented the Alien and Compliance Order on 18th November 1969 which saw the mass deportation of undocumented West African immigrants (over 200,000) most of whom were Nigerians. This was done to provide employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed Ghanaian nationals, then over 600,000 Ghanaian citizens were reported to be on the list of unemployed citizens in their own country.

In retaliation, the Nigerian government on 17th January 1983 announced in a televised national broadcast asking all foreign workers, unskilled and skilled to leave Nigeria by 31st January 1983 and 28th February 1983 respectively. Eventually this led to the deportation of over 2 million immigrants with over 1 million as Ghanaian. This happened at a time of economic depression in Ghana. The incidence was called “Ghana must go”.

Before the expulsion of migrants in 1981, majorly Ghanaian, Nigeria had suspended the oil exports to the country in 1981, at a time when Ghana was reliant on Nigeria for around 90% of its petrol requirements.

Between 2018 and 2019, the Ghana Authorities have deported about 723 Nigerians for reasons ranging from cyber crime, overstay in the country, prostitution and illegal stay in the country. This has put a strain in the country relationship but it has never reached this all time high until recently.

Sporadic outbursts had largely died down and over the years, relations between the two countries have only grown stronger in spite of the ever hovering sibling “rivalry.

Rivalry in recent bothered on football, jollof rice contest, and social media banters which is fun to watch.

Some media houses have taken to wrong reporting of these events which is also fuelling hatred towards the Nigerian community in the country. Speeches circulated by media houses have been known to incite xenophobic attacks as can be seen in South Africa, Ghana should be careful so as not to trod that same xenophobic path against its brother – Nigeria.

In as much as one is not trying to exonerate the crimes committed by the few Nigerians in Ghana (and they must be duly punished), it is wrong for the media to finger-point and headline Nigerians for crimes that even Ghanaian are involved in. Nigerians has contributed immensely to the socio-economic and political developments of Ghana and also, Ghana has reciprocated likewise. It will be a shame if both countries allow hate to fester as a result of the ongoing online media trail of some Nigerian criminals in Ghana.

According to John Apea, an award-winning filmmaker, actor, educationist and diplomat, “Crime is a crime. It has no colour or nationality. The moment we begin to tar one nationality with the same brush or begin to colour crimes and give national identities to crime, xenophobic attacks begin”.