Ghana’s demolition of Nigeria High Commission buildings

IN a desecration of diplomatic convention, the Nigeria High Commission in Accra, Ghana, was recently invaded by some non-state actors who destroyed a set of buildings under construction. Intriguingly, more than a dozen police personnel supervised this act of aggression. It was a well-orchestrated and brazen assault on Nigeria’s sovereignty, which understandably provoked angry reactions at home, with the House of Representatives calling on the authorities to invoke the principle of reciprocity.

Two people, the BBC says, have been arrested over the incident and charged with unlawful entry and causing unlawful damage. The affected structures are the residential quarters for the High Commission’s staff and visiting diplomats, pulled down by bulldozers based on the Osu Traditional Stool claim of ownership of the parcel of land. Nigeria’s immediate reaction came from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who summoned the Chargè d’affaires of the High Commission of Ghana in Nigeria, Iva Denoo; she apologised on behalf of her country. The spat did not escalate to the highest level of governments with the Ghanaian President Nana Kufo-Addo’s telephone call to his Nigerian counterpart, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to tender an unreserved apology.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, which defines the framework of diplomatic engagements between nations, stipulates in Articles 22 and 30 that the premises of a country’s Mission and private residence of its diplomatic agents shall be inviolable as they are part of its sovereign territory.

There is evidence that the Nigerian Mission had paid for the land two decades ago, as confirmed by Ghana’s preliminary findings. Its Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Botchwey, said Nigeria had presented a “letter referenced SCR/LCS 74/VOL.2/95, dated August 7, 2000, granting allocation and right of entry to the High Commission, for a four-acre parcel of land in the Accra Osu Mantse Layout.” Consequently, “The government of Ghana will ensure that the demolished building is restored to its original state, as soon as possible.”

What is really strange was the involvement of Ghana’s security operatives in the diplomatic assault. The Ghanaian authorities had argued that initial findings by a committee set up to unravel the circumstances surrounding the breach revealed that the Nigeria High Commission did not obtain a lease after the allocation letter, or proceed to obtain a land title certificate or even a building permit for the new property. However, these seeming shortcomings cannot justify any claimant to the land to resort to self-help when the court is available for any aggrieved person to seek redress.

Read the full article in Punch

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