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Ghana Sends Buses, Nigeria Won’t Extend Deadline

May 9, 1985

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Illegal aliens left by plane, ship and truck convoy, but unofficial counts indicated only a fraction of the 700,000 the government has ordered out of the country would make it by the Friday deadline.

The military government’s interior minister, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Magoro, said Thursday that the government did not intend to extend the deadline, but also indicated no force would be used against those who did not get out by Friday.

″They have no cause to fear,″ he said of the aliens, who are accused of taking the jobs of Nigerians now that the oil boom is over and of causing the high crime rates in cities.

Asked by a British Broadcasting Corp. interviewer whether those remaining would be forced out, he said: ″I wouldn’t call it forceable expulsion. We’re giving them the option of getting their papers in order. The element of fear as far as this exercise is concerned is not there.″

Magoro said about 50,000 aliens had left this West African country through neighboring Benin and ″quite a number have gone by both air and sea,″ but gave no total figure.

″We’ll make sure we get them out of the country and it’s going to be done very, very orderly without any hitches,″ he said.

Press reports estimated that less than a quarter of the 700,000 would be out of the country by Friday.

The government of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, which came to power in a military coup Dec. 31, 1983, has carefully avoided the chaos and violence that marked a previous expulsion of 2 million aliens in January 1983.

Ghana said about 6,000 of its citizens were stranded at the Benin-Nigeria border and it sent 10 buses there Thursday to pick up some of them. About 300,000 of the aliens being expelled are said to be Ghanaians.

Ghanian state radio claimed, in the broadcast monitored in London, that Nigerian border police confiscated money and belongings from deportees and some were forced to leave their jobs without the pay they had earned.

The exodus has been slowed by careful border checks of departing aliens, to prevent them from taking out essential commodities or more than $22 worth of Nigerian currency.

Neighboring countries such as Benin have contributed to the delay by opening border crossings only during daylight hours.

State-owned Lagos radio said extra immigration officers were sent to Seme, on the frontier with Benin, because of a three-mile backup.

Immigrants waiting for the Benin border checks had to spend one or more nights in makeshift quarters and heavy seasonal rains created miserable conditions, a Nigerian correspondent reported.

Lagos newspapers and the Nigerian news agency said many illegal immigrants, veterans of the previous roundup, had taken cover until the expulsion is over.

Others said they were going only temporarily. ″We are returning to our country today, but we will back tomorrow,″ Adamou Youssoufou of Niger was quoted as saying.

The state-run radio announced Thursday that aliens who could prove ownership of their cars, and that taxes had been paid, could take them out of the country - a major relaxation of the rule that no essential commodities could be taken.

About 100,000 of the immigrants are from Niger, one of the sub-Saharan countries hard hit by the drought and people from most other drought-stricken countries also are represented.

Ghana’s contingent is the largest, as it was in the 1983 expulsion.

A private Nigerian air charter company began shuttle flights to Accra on Thursday and several ships were taking other Ghanaians home.

Update hourly