By Nwangwu Uba
This is not the best of times for Nigerians living and doing busines in Ghana and other member countries of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.
This is because they are being allegedly repatriated on the flimsy excuse of illegal stay, Cyber Crime and Prostitution. The ECOWAS protocol allows indigenes of member countries of the sub-regional body to stay in another member’s country for at least 90 days , without documents.
Investigations by the Value News Magazine shows that Nigerians who had been repatriated between March 2018 and now from these other West African countries, particular Ghana, had barely stayed one month .
Sources told the Magazine that the Ghana Immigration Service, GIS, repatriated over 400 Nigerians, thus pushing Abdulrahman Dambazau, the country’s minister of Interior and Muhammad Babandede, the Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, to the wall to retaliate.
The GIS may have blamed the repatriation of the Nigerians to illegal stay, cyber crime and prostitution but Diplomatic sources told the Magazine that the action of the GIS, was to dare Nigeria to retaliate to start a Diplomatic war.
The question on the lips of most people: how many of these Nigerians who were repatriated were caught in the act of cyber crime or prostitution or apprehended for illegal stay in the country? More so, Ghana and these other ECOWAS countries had existing laws to prosecute Criminals and other offenders at the Court of Law than adopting the extreme measure of repatriating these Nigerians, ,a Diplomat said. Many of these repatriated Nigerian were said to be doing genuine business or schooling but the GIS, officials were said to have ignored their plea to respect the ECOWAS protocol to allow them to stay in the country.
The situation is worrisome as many of those Nigerian youths who were repatriated had threatened to deal with Ghanaians found in Nigeria. At present, there millions of Ghanaians and indigenes of other West African African countries, staying in the country without genuine ECOWAS travelling documents or duely issued VISA, but not harassed by the Nigerian Immigration officials.
Many believe that the NIS could have paid the GIS, in their own coin both for the mere fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is the Chairman of the ECOWAS Heads of States and Government,, and who may not want to support the country Immigration officials to retaliate by repatriating Ghanaians in Nigeria to avoid a Diplomatic row.
There are fears in both official and unofficial circles, that if the NIS officials had gone ahead to repatriate Ghanaians who are staying in Nigerian illegally , over 5000 of them could have been repatriated which the Ghanaian economy may not be able to accommodate for now.
This is where Buhari, as the Chairman of ECOWAS,Heads of State and Government may have to take it up with his Counterpart in Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo to resolve the crisis before it degenerates to the level of the African Union, AU, intervention.
Already , there are pressures , on Babandede, the NIS , Comptroller General, to show to the Ghanaians Immigration Authority that Nigeria can bite also by repatriating Ghanaian citizens staying illegally in the country.
Many of these Ghanaians were said to have invalid documents may have found their way into the country through illegal routes. In Adamawa state alone, according to David Paradang, a former Comptroller General of NIS, there are about 83 illegal entry routes into the country while 84 illegal routes were found found in Ogun state, south west Nigeria.
The are indications that the NIS Border patrol officials may have looked the other way for such Ghanaians and citizens of the other ECOWAS member countries to flood Nigeria , without being repatriated because of Nigeria’s role in the sub-region as the” big brother”.
The action of the Ghanaian Immigration Service, may have forced the NIS officials at the nation’s land border stations and the Border patrol officials to do their work as at it up to done as enshrined in the law setting up the agency .
Chukwuma Okoro, a Nigerian businessman who shuttles between Nigeria and Togo, confirmed that security had been tightened up at Seme-Krake Joint Border post between Nigeria and Republic of Benin, by the fearless Dominic Asogwa, the Comptroller of Immigration at Seme border.
Asogwa was aid to have sent a signal to travelers on assumption of duties when he cleared the Baggage by transferring all the Nigeria bound truck laden goods into the Nigeria side of the border and blocking the illegal entry routes at the Old border entry route. he was said to have employed the services of the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company to remove the cranes found in the area amidst t by the people and alleged threat to his life. The action of the Seme Immigration Comptroller with the support of officials of the other Security agencies at the Border may have forced travellers to watch what they are carrying while approaching the border to avoid running into NIS trouble.
Only recently, the Immigration agency officials in one of its random checks at the land border were said to have intercepted some arms hidden in a traveller’s luggage.
The suspect, according to an eyewitness, account was arrested and detained for further investigation. Insiders informed the Magazine that the suspect may be handed over to Muhammed Uba Garba, Chairman, Seme -krake Border Joint Security Committee and Comptroller, Nigeria Customs Service Service, NCS, Seme Command, to facilitate his official handover to the police for further investigation and help to apprehend other suspects who were said to be on the run. Going by the law, the NIS or the Customs may not detain any suspect beyond 24 hours without handing the suspect over to the police who have the powers to do so.
Many believe that the new lease of life introduced at the land border by Garba, the Seme Customs Comptroller and the improved inter-agency relationship at the land border may have encouraged the officials of the NIS to discharge their duties at the Seme -Krake Joint Border as expected. The fallout was the recent seizure of arms, a thriving business at the land border over the years.