Ghana apologises to Nigeria, will reconstruct demolished properties of High Commission

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GHANA’S President Nana Akufo-Addo has apologised to his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari following the illegal building demolition on the premises of the Nigerian High Commission in Accra, according to a statement.

The two West African leaders spoke by telephone, according to Nigerian presidential spokesman Garba Shehu. Akufo-Addo assured Buhari that a full investigation would be made into the incident.

Shehu added that a number of suspects had been arrested.

In a related development, the Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey announced that the government has decided to rebuild the demolished building within the premises of the Nigerian High Commission to its original state.

In addition, the government would take immediate steps to engage the Osu Stool and all stakeholders to address the impasse to help calm tensions, the minister said at a press conference in Accra yesterday.

Background

Some properties near the residence of the Nigerian High Commissioner in Accra were destroyed by some unidentified men last Friday at about 11 p.m.

The men, who were said to be armed, broke through the locked gate with a bulldozer and pulled down parts of the one-storey building under construction on the compound.

The Paramount Chief of the Osu Traditional Area, Nii Okwei Kinka Dowuona VI, in a statement released last Sunday, defended the demolition of a structure purported to belong to the Nigerian High Commission.

According to the release, the parcel of land was different from the building the Nigerian High Commission was currently occupying.

Investigations, findings

The minister said following the demolition, which constituted a breach of the premises of the High Commission of Nigeria, located at 19/21 Julius Nyerere Street, Ringway Estates, East Ridge, Accra, last Friday, a committee was set up to investigate the incident.

It comprised officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, the Lands Commission, National Security Secretariat and the Ghana Police Service.

Botchwey said preliminary findings of the committee indicated that the High Commission of Nigeria presented a letter dated August 7, 2000, granting allocation and right of entry into a four-acre parcel of land in the Accra Osu Mantse Layout to its mission in Accra.

The investigations pointed out that the High Commission further presented receipts of payments on the said land, made by Bankers Draft, payable to the Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission.

However, the land title certificate had not been issued to the High Commission.

The Lands Commission told the investigative team that the said parcel of land was part of vested land, owned by the Osu Stool and managed by the Lands Commission.

Third-party

‘In June 2019, the Osu Stool requested the Greater Accra Regional Lands Commission to grant a lease in respect of a part of the said land to a third party,’ the report said.

The Lands Commission, per a letter dated July 4, 2019, informed the High Commission that the Osu Stool had requested the Lands Commission to grant a lease to a third party on the land in question.

The Lands Commission, therefore, advised the High Commission to provide relevant documents on ownership of the land, but the former did not receive any response.

In granting the lease, the Lands Commission stated that its records did not reveal any previous transaction in respect of the land in question.

Based on the silence of the Nigerian High Commission, the Lands Commission went ahead and issued a land title certificate covering the said parcel of land to a third party.

No lease title

The investigations pointed out that although the allocation and right of entry granted to the High Commission by its head office was genuine, ‘unfortunately, owing to the fact that the High Commission did not obtain a lease following the allocation letter, or proceed to obtain a Land Title Certificate or even a building permit for the new property, a search by the Lands Commission did not show that any proper documentation had been obtained in respect of the property,’ pointed out.

Resolution

However, since the demolition constituted a breach under the Vienna Convention, the government has decided to restore the property to the High Commission, while it will engage the Osu Traditional Council and the high commission to quell the feud, Botchwey said.

In arriving at the decision, the Foreign Affairs Ministry took into consideration the fact that there was a contract between the traditional council and the high commission since there was a formal offer to the high commission in respect of the parcel of land in question, which was accepted and payments made.

‘The Lands Commission will proceed to issue a Land Title Certificate to the High Commission of Nigeria to regularise its ownership of the property in question.

‘The Government of Ghana will take immediate steps to engage the Osu Stool and all stakeholders on the impasse,’ the minister stated.

Arrest

Botchwey said with the arrest of some persons connected to the breach of the premises of the High Commission of Nigeria, the Criminal Investigation Department would expedite action on investigations, given the delicate nature of the matter and its potential ramifications on Ghana–Nigeria relations.

She added that the government would also actively engage the Nigerian government at the highest level to address the impasse and help calm tensions in both countries.

Assurance

‘In conclusion, let me assure the diplomatic community in Ghana and the High Commission of Nigeria, in particular, that the Government of Ghana will not relent on its primary obligation to protect and guarantee the safety of the members of the diplomatic corps,’ the minister stressed.

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