Fresh concern mounts over imposition of fees
By Akpo Ometan
Analysts are saying that Nigeria and Ghana, two of the leading lights in the West Africa integration project, need to cooperate better if the goals of West African and African Unity which has led to the birth of organisations like the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS and the African Union, AU, are to be realized.
Speaking on recent developments in the field, they say that as things stand now several natural dynamics seem to be building in that direction and that it is important that state actors in particular should not do anything untoward to disrupt the pace.
One such concern has to do with the imposition of fees and levies.
In a recent Punch newspaper report for example, the President of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, was quoted as appealing to the Ghanaian Parliament to review the $120 Residency Fee imposed on Nigerians living in Ghana.
The Senate President made the appeal on Wednesday when he was visited by the Ghanaian parliamentarians at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
Saraki, while responding to comments by the leader of the Ghanaian delegation, Hon. Alfred Agbesi, said, “I am appealing to you, my colleagues in the parliament in Ghana, on the recent laws passed on Nigerians to pay a residency fee of $120. I am appealing that you review this law and take a second look at it again, as things are hard. This recession is biting hard.”
A statement by the Special Assistant to the Senate President on Print Media, Mr. Chuks Okocha, said Ghana had earlier in the year imposed a fee of $120 on Nigerians and other immigrants living in the country for a total of 90 days or more in a given year and were required by law to register for the Non-Citizen Ghana Card at the cost of $120 (N19,000).
The Act, which is enshrined under the Foreigners Identification Management System pursuant to the NIA Act 2006 (Act 707), the National Identity Register Act 2008 (Act 750) and the National Identity Regulations 2012, made it compulsory that the non-citizen Ghana card is the mandatory form of identification to be used in all transactions, including application for or renewal of residence permits, opening or running of bank account, etc.
Saraki also commended the Ghanaian Parliament for supporting Nigeria to emerge as the Vice President for the West African Region in the just concluded Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Geneva.’
It will be recalled that there had been considerable disquiet months ago during the era of former President Goodluck Jonathan when the Ghanaian authorities had requested businesses operating within the country to show evidence that they had brought in as much as $300, 000 apiece as proof and permit to continue operating within Ghana, a policy that many reasoned was going to severely affect thousands of Nigerian businesses operating within the country.
A series of bilateral consultations had led to the suspension of the policy then.
Nigerian investments in Ghana have grown quite considerably over the years with the country, some sources say, now accounting for as much as 10 per cent of all Foreign Direct Investment in the country.
From banking to insurance, tourism to aviation, there has been a steady upsurge in the volume of trade and business between both countries in more recent years.
Even beyond investments, cultural and social relations have also grown, helped largely by the considerable exchange going on in the films and music sector as well as the increase in air and land travel between Nigeria and Ghana.
Pix: ECOWAS President, Marcel Alain de Souza