A local chief for Ghana’s Osu Traditional Area, Nii Okwei Dowuona VI, has said that the Nigerian High Commission trespassed on a plot of land where the Nigerian High Commissioner’s residence stood before Friday’s demolition.
Mr Dowuona claimed the parcel of land and the entire Osu Mantse layout belongs to the Osu Stool, a council of local chiefs and not state-owned.
On Friday night, armed men stormed the residence that hosts a block of uncompleted apartments meant for visiting diplomats and forcibly turned away staff who were present at the scene.
Afterwards, the building was demolished by the men who said they had the support of the Ghanaian National Security while the police, also present at the place, watched without intervening.
“When the police came, they did not come to us or any other person but rather went straight to the man (the leader of the armed men) they had a friendly chat, exchanged numbers with him and allowed him to go,” the Commission’s security chief, Emmanuel Kabutey, told Ghanaian news agency, Joy news.
According to Joy News, the acting High Commissioner, who was present when the incident happened, was said to have gone into hiding after being terrified.
Mr Dowuona, in a statement on Sunday said the parcel of land, approximately 1.14 acres, which is situated at West Ridge “is separate from that which is currently being occupied by the Nigerian High Commission.”
He said the attention of the Osu Stool was pricked when the original building on the land was demolished and, in its place, a new structure was being erected.
The Stool was informed that the structure was being erected by a Nigerian business person, who under the political influence of the high office of the Nigerian High Commission, was ‘forcibly’ trying to take over the said parcel of land, he said.
The monarch added that only the Stool “has the mandate to grant lease – be it expired or otherwise.”
He said the structure was planned to be an entertainment complex to serve as an events centre for commercial purposes and not a block of flats as being reported in the news.
The monarch said attempts to broker a truce between the Stool and the alleged Nigerian businessman on the ownership of the land were unsuccessful as calls and invites went unacknowledged.
“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 ownership, yet there has been no acknowledgment,” he said.
Nigerian government reacts
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, describing the incident as a “criminal attack”, vowed to investigate the demolition.
Mr Onyeama said on Sunday that his office is engaging the Ghana government and “demand urgent action to find the perpetrators and provide adequate protection for Nigerians and their property in Ghana.”
READ ALSO: More than 500 Nigerians in Indian jails, says High Commissioner
The chairman, House of Representatives committee on Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Yakub, condemned the attack on the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana.
Calling for the arrest of individuals, Mr Yakub described the demolition as an “illegal invasion of the diplomatic premises” of the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana.
“The committee condemn(s) in totality that act of trespass committed against the Nigerian Mission premises in Accra.
“We view it for what it is as an invasion of the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Foreign jurisdictions,” Mr Yakub was quoted as saying in a Monday statement.
The statement said further that the incident was “a breach of the Vienna Convention that sadly bears the capacity to cause a diplomatic row and escalate tension between our country and Ghana.”
In the past months, the relationship between Ghana and Nigeria has become tense, especially in the area of trade, following the border closure by the Nigerian government.
Some believe things may turn sour between the two countries.
However, Ghana assured that it remains a law-abiding country that upholds the principle of the rule of law while apologising to the Nigerian government over the attack on the Nigerian High Commission’s building in Accra.
It denounced the attack, describing the development as “a breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR, 19610).”
The country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said investigations are ongoing to unravel the facts of the matter and bring the perpetrators to book, a statement by the ministry, noted on Sunday.