The new leader of the Ghanaian parliament, Alban Bagbin last week visited Nigeria’s House of Representatives and was admitted into the chamber to speak. This signals robust parliamentary diplomacy between the two African countries as initiated by the speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabimila.
Gbajabimila, having realised that parliamentary diplomacy facilitates direct interaction between representative bodies which can act on behalf of the peoples, made efforts to resolve the trade impasse between the Ghanaian authorities and Nigerian traders in the country.
The dispute can be traced to August 2019 when Nigeria closed the Seme Krake Border. In a sharp response to the action of the Nigerian government, the Ghanaian authority started the enforcement of the $1 million requirements for trading enterprises for non-Ghanaians. The policy reportedly led to the closure of about 300 shops belonging to Nigerians. Also, the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 19/21 Julius Nyerere Street was also demolished.
Unfortunately, so many efforts have been deployed to ensure resolution of the trade dispute, but not much has been achieved. This could partly be because Gbajabiamila visited Ghana when the country was in the process of regime change in September 2020, and by January 2021, a fresh regime took charge.
Irrespective of how slow the resolution seems, the attempt is commendable and Gbajabimila should receive some accolades as the gains of his initiative are already been felt. Bagbin, while addressing the Green Chamber announced that the Ghana-Nigeria Friendship Act would be set up and it will set up the proposed “Ghana-Nigeria Business Council.”
However, as inherent in every diplomatic practice, some forms of negotiations must be involved.
Mr Bagbin said the government of Ghana had resolved to review the capital requirement for trading enterprises under the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act, 2013(Act 865). But not without a request, Ghana wants the Nigerian government to review the list of banned products.
“We are making progress in resolving the concerns of the Nigerian traders in Ghana. It has been a joint effort between our two countries. That is always the way to go if we are interested in the peace and development of our countries. I am confident that the intervention of our two legislatures in this effort will yield results.
“To this end, it will be highly appreciated if the government of Nigeria will review the prohibition list banning the importation of specific commodities into the Nigerian market from other countries, including Ghana.”
Although, the window of parliamentary diplomacy is seldom explored, parliaments combine features inherent in formal diplomatic channels (the legitimate status) and people’s diplomacy (voicing popular sentiments and interests, as well as expert opinions). The combination of these features exerts a powerful synergetic effect encouraging a vigorous exchange of opinions and collective decision-making at international venues.
While parliamentary diplomacy is not exclusively aimed at establishing the legal basis for international relations, it seeks to strengthen ties and solidify interstate and interregional integration.