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Prisoners running away from Nigerian prison to Ghana will undermine the AfCFTA care is not taken.

The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement which took years to be implemented is about to start booming and the entire African continent is expectant of good results. As the continent’s largest and fastest growing economies alike prepare to roll up their sleeves in order to actively reap the many benefits of this self enriching initiative, the agreement continues to be hit with the most unfortunate incidents that could be imagined. The closure of Nigeria’s boarders to even the most perishable goods from neighboring African country’s prior to the emergence of the corona virus that is currently plaguing the entire world, coupled with the harrowing effects of a world pandemic that is the first of it’s kind in a century, has definitely impacted the free trade area in a negative way. However, it is not the negativity of these occurrences that can quickly be put behind us that endanger the continuance of both the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and the proposed African open boarders initiative. Unfortunately, it is the most preventable occurrences of the world we live in today that are capable of jeopardizing this promising initiatives.

A few days ago, reports of a jail break in one of Nigeria’s most hardened prisons was made public. Sources close to the Ghanaian immigration services quickly anticipated that these hardened criminals might try to make their way to Ghana, a country always seen as a safe haven for many people across the African continent. Perhaps, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s devotion to hosting and training African freedom fighters who were considered as criminals in their days might have given people the impression that every law breaker who manages to meander his or her way to the West African country will suddenly become free. Unfortunately, these incidents don’t only put the image of the beautiful country in tatters but also threatens the very existence and continuation of policies like the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.

As anticipated, some nine (9) of the Nigerian jail breakers have been arrested in Ghana by officials. It however unclear if these 9 are the only ones who have successfully made it to the country that is closest to the very center of the world. As Ghana’s position on the world map makes the country the focal point of world media, the country’s president may want to make a statement; a statement that exonerates the country of any involvement in the harboring and assisting of international fugitives. A statement of that magnitude if not made with absolute caution, can spike other friendly nations or allies and could go a long way to damage international relations among the countries of the African continent. This could go a long way to affect co-operations like the AfCFTA. It is therefore needful for every country in African to prevent such occurrences; occurrences that have the potential of placing preventable strains on the international relationships among the African countries as well as damaging the beautiful Pan-African programmes that the countries seek to undertake.

Today, calls are being made by well meaning Ghanaian citizens for the country’s government to close their land, sae and air boarders to immigrants from Nigeria until Nigerian officials apprehend the convicted criminals. Unfortunately, any such action despite being done in good faith will also prevent legitimate businessmen from Nigeria from entering and doing business in Ghana whereas Ghana houses the secretariat of the AfCFTA. Which message will the president therefore be sending to Benin and Togo; two countries that lay sandwiched between Ghana and Nigeria and also the rest of the African continent? The best way therefore to avoid such compromising situations in the future is for each and everyone of the African country’s to take not only their domestic security but also international security very serious. This will go a long way to prevent unnecessary insecurity that may arise in one county due to another country’s shear negligence.

Prisoners in a prison ward. photo credit: Linsey Addario

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