Nigerian traders in Ghana said they are ready to return home following the closure of shops belonging to Nigerians by Ghanaian security agents in Abossey Okai Circle, Accra and Kumasi, Ashanti Region over non-payment of the imposed $1 million tax.
KanyiDaily recalled last week, a Nigerian trader whose store was forcefully locked up by the Ghanaian security officials, had recorded a video of the incident.
In the video, the trader is asked to pay a $1m as tax to the Ghanian government. Though the victim shows the officials his business registration certificate and other documents, the enforcement team insists on shutting his store.
Also allegations of harassment by Ghana traders, sparked protest among Nigerian traders and resulted in diplomatic talks between the two West African countries.
Speaking with Punch in a telephone interview, the President of the Nigerian Traders Union in Ghana (NTUG), Chukwuemeka Nnaji said that ECOWAS nationals should be treated as Ghanaian citizens when it comes to doing business.
Nnaji added that said that Nigerian traders are ready to return home, if Ghana refuses to honour the multilateral trade agreements of the ECOWAS.
“The Protocol of the rights of establishment say the citizen of any member-state who moves into another member-state should have the right to economic activities. You can set up a company and manage it. And the same legislation that is used for its own citizen should be applied to ECOWAS citizens.
“Therefore, if that protocol is followed, Nigerian traders in Ghana should not be asked to pay $1m, unless the same is being demanded of Ghanaian traders. Nigeria has a foreign policy when it comes to trade. But we have never applied it on Ghanaians because there is an agreement.
“That shouldn’t even be a matter for discussion, but if Ghanaians think they must apply their law in its fullness, we are ready to go home because we cannot fight with them over their law,” he said.
The NTUG president added that over 150 businesses had been closed, though he refrained from giving an estimate of the worth of businesses affected or losses incurred as a result of the mass closure.
“I know it’s not as easy as that. Those places are high-income areas where people pay a lot of money. Getting a shop there would be between 50,000 to 80,000 cedis, which is N4m to N6m.
“So far, we are talking about between 150 and 200 (businesses). The last figure I got from the public relations officer was 158, but they continued (closing shops) the next day, which means it would be over 160 now, or less than 200 shops,” Nnaji said.
While bemoaning the mistreatment of Nigerian traders in Ghana, Nnaji said, “Regarding what happened last week, we have had it worse than that. Ghanaian traders would organise hoodlums to beat us up. Some of our members were attacked with machetes.
“In 2018, we called the attention of the governments of both countries to the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians. We kept it cool because the governments intervened and things were curtailed. One would not be far from the truth to say these are xenophobic attacks, but this time, it’s in a different form. The (Ghanaian) government is not handling this.”
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria said engagements were ongoing with the Ghanaian government to resolve the issues surrounding Nigerian businesses and traders in the country, while assuring that it was a matter of “great concern.”
The spokesperson for the ministry, Mr Ferdinand Nwoye, on Friday, added that while the Federal Government did not plan to evacuate any of the traders, whoever was willing to return to Nigeria was free to do so.
“When you talk about efforts in resolving the matter; that is fine. I don’t think there is any option of bringing them back by the government. Any individual who feels e wants to return can; that is okay. But the government is engaging with the Ghanaian authorities at the highest level and things are going very fast, aimed at resolving the whole matter.
“So, it is a matter of priority and of great concern to the government. So, the engagement is going on both here and in Ghana through our mission there. There was no reported vandalism. It was just a report about the locking up of their shops.”
When contacted, the Vice Consul, Ghana High Commission, Mrs Ruth Kumah, told PUNCH that she was not aware of the threat by the Nigerian traders to leave Ghana.
But the acting Vice President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association, Clement Boateng, while responding to the Nigerian traders’ protests in a telephone interview, said that ECOWAS protocol is not superior to Ghanaian law.
He however, claimed that the closure of Nigerian shops in that country had nothing to do with the ECOWAS Protocol. Boateng said:
“The ECOWAS Protocol does not supersede any country’s sovereign laws and that is the more reason why Nigeria found it necessary to close its borders without even giving prior notice to the other members because Nigeria found it necessary to protect their local industry. And up till now, it has not found it expedient to open the border and nobody has complained.
“So, why is it that Ghana is enforcing its laws and Nigeria is complaining? Why? We don’t understand. It is a matter of applying the law and it is not to Nigerians alone. It is applied to all foreigners. All foreigners who have not satisfied the requirement of the law are being asked either to provide their documents for the authorities to scrutinise.
“If you provide your documents, they (Ghanaian authorities) scrutinise them and they see that you have complied with the rules and regulations of the law, they allow you to operate your business.”
That’s the third time this year GUTA members would shut Nigerian-owned shops, claiming it was waging a war on foreigners doing retail business in the country.