Xenophobic relations between Ghana and Nigeria

Nigeria and Ghana xenophobic relation

Ghana’s xenophobic expulsion of Nigerians

In 1967, Ghana expelled Nigerian immigrants. Ghanaians claimed that the Yorubas flaunted their wealth by wearing shoes decorated with Ghanaian currency. The rich traders often had excessive gold decorations and abused the power of money. While the media observed that jealousy and xenophobic relation may have important roles in instigating the expulsion order; it, however, noted that the economic high rate of unemployment amongst the native might have been a greater key factor.

This xenophobic expulsion had also affected Burkina Faso and Togo immigrants, who occupied Ghana at the time. It is important to remember that Nigerians were well-established in Ghana before and after independence. They had made significant contributions to the country’s socio-economic progress as far back as the twentieth century. However, agitation for the expulsion of “aliens” or “strangers,” as Ghanaians referred to as foreign migrants, began in the mid-twentieth century.

In 1932, during the cocoa hold-up crisis, the Nigerian cocoa farmers in Akyem Abuakwa opposed the local cocoa hold-up. The cocoa hold-up was led by the king of the town against the European firms. This instigated a far-reaching resolution of the town at a meeting of Okyeman in 1935. The traditional council requested the colonial government to keep the “troublemakers,” presumably migrants, out of Akyem Abuakwa.

Reasons stated for deportation

According to the resolution; “Okyeman maintains that it has become necessary for citizens of Nigeria and other countries to be subject to the customary laws of the various states in which they live. Every foreigner who is caught in any act of insubordination would be deported.”

The government afterward published an official press statement as a justification for the deportation, which read:

i. the government believes that unemployed Ghanaians would be relieved if the immigrants were deported.

ii. Immigrant employees and traders who remitted some of their profits home increased the country’s ongoing balance of payment deficit.

iii. the aliens engaged in smuggling, especially diamonds.

Nigerian’s xenophobic expulsion of Ghana

In 1983, Nigeria through its then-president Shehu Shagari; expelled two million undocumented West African migrants, more than half of whom were from Ghana. 

Nigeria had seen a boom due to its oil deposits by 1970, making it the richest African country. As a result of the economic boom, the nickname “Africa Giant” was coined. Its closest English-speaking neighbor, Ghana, was going through quite the opposite. A drop in the price of cocoa sparked a lethal combination of famine and rebellion. Ghana was the world’s largest cocoa producer in the 1960s before the mixed famine. Several million people decided to journey east and try their fortunes in the then prosperous Nigeria. 

By 1982, global oil prices had begun to fall. Large consumer markets such as the United States and Canada were in a recession, amid low Oil demand. Nigeria likewise experienced a recession as a result of the military government’s bad policies. Nigeria was reliving Ghana’s horror.

By same 1982, politicians started to use words like “aliens” in their election manifestos. They blamed Ghanaians, for the failing economy.  

“Ghanaians had taken all the jobs and brought crime to Nigeria. If elected, they would chase them out” they promised. 

The government viewed the situation as long-overdue retaliation for Nigeria’s 1967 xenophobic expulsion.  

Shehu Shagari ordered locals to kill or beat up any illegal immigrants found in Nigeria by January 1983. The Nigerian government gave the Ghanaians a short deadline to evacuate the country. It was at this time, the ‘Ghana must go’ came into existence.

A year later, the then military ruler, General Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria’s current president) announced another expulsion. This time, all foreigners, including those who had residence permits.  

The economical effect it had on both nations:

Around the same here, Ghanaians who had trooped to Côte d’Ivoire during the Ghana famine were also deported. The phrase tombé comme le Ghana (fallen like Ghana) became a common idiom.

But there was a humanitarian difference.

There was one crucial difference between the involved citizens of both crises. The Nigerians who left Ghana were rich and sold their houses and properties cheaply. The Ghanaians, however, weren’t so much rich as most of the deportees were menial job earners. The Ghanaians also suffered so many setbacks; like borders closing in on them, and outbreaks of diseases that took many lives. Certain people fell into the sea; as people were scrapping to get onboard on limited ships and cargo made available by the UN

Both countries suffered economical setbacks, the tit-for-tat xenophobic expulsions haunted relations between Ghana and Nigeria for many years. Nigeria has never officially apologized to Ghana for 1983 and 1985 and Ghana has never apologized for 1969.

Present-day Situation

Present-day Ghana is doing quite better than the Nigerian economy. Nigeria’s economy on the other hand has gone in and out of recession in the past 5 years. Nigerians are again emigrating to Ghana to seek a better life.

On almost every street, is a store displaying Nigeria’s flag. Markets in Makola and Kumasi vibrate with Yoruba and Igbo and Nigerian languages. On the other hand, about 500 000 Ghanaians currently live in Nigeria.

However, as a song stuck on repeat, anti-Nigerian sentiments are resurfacing. Last August, stores owned by Nigerians were forcibly closed in Kumasi for failing to comply with strict national regulations. The laws disregarded ECOWAS agreements that encourage free trade. Other Africans who trade in the nation, including Lebanese, Indians, and Chinese, are punished less harshly, according to an article written by Shola Lawal in the Mail Guardian.


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