The deportation of West African migrants from Nigeria occurred following a January 1983 executive order from President Shehu Shagari, which forced undocumented immigrants to leave the country or face arrest. As a result of Shagari’s order, over two million migrants were deported, including one million Ghanaian nationals.
“Ghana Must Go” bag
In Ghana, most people use a certain woven bag to pack their belongings whenever they are traveling. For some of us, it is the best and appropriate bag to contain all your stuff. The “Ghana Must Go” bag is also popular in Nigeria. However, when you come to Ghana, it is known by many people as “Landlord Carry Me” which is translated in Twi as, “Efiewura Soame”. I guess with time, the history behind that name too will also be discovered.
Under the “Ghana Aliens Compliance Order” law enacted by Ghana’s Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia in 1969, three million Nigerians and other African and non-African immigrants were asked to leave Ghana as they made up 20% of the country’s population at the time.
On January 1983, President Shehu Shagari issued an executive order that expelled two million undocumented West African migrants, more than half of whom were from Ghana.
These West African immigrants had been attracted to Nigeria because of the 1970s oil boom, but by 1983 the economy had weakened, and it was an election year.
The Nigerian politicians hoped the expulsion would prove popular. Across Nigeria, up to two million migrants heard the warnings of arrest, prosecution and forced deportation if they didn’t comply.
They packed what they could into trucks, cars, pick-ups and taxis and tried to get out of the country. The primary route to Ghana was West wards, passing through Benin & Togo.
As a result of an attempted coup the previous year, President Jerry John Rawlings had closed Ghana’s main land border (Aflao) with Togo and to avoid a sudden influx of returnees, Togo then also shut its borders with Benin.
Consequently, once the returnees reached Benin, the way out was restricted, and they were forced to remain in the port of Cotonou, attempting to find a boat to Ghana.
Tens of thousands of refugees, mostly Ghanaians, were massed at the border of the two small African states of Benin and Togo.
After the returnees had been stranded for more than a week with many running out of money and going hungry, Ghana reopened its borders, causing Togo to do likewise so that Ghanaians could return home.
During the return to Ghana, a type of huge cheap matted woven nylon conquered bags used by the migrants to move their belongings, got the name “Ghana Must Go”. The bags are still very popular up to this day.
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