“Ghana Must Go”: The History of Ghana’s 1969 Aliens Compliance Order and Nigeria’s 1983 Expulsion Order
March 29, 2012 | Shirley Akrasih |15 Comments
Due to major economic concerns, along with the belief that immigrants caused or exacerbated many of the social ills plaguing Ghana and Nigeria respectively, both nations created strict anti-immigration policies. In 1969, Ghana enacted the Aliens Compliance Order, in which hundreds of thousands of immigrants, mostly Nigerian, were expelled from the country. In 1983, Nigeria introduced the Expulsion Order, in which about the government ordered over 2 million immigrants to leave, most of which were Ghanaian.
In 1957, after Ghana gained independence, many Nigerians began migrating to Ghana. The Convention People’s Party (CPP), which had been originally affiliated with Kwame Nkrumah, had maintained a liberal immigration policy because of the party and government’s pan-Africanist orientation and the want to make Ghana the forefront of African unity. For example, in the 1960 census, immigrants made up 12 percent of the Ghanaian population of 8.4 million people and immigrants from other African countries, particularly Nigeria, constituted 98 percent of the foreign-born population.
The relationship became sour when the influx of immigrants began to shift the demographics of the country, which made people unhappy. The most widespread reason for discontent was economic competition and, also, some Ghanaians blamed immigrants for a wave of crime that occurred in the late 1960s. Thus, under former Ghanaian president Kofi Busia’s Aliens Compliance Order of 1969, Nigerians and other immigrants were forced to leave Ghana. The order required of all foreigners in the country to be in possession of residence permit if they did not already have it or to obtain it within a two-week period. Kofi Busia expelled 20,000 to 500,000 Nigerians in a time period of 14 days to 3 months. The order angered some West African governments, especially Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Mali, Niger, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso whose citizens were mostly affected by the expulsion. The 1969 Order also affected Ghana’s image in mainland Africa and the rest of the world.
In 1983, the Nigerian government expelled 2 million Africans out of Nigeria. Ghana was facing severe drought and economic problems, so many Ghanaians were welcomed in the 1970s by Nigeria, which was in the midst of an oil boom and in need of cheap labor. In early 1983, as the oil boom faded and Nigerians needed a group to blame for their economic and social woes, the government enacted the Expulsion Order and up to 700,000 Ghanaians were expelled from Nigeria. However, soon after, Nigerian employers allegedly invited back many deportees because they were unable to fill the vacant positions with domestic labor. Unfortunately, in May 1985, the Nigerian government again ordered an estimated 100,000 Ghanaians to be expelled from Nigeria. This action further strained relations between the two countries .
Despite the large scale deportation of immigrants, neither country benefitted much economically from those harsh measures. As can be imagined, much confusion surrounded the actual creation and execution of the Aliens Compliance Orders (1969) and the Expulsion Order (1983) on both sides. Although the orders were technically directed at immigrants without proper documentation, many legal immigrants were forced to leave or pay astronomical bribes in order to stay. Both countries had the right to create more stringent immigration policies, but because of the nature of both orders, they fostered much animosity between the two nations and their relationship has never fully recovered from it.