November 18, 1969: Kofi Busia's government announces the Aliens Compliance Order

As far back as the early twentieth century, Nigerians had been well-established in Ghana and had contributed immensely to the socio-economic development of Ghana before and after independence. According to Cardinall, Nigerians constituted the largest single group of immigrants resident in Ghana as at 1931. Adepoju argues that Ghana’s relative affluence at that time had made her the “gold coast” for thousands of immigrants from West Africa, particularly Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso.2 The successful exploits of Nigerian migrants as traders, cocoa farmers, farm labourers and farm contractors, factory workers as well as menial workers in construction sites ensured a further influx of more Nigerians into Ghana between 1931 and 1960. Hence, the population of Nigerians in Ghana increased geometrically from 57,400 in 1931 to 191,802 in 1963. It is not surprising therefore that beginning from the mid-1960’s, the overwhelming migrant stock of Ghana’s population became a matter of concern for the indigenous Ghanaian population who subsequently mounted enormous pressures on government for increased participation of native peoples in the economic life of their country . The net result of this indigenization clamours by Ghanaians came to the fore towards the end of 1969 when the migrants became first-count scapegoats for the economic misfortune of large-scale unemployment that had befallen Ghana. These aliens, mostly Nigerians, were quickly accused of posing a threat to the economic survival of the country. In order to deal with the problem of Ghana’s economic malaise, attributed largely to the presence and dominance of the migrant stock in Ghana’s economy, government decided to introduce a number of intervention policies aimed essentially at controlling the number of immigrant population and restricting the exercise of certain activities by non-nationals. One of such policies was the “Aliens Compliance Order” of 18 November, 1969. Though the Order affected some migrants from other West African Countries such as Togo, Burkina Faso, and Ivory-Coast, a majority of the victims were Yoruba’s from South-Western Nigeria numbering about 140,000, out of an estimated 191,000 Nigerian immigrant stock in Ghana then. Ghanaians hailed the expulsion order which they regarded as “a patriotic move to garner jobs for Ghanaians and rid the country of crimes. It should be observed however that agitation for deportation of “aliens” or “strangers”, as the foreign migrants were referred to by Ghanaian natives, started around the mid-20th century. In 1932, during the cocoa hold-up crisis, the Nigerian cocoa farmers in Akyem Abuakwa opposed the local cocoa hold-up led by the king of the town against the European firms10. This instigated a far-reaching resolution of the town at a meeting of Okyeman in 1935. Then, the traditional council urged the colonial government to ensure that “troublemakers” (referring to the migrants) were kept out of Akyem Abuakwa. The resolution reads as follows: Okyeman consider that it is now time that people from Nigeria and other places should be made amenable to the customary laws of the various states in which they reside and that any act of insubordination on the part of any such strangers should, with the sanction of Government, be punished by deportation. As a follow-up to the above resolution, local business people in the town formed the National Crusade for the Protection of Ghanaian Enterprise which opposed the foreign entrepreneurs. Apart from these economically-instigated agitations for the expulsion of aliens from Ghana, championed by the citizens, there were also cases of officially-inspired deportation of individual Nigerians from Ghana between 1957 and 1961 for political reason. Under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, pressures for the expulsion of aliens from the country were initially repulsed by the Ghanaian government, until on the 23 August, 1957 when the Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP) government passed the Deportation Act which made it legal for the government to expel all foreigners who were deemed “a threat to the nation”13. The axe of the Deportation Act fell on some wealthy Nigerians like Alufa Osman Lardan and Ahmadu Baba who were members of the opposition Muslim Association Party. The Ghanaian government deported them to Kano on 23 August, 1957. Other Nigerians expelled under the Act up to 1961 included Messrs. Samuel Faleye, Buliaminu Oni and Alhaji Raji Bakare. This period did mark the onset of expulsion of Nigerians from Ghana. But while these expulsions were targeted at particular individuals, the 1969 expulsion of aliens from Ghana marked the beginning of mass expulsion from the country. The expulsion order affected close to 200,000 aliens from Togo, Mali, Burkina-Faso and Nigeria.

From Aremu JO and Ajayi AT

Expulsion of Nigerian Immigrant Community from Ghana in 1969: Causes and Impact. In Developing Country Studies. Vol.4 No.10 (2014)