BY: JOSEPH OJUMU, ACCRA
There is uneasy calm among Nigeria retail traders in Ghana as a result of renewed Ghana Union of Traders Association’s (GUTA) demand on government to flush out the growing number of Nigeria traders in the retail business.
When a similar move was made two years ago, it came in the form of a policy that required all foreignrs doing business in Ghana to show evidence of having N300,000 dollars in investment funds in the nation. Sustained diplomatic negotiations succeeded in bringing a temporary halt to the policy.
Now, a new assault has been made with GUTA declaring war on the Nigeria Union of Trader’s Association in Ghana( NUTAG) as it has directed its member in Accra and Kumasi to close their shops in protest of unstable macroeconomic conditions and the increasing number of Nigerians and other foreigners like Chinese, Indians and Lebanese in the retail business.
The situation has created tension among some Nigerian Trader’s in the retail sector who are unsure of the results of the protest.
Comrade Barry Ndu Nwaihim, the Public Relations Officer of the All Nigeria Community in Ghana (ANC) , stated that the development has caused an unstable atmosphere among Nigerian traders who are unsure of what outcome the protest will have on their retail businesses.
As the protest intensifies , he said, Nigerian in the retail industry are worried over when the government task force will hit the market to close their shops.
All efforts, according to him, to meet GUTA to discuss the issue have proved futile, as the executives of the Association have refused to grant them audience to resolve the situation.
He noted that the situation has affected the stability of Nigeria retail business in the country as they daily have become increasingly anxious about the protest’s outcome .
In his comments on the subject, the Principal Community Officer of the Ghana Ministry of Trade and Industry, Dr John Hawking Asiedu who spoke to The Difference in an interview in Accra, blamed the GUTA leaders for the increasing number of Nigerians and other foreigners in the retail business.
He revealed that the same leaders of GUTA front for Nigerians and foreigners , especially the Chinese, to get shops in strategic markets.
“The Ministry’s preliminary investigations conducted with other state Agencies such as the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Ghana Investment Promotion Center ( GIPC) show that some leaders of the various trade groups under GUTA aid foreigners to get shops, then turn round to blame government for allowing foreigners into the market – even our own brothers, the Nigerian – that they flood the retail business when indeed their members front for the foreigners,” he said.
He , however, cautioned that government and the ministry will approach the two associations to bring the situation under control to prevent any retaliation from other countries since there are equally a great number of Ghanaians doing retail business in Nigeria and other countries.
He opined that the ECOWAS treaty allows other West African country citizens to engage in legal trade once they satisfy the host country’s requirements.
He called for reason to prevail and not to antagonize citizen of other West African countries , as the ECOWAS Protocol covered all the members state .
He cautioned the GUTA leadership that they should not take the law into their hand, but to allow the government and ECOWAS to look into the situation in order to let peace reign.
On his part, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, said all foreigners doing retail business in the market place should be relocated, adding that the laws of Ghana only allowed Ghanaians to do the retailing / petty trading in the market place.
Iddrisu explained that foreigners are to invest in the country based on their capacity and not to be struggling with locals for control of the retail business in the markets.
“They have to abide with our local laws in the country. We have set up a 30-man task force to sack all foreigners doing retail business in the market,” the Minister added.
The President of the Nigerian Union of Traders Association in Ghana (NUTAG), Mr. John Igwe Okala, said the Ghana government should be liberal in the application of the ECOWAS Treaty for the free movement of people, goods and services and also to have a relief on Nigerian traders in retail business as brothers within the Sub-Region .
The President of GUTA, Mr. Ofori is still pressing the Ghana government not to sleep on the trade matter that foreigners doing retail business should sack in their market place, stressing that the law says “all foreigners are not allowed to do retail business rather for wholesales business and also meet all the requirements from the Ghana investment promotion center, without that they will not be allowed in the market place And we have equally set up 30 men task force from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ghana Police Service, Ghana Immigration Service, Ghana Revenue Authority and the Ghana Union of Traders Association to sack all foreigners doing retail business in the Country.”
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has said that the problems confronting Nigerian businessmen in Ghana was receiving adequate attention.
He said the sub-regional parliament will continue to deploy the instrument of parliamentary diplomacy to address the challenges faced by the Nigerian business community in the country.
Ekweremadu gave the assurance in Abuja when he received the new justices of the ECOWAS Court of Justice led by its President, Hon. Justice Maria Do Ceu Monteiro Silva.
The team, according to the Special Adviser to the Speaker, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, was on a familiarisation tour to the parliament in Abuja.
Ekweremadu explained that past interventions by the Community Parliament were helpful in resolving issues relating to the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act.
He expressed the hope that such matters would not get to the level of judicial pronouncements.
He said, “As a Parliament, we have had cause to intervene at certain times on this matter and I am happy to stress that the government of Ghana has always responded positively to these interventions and the matters were resolved.
“We do not want a situation where certain things that have to do with freedom of movement and freedom of establishment of citizens of member States will now go to the Community Court of Justice with two member States contending.
“That will not be good for our relationship.”
He, however, stressed that the parliament would continue to collaborate with the Community Court of Justice to deepen democracy in the sub-region.
He also pledged that the body would continue to promote compliance by member States with the verdicts of the Court as a platform for the peoples of the sub-region who feel unjustly treated to seek redress.
President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Hon. Justice Maria Do Ceu Monteiro Silva, emphasised the need for the parliament and the Community Court of Justice to continue to work together to promote the interest of the ECOWAS citizens.
She pledged the support of the Court to the quest for the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament, noting that it was vital for the integration process and development of the sub-region