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.

82 Comments so far

  1.    Haywood Rankin on March 29, 2012 8:31 am      Reply

    A borderless Africa, like the European Union or United States, would cause a massive flow of people from less to more prosperous areas, just as East Europeans have flowed into Germany, France, and England (and then back home again with the recession), or poor Southerners in the US going North (and now Northerners flocking South). But Europe and America are wealthy and can handle it, whereas Africa has had huge destabilization with population movements. Ghana and Nigeria do not seem to have been much destabilized even if they were not very nice to each other. Think of Zimbabweans in South Africa, Burkinabes in Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritanians in Senegal, South Sudanese in Khartoum.

  2.    Allen Page on March 29, 2012 10:51 am      Reply

    I’m just curious what the state of immigration is now? Have the countries opened up the borders? Are immigrants looked upon with wariness?

  3.    Shirley Akrasih on March 29, 2012 11:13 am      Reply

    The state of immigration is definitely much better now. Both Ghana and Nigeria allow other people, including other Africans, to migrate to their countries, but immigrants, particularly African ones, are still looked upon with a bit of wariness.

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