The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, on Friday, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of gross insensitivity in the arbitrary closure of the land borders.
HURIWA, a civil rights advocacy group, described the arbitrary closure of land borders as a political gimmick to economically strangulate the South East of Nigeria thought to be the place from where the clear majority of Nigerian businesses located within the West African sub-region come from.
In a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA expressed shock that such a huge public policy was adopted with little or no consideration for the commercial and economic rights and legitimate business interests of millions of Nigerians who are cross-border entrepreneurs.
The implementation of the border closure without “sacking inefficient border security managers goes to expose the naked hypocrisy of the charade.”
HURIWA accused the government of proceeding with a major public policy with far more “devastating economic impacts to Nigerians trading in the neighboring nations to Nigeria without even the central government putting up reliable, dependable and sustainable fall back positions should the unilateral border closure backfire on Nigerian traders in those neighboring countries.”
The rights group wondered why “President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the shutting of the land borders but has so far failed to address the central factor necessitating the action which is linked to widespread inefficiency of border security architecture headed by the Nigerian customs and immigration whose Departmental heads are from the Northern region.”
The statement reads: “It is suspected that the border closure at the same time with the deceitful shut down of the only international gateway to Igbo land which is Akannu Ibiam International Airport is a premeditated but politically motivated policy which must be reviewed immediately. The central government has not provided alternative superior arguments to defeat this well-thought-out groundswell of suspicions in the minds of millions of people of Southern Nigerian origin.”
“The unilateral border closure is surely hurting the economic rights of traders of Nigerian descent living in the West African nations of Ghana, Benin, and Cameroon, made up essentially of persons of southeast origin. This action is also a violation of the ECOWAS protocol relating to the free movement of persons, residence, and establishment which Nigeria acceded to.
“HURIWA believes that by the border shut down the Nigerian administration is also in grave breach of Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the ECOWAS Treaty thus: ARTICLE 9: “Member States undertake to co-operate among themselves by exchanging information on such matters that are likely to affect the effective implementation of this Protocol. Such information shall also be sent to the Executive Secretary for necessary action in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty.” ARTICLE 10: “The provisions of this Protocol shall not operate to the prejudice of citizens of the community who are already in residence and establishment in a Member State provided they comply with the laws in general and in particular the immigration laws of that Member State;” And ARTICLE 11: “1. A decision to expel any citizen of the Community from the territory of a Member State shall be notified to the citizen concerned as well as the government of which he is a citizen and the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS. 2. The expenses incurred in the expulsion of a citizen shall be borne by the Member State which expels him. 3. In the case of expulsion, the security of the citizen concerned as well as that of his family shall be guaranteed and his property protected and returned to him without prejudice to his obligations to the third party. 4. In case of repatriation of a citizen of the Community from the territory of a Member State, that Member State shall notify the government of the State of origin of the citizen and the Executive Secretary. 5. The cost of repatriation of a citizen of the Community from the territory of a Member State shall be borne by the citizen himself or in the event that he is unable to do so by the country of which he is a citizen.”
HURIWA said the Federal government did not comply with these thresholds unambiguously enshrined as core components of the ECOWAS protocol before rushing to close down the land borders and driving over a million cross border entrepreneurs out of their legitimate line of businesses even as this policy is discriminatory because it affected traders of mostly one section of Nigeria and this violates section 42 of the Constitution.
Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution provides thus: “(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions. (2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.”
HURIWA affirmed that the Nigerian government completely failed to explore internal review mechanisms within ECOWAS which has now backfired for the hundreds of thousands of Nigerian born traders in Ghana whose business premises are being closed down in retaliatory moves with total impunity and disregard to the extant provisions of the ECOWAS PROTOCOL on Movements of persons and goods.
The right group recalled that Nigerians doing business in Ghana have been asked to quit their shops by Thursday, November 14, 2019, or be forcibly evicted in apparent retaliation against the Federal Government’s closure of the borders even as the ultimatum was issued by the Ghana Union of Traders’ Associations (GUTA) and the Ghana Electrical Dealers Association (GEDA).
HURIWA recalled that one of the notices sighted yesterday at strategic locations in markets across Ghana, especially in Kumasi, reads in capital letters: “Attention! Attention! Attention! According to the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Law Act 865 Section 27A, you are not to be in our market. We are by this notice informing you to leave our market by 14th November 2019. By GUTA just as another notice states thus: “Warning! Warning! Warning! The agreement between GUTA, GEDA and the foreigners in our market place is up. So, the foreigners are given up to this weekend to abide by the agreement to leave our market places or they will be forcefully compelled to abide by it. By GEDA and GUTA.”