The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs in Nigeria, Yusuf Buba Yakub, has said the demolition of an uncompleted structure near its High Commission in Osu in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana by unknown persons constitutes a serious breach of the Vienna Convention and has the capacity to cause a diplomatic row and escalate tensions between Ghana and Nigeria.
In a statement, Mr Yakub said Nigeria “vehemently condemns, in totality, that act of trespass committed against the Nigeria Mission premises in Accra. We view it for what it is, an invasion of the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in foreign jurisdictions”.
Mr Yakub further noted that Ghanaians violated many an article in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1949 and, therefore, those who are found complicit in the demolition exercise must be sanctioned.
The statement further said that “as a Parliament, we stand resolute to do everything within our powers to review, re-appraise and re-examine the relationship of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Ghana. We shall also employ and deploy all legislative means within our disposal, including exploring and invoking all necessary rules, regulations and instruments that guide our common membership in other Parliaments, to compel the Republic of Ghana to answer for this act of gross violation and abuse of the immunities of the Nigeria mission and its staff.”
Meanwhile, the Osu Traditional Council has laid claim to the parcel of land on which the structure purported to belong to the Nigerian High Commission was pulled down last week.
According to the Osu stool, the owner of the property trespassed, adding that several attempts to prevent him/her from developing the land had proved futile.
The Osu stool said in a statement that it has title to the parcel of land in question, which, it noted, is separate from that which is currently being occupied by the Nigerian High Commission.
It said the stool has a high level of respect for foreign missions and has, therefore, on several occasions, verbally informed the unidentified trespasser about the ownership status of the land through the security personnel resident on the parcel of land but he/she still went ahead to put up a structure.
Read below the statements from Nigeria and Osu stool, respectively:
OFFICE OF THE CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MEMBER REPRESENTING GOMBI/ HONG FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY OF ADAMAWA STATE.
CONDEMNATION OF THE ILLEGAL INVASION AND DEMOLITION OF THE DIPLOMATIC PREMISES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA IN GHANA AND A CALL FOR IMMEDIATE SANCTION AGAINST PERPETRATORS OF THE ACT.
1.The Committee on Foreign Affairs of Nigeria's House of Representatives yesterday, Saturday, June 2020, received a clarion call for intervention in an ugly and condemnable incident unheard of in any diplomatic circles across the civilised world: A high- capacity bulldozer was deployed by some unnamed Ghanaian nationals to invade the Diplomatic Premises of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Accra, Ghana. From eye- witness accounts, the heavy-duty bulldozer had arrived the Diplomatic Premises at very late hours of the night and had broken through the gate of the premises, where it proceeded on a demolition spree of a set of 4 units of nearly- completed 4-bedroom block of flats, which are said to be awaiting the occupation of some members of the Nigeria Diplomatic Mission in Accra who are seeking to join their colleagues and the Nigeria High Commissioner to Ghana in the mission premises.
2. From the callousness of that action against our mission premises in Ghana, the first reaction of our Committee was to consider that a classical case of external aggression against the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a gross violation of all known Conventions and Treaties on Diplomatic Relations and Friendship between two countries. Our Committee further gathered that, while the demolition exercise lasted, several frantic efforts were said to have been made by members of the Nigeria Mission to report what was ongoing to both the Ghana Police Service and their Foreign Affairs Ministry; but, in spite of those efforts, no reprieve, we were told, came the way of the Nigerian diplomats. We further learnt that, even when the police had finally arrived the scene of the incident over an hour later, all they had merely come to do was to shake hands with those they had been called upon to rein-in the audacity with which they were violating the rights of members of a diplomatic mission in their country!
3. After due consultations among members of our Committee and with various stakeholders in the diplomatic arena, our Committee reliably gathered that the present Nigeria Mission in Accra, Ghana, constitutes a 4-hectare piece of land that was officially allocated to Nigeria as part of the agreement to situate the mission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Ghana during the 60s in furtherance of the charter of the United Nations that then sought to promote global cooperation and friendship among peoples through the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a global treaty that was ratified by both Ghana and Nigeria. Further inquiries also revealed that the Nigerian Mission possesses all necessary legal titles and certifications, including Site Plans, Payment Receipts and Allocation Papers, from the Ghanaian authorities in respect of the land.
4. Consequent upon the above gross violations of the articles and spirit of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by the infamous Ghanaian nationals, who we also gather represent a corporate entity in their country, alongside their colluding allies among the authorities, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs wishes to, therefore, state as follows:
a. That we, vehemently, and without let condemn in totality that act of trespass committed against the Nigeria Mission premises in Accra. We view it for what it is, an invasion of the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in foreign jurisdictions;
b. That, we also make bold to equivocally add that, that gross violation by the Ghanaian nationals and their colluding authorities constitutes a serious breach of the Vienna Convention that, sadly, bears the capacity to cause a diplomatic row and escalate tension between our country and Ghana.
c. That, by their action and, indeed, inaction, which makes the authorities complicit in the act, the Ghanaian people violated many an article in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1949 and, therefore, must be sanctioned. For instance, Article 1(i) of that Convention, specifically, recognises, among other facts, that the Nigerian High Commission in Accra, Ghana, is the premises of the Nigerian State. The article goes on to lend itself to that fact as is captured below:
"The premises of the mission are the buildings or parts of the building and the land ancillary, thereto, irrespective of ownership, used for the purposes of the mission, including the residence of the head of the mission (in this case, the High Commissioner)".
Again, Article 22(1) of the same Convention seems to firmly corroborate the above and accentuates its importance when it further declares:" The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State (in this case Ghana) may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission (in this case, Nigeria' s High Commissioner to Ghana)".
d. That, as a Parliament, we stand resolute to do everything within our powers to review, reappraise and re- examine the relationship of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Ghana. We shall, also, employ and deploy all legislative means within our disposal, including exploring and invoking all necessary rules, regulations and instruments that guide our common membership in other Parliaments, to compel the Republic of Ghana to answer for this act of gross violation and abuse of the immunities of the Nigeria mission and its staff.
5. It is against the backdrop of the above that our Committee calls on all peoples and nations of goodwill across the globe to equally, condemn that act of aggression by the Republic of Ghana against the Federal Republic of Nigeria on its soil and to stand with us in every campaign we choose to undertake to make Ghana account for its violation of the international code of friendship against Nigeria. Instead of rising as a bulwark of protection for us , as, in fact, is required by Article 22( 2) of that same Convention, where it states: "The receiving State ( that is Ghana) is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity"; Ghana did rather the opposite and the unthinkable against our nation in Accra in a place where Nigeria's head of mission also resides within an earshot! It did not even matter to anyone in authority in that country that, in line with Article 30 of that aforementioned Convention, the private residence of a diplomatic agent shall (read, must, please) enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the mission.
6. Now, we have asked ourselves the golden question for the umpteenth time: What offence did our High Commission in Ghana commit to warrant the flagrant display of sheer brutal force against a helpless mission seeking to bring its staff within the same precinct? Nobody is saying anything in Ghana. There seems to be at present a sustained conspiracy of silence that is being deployed to wear us out. But we cannot let this one pass silently in the name of diplomacy from a big- brother nation as in the past. Our High Commissioner must be made to return home by the Executive for consultation. We also call on the Executive to invite the Ghana High Commissioner to Nigeria to provide answers to questions in our minds. It is time we stopped other countries of the world from making us the butt of their frustration and national strife.
9. Finally, since we know that the land upon which our mission sits in Ghana was officially allocated to us by the necessary Ghanaian authorities, the Land Commission, after we had fulfilled all prerequisites in the bid for acquisition of same and that there are no known litigations or counterclaims to legal titles in possession of the Nigeria mission in Accra, we may be inclined to ask whether there exist any outstanding commitments, upon which settlement the mission has reneged when, in fact, by virtue of Article 34 of the Convention that binds our embassies to every receiving State of the world, the buildings, as well as the mission staff, pay no taxes, dues, development levies etc.to either region or municipality of any receiving country. The relevance of this subsisting Article makes that case unlikely. So, we are, therefore, left to rise to truly investigate what happened in Accra, Ghana and sanction that country appropriately, however, we can. At our own level as an integral part of the Parliament, the Committee reiterates that we shall continue our search until we receive a satisfying answer on this issue. For, to allow this issue pass, like other acts of undue and unsolicited aggressions against Nigerians and their properties in foreign jurisdictions, may as well spell greater doom for us in the future. Ghana must face, anyhow, the consequences of its action and, indeed, inaction.
Rt. Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub, MHR
Statement from Osu stool
TRESPASSING ON THE PARCEL OF LAND BELONGING TO THE OSU STOOL
The Paramount Chief of the Osu Traditional Area and the President of the Greater Accra Regional House of Chiefs, Nii Okwei Kinka Dowuona VI wishes to make known to the general public that all that piece of land in extent 0.046 hectare (approximately 1.14 acres) more or less being GLPIN GA48906150010 Block 1 Section 019 situate at West Ridge in the Greater Accra Region of the Republic of Ghana belonging to Osu Stool has been trespassed upon. The said parcel of land and the entire Osu Mantse layout is not State Land but is a part of Osu Paramount Stool land and as such it is only the Stool that has the mandate to grant leases, be it expired or otherwise.
As such, the following should be noted:
• On 20th June 2020 an article published by Joy Online claiming that armed men had demolished structure belonging to the Nigerian High Commission is wrong and has no justification.
• The said parcel of land is separate from that which is currently being occupied by the Nigerian High Commission
• It came to the attention of the Osu Stool that the original building on the parcel of land was demolished and, in its place, a new structure was being erected.
• Osu Stool was informed that the structure was being erected by a Nigerian business person with the aid of the Nigerian High Commission and was forcibly trying to take over the said parcel of land.
• The Osu Stool was also informed that the structure is planned entertainment complex to be used as an events centre for commercial purposes and is not a block of flats as has been purported in the reportage.
• The Stool has a high level of respect for foreign missions and has therefore on several occasions verbally informed the unidentified trespasser of the ownership status of the land through the security personnel resident on the parcel of land.
• The Stool has subsequently sent messages inviting the trespasser for a discussion on the ownership of the land.
• There has till date been no response or acknowledgement in response to the stool’s invitation nor has the trespasser proceeded to submit any documentation of permission upon which it demolished the original structure on the land and proceeded to erect a new structure.
• The trespasser has openly and with impunity disrespected the paramount Chief of the Osu Traditional Area, Stool Lands Authority and the Traditional Council of Elders by its attendant behaviour.
• Authorities including officials from the Lands Commission, the Cantonments Police and Police Headquarters have invited the trespassers to produce documentation for the parcel of land.
• The intention of the trespasser is to forcibly take over land under the cover of diplomatic mission from the stool land without redress and without the permission of the traditional authority and its council of elders.
• It is known by the Osu Stool that the trespasser till date does not hold it its possession any documentation on the parcel land.
• The Osu Stool remains the owner of the said parcel of land and wishes to notify the general public that all other intended users of the property must first seek the permission of the stool.
• The stool informs the general public that there has never been a purchase of any parcel of land from it by the foreign office of the Nigerian High Commission.
• The Lands Commission has confirmed that the High Commission did not purchase the parcel of land from them.
• This is the second attempt to forcibly take over land that belongs to Osu Stool by unknown persons acting under the political influence of the Nigerian High Commission.
The Osu Stool, therefore, wishes to inform the General Public and all concerned that lands that fall within the entire Osu Mantse layout is not State Land but is a part of Osu Paramount Stool Lands. As such it is only the Stool that has the mandate to grant leases be it expired or otherwise. Forceful acquisition of these lands by trespassers who hide behind foreign offices and political influence should desist from doing so.
We entreat the media to be extremely cautious in their reportage and not to relay any messages of this sort with no research evidence or support documentation, relating to the confirmation of ownership of Osu Stool Lands.
Nii Okwei Kinka Dowuona VI