Although details of reported protest by the Federal Government over recent deportation of Nigerians from Ghana have been sketchy, response from the Foreign Affairs Ministry has been somewhat undiplomatic and insufferable.
Most people have been miffed that mere protest against our neighbour’s action would have no effect in a situation where Nigerian citizens have been maltreated.
That feeble response has only portrayed Nigeria as weak and incapable of protecting her citizens and this is unacceptable.
Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Ghana should not be handled lightly as though we just forged a relationship.
There are deep historical facts that should shape diplomacy, in this regard. Specifically, Nigeria should apply the reciprocity principle to balance the act and thus elicit respect instead of odium. There is no two ways about it.
A big country like Nigeria that brands itself as a giant in Africa should not play second fiddle on the global arena, especially in Africa.
There was a report that the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Michael Abikoye, protested the inhuman treatment meted to Nigerians by the Ghanaian Immigration Service (GIS) with the deportation of 723 Nigerians within a year.
Abikoye made the protest during a meeting he had with the Comptroller-General of GIS, Kwame Takyi, in Ghana. He said that 723 Nigerians were deported on alleged illegal stay, cybercrime and prostitution between January 2018 and January 2019.
The High Commissioner recalled that 81 Nigerians were deported on alleged cybercrime and illegal stay in January, while another 115 were deported in February this year on the allegation of overstay and prostitution.
He said while the High Commission would not condone any form of criminality on the part of Nigerians, inhuman treatment and torture of Nigerians in Ghana would no longer be tolerated by the Nigerian Government.
Abikoye noted that besides the alleged prostitution and cybercrime, it is improper to deport Nigerians for illegal stay in Ghana because there are several Ghanaians living in Nigeria and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has never deported any of them on the ground of illegal stay because of a sense of brotherliness and bilateral relationship between the two countries.
Besides, Article 2 (1) of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment, states that, “The Community citizens have the right to enter, reside and establish in the territory of Member States.”
Article 2 states interlia, “The right of entry, residence and establishment referred to in paragraph 1 above shall be progressively established in the course of a maximum transitional period of fifteen (15) years from the definitive entry into force of this Protocol by abolishing all other obstacles to free movement of persons and to the right of residence and establishment.”
Furthermore, Article 2 (3) says that the right of entry, residence and establishment shall be established in the course of a transitional period to be accomplished in three phases, namely: Phase I – Right of Entry and Abolition of Visa; Phase II – Right of Residence; Phase III – Right of Establishment.
It is quite clear, based on the foregoing, that ECOWAS citizens have the right of entry, residence and establishment in any member country of the community and should not be harassed, humiliated or intimidated on account of illegal stay, which, nevertheless, should not arise.
Why then are the Ghanaian authorities flouting the protocol and singling out Nigerians for deportation?
The reasons are not far-fetched. Nigeria has stooped so low and allowed herself to be trampled upon by different countries. The country is fluid with no direction. We are just on ego trip, claiming to be what we are not but not taking things serious.
Nigeria ought to be a great country but the greatness has been diminished by greed, avarice, corruption and error of governance. Without mincing words, Nigeria, in a way, is moving towards irrelevance with the impact telling on her citizens everywhere.
Apparent failure of diplomacy in the country has made many countries to have the audacity to see Nigerians as cargo that could be bundled anytime, with or without genuine reasons and deported back to Nigeria. It is very unfortunate.
Most times, it is one of the president’s men that would be responding to these diplomatic issues without a word for days from the Foreign Affairs.
On the issue of reproachful deportation from Ghana, what has been the response from Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Ministry? It is only when citizens feel protected anywhere that they talk of their government and be proud of their citizenship.
Nobody toys with the citizens of certain countries anywhere in global context because of anticipated response from governments of such countries. But it is curious that Nigerian citizens are being humiliated and treated shabbily by even small nations that ought to accord respect to the country.
This action and failure of governance calls for a quick review by political authorities in the country.
The Ghanaian deportation is not the first in recent times. In 2012, South Africa, in their usual uncharitable disposition towards Nigeria that was available as strong allies when they were under the clutches of apartheid, deported 135 Nigerians on the flimsy excuse that they were carrying invalid yellow fever vaccination cards.
But on this occasion, Nigeria, unlike before, responded by deporting no fewer than 75 South Africans under the reciprocity principle and ever since, South Africa has been restrained from toying with deportation of Nigerians anyhow.
Nigeria had not recovered from the South African insult when the British authorities reportedly deported some 120 Nigerians in a cargo plane.
Every now and then, news of Nigerians being deported from Europe, Asia and America make the headlines and Nigeria simply swallow the insults – without appropriate diplomatic responses.
Instead, most times government tends to blame Nigerians for migrating from challenges at home.
Before now, when Nigeria mattered on the world stage, no country could toy with Nigerians abroad.
What is more, a time was when Africa used to be the centre-piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. Nigeria played the big brother to other African countries.
On behalf of Africa, Nigeria once dared the Western powers that, “Africa has come of age” and so should not be tossed about.
But today, things have changed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has gone to sleep. The sense of national pride has diminished. We no longer command respect in the global arena.
For Nigeria to regain her lost national pride, there should be restructuring of the foreign policy objectives to reflect current reality in global politics. Besides, government should buckle up and allow good governance take the centre state.
All told, the Foreign Affairs Ministry should wake up from slumber and do its job of protecting Nigeria’s image.
Specifically, when duty calls, there should be prompt diplomatic response to issues of welfare and security of citizens at home and abroad. In any case, that is the primary purpose of government.
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