Hope is gradually rising for the amicable resolution of the diplomatic face-off between Nigeria and Ghana, arising from the $1m levy imposed on Nigerian traders by the West African country.
This followed the visit of the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to the Speaker of the Ghanaian Parliament, Mike Oquaye on Wednesday in Accra.
The Speaker, who led a delegation of lawmakers from the House of Representatives, said he is hopeful that Nigeria and Ghana will arrive at mutually acceptable resolutions to the trade disputes that erupted some weeks back.
Gbajabiamila explained that the two-day visit to Ghana was meant to explore legislative diplomacy towards resolving the issues affecting both countries.
The Nigerian Speaker is accompanied on the legislative diplomatic mission to Ghana by the Chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Buba Yusuf; Chairman House Committee on Media, Benjamin Kalu; House Member of Ecowas Parliament, Bayo Balogun, Ikenna Elezieanya, Ephraim Nwuzi and Balarabe Shehu.
Welcoming the Nigerian delegation, the Speaker of the Ghanaian Parliament, Oquaye expressed confidence for an amicable resolution of the issues.
He said: “Ghana and Nigeria are like the tongue and the teeth, they must interact, and sometimes the teeth may do havoc, and yet it never regrets the taste that the tongue gives to it. That’s what happens if we don’t interact.
“Even when we step on one another’s feet, in the process we should come to realize that there’s a need to continue to be together and we, therefore, welcome you, thank you very much for your keenness in responding to my call that we should meet and you took a quick step in arranging to be here today.
I trust in the next two days we will bring a beautiful reunion to our two Nations”.
Responding, Gbajabiamila who thanked his counterpart for the warm welcome, emphasized that within the next two days of discussions, hopefully, they would be able to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution between both countries.
He said: “There’s something in modern-day parlance called legislative diplomacy or parliamentary diplomacy, and that’s what obtains all over the world today. Diplomacy is done from all angles including backchannel such as what we are doing now and sometimes you get results that you can only imagine. So I look forward to a fruitful discussion as we move forward.
“Like you rightly said, Nigeria and Ghana are more like Siamese twins, and brothers. I love the analogy you came up with, like the tongue and teeth. Brothers will always have squabbles, healthy ones, national interest on both sides will always come to play but it’s not the misunderstanding that matters, it’s how you resolve it that matters.
“In Africa, you cannot talk about Nigeria without talking about Ghana and you cannot talk about Ghana without talking about Nigeria and therefore it has become incumbent on us, one as leaders of parliament and two generally as parliamentarians to bring to bear this concept of legislative diplomacy for fruitful results.
“The weight and burden of our international relationship rest actually on parliamentary shoulders and it is my hope that we will, in two days, reach some resolutions that will settle both countries”.
The Speaker and his delegation later went to the Nigerian High Commission where they met with Leaders of the Nigerian Union of Traders and Selected Stakeholders to hear from the traders about their experiences.
The leader of the Nigerian traders in Ghana, Chukwuemeka Nnaji, told Gbajabiamila and his entourage that Nigerian traders have been subjected to a lot of hardship by the Ghanaian authorities since 2007.
Nnaji said, despite complying with laid down laws, Nigerians traders were always the target for harsh treatments whenever both countries are having issues.
He added that Nigerians traders have their trades registered with appropriate agencies, pay their taxes as and when due, yet they were still subjected to harsh treatment by the authorities.
According to Nnaji, while many Nigerian traders could not afford the latest $1m trade registration fees, those that paid still had their shops under lock and key.
He said with about 250 shops locked up by the authorities, the situation has led to the death of some of their members.
Nnaji appealed to the Speaker to follow up on the legislative diplomatic initiative in order to ensure that the resolutions arrived at are implemented by the Ghanaian authorities.