It’s an unarguable fact that nationalism is close to bigotry, and to avoid extreme connotation derived from local laws protecting one against other nationals in this era not to create disharmony , tension and unruly behaviour in Ghana ,a nation known globally for its peaceful inclination, president Akuffo Addo’s administration from the onset has entertained statements of intent to amend the seemingly aged Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) law that excluded foreigners from trading in Ghana’s local market including Nigerians.
A situation that drew national attention and attracted comments from the major players in the sector including one of Ghana’s leading business chain mogul and 3time presidential aspirant Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom Chairman of Groupe Nduom who backed the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) almost 2 years ago over their proposed resistance to amendment of the GIPC law.
According to Dr. Nduom, the move of the GIPC Chief Executive Officer Mr. Yofi Grant at the 2017 Economic Counselors Dialogue with business associations and foreign missions in Ghana where he assured of the GIPC plan of reviewing its Act in order to ensure that the Ghana business environment becomes more attractive and competitive in order to attract the biggest companies globally to come to Ghana to do business has the likelihood to put local businesses at a disadvantage if not checked properly.
GUTA enforcing the controversial law every Ghana govt shy away from.
GUTA whom has been at the helms of the affairs of stopping the infiltration of foreigners in Ghana market which mostly targets Nigerian traders didn’t hide their displeasure over the intent of the present administration allowing the leaders of GIPC to call for amendments to Section 27 of the GIPC Act 865, which focuses on local enterprises. The Greater Accra Regional Branch of GUTA in a statement then emphasized the need for the President Nana Akufo Addo to stop the GIPC from going ahead with the move.
From Kumasi to Accra, Tiptoe lane computer accessories stalls, Abossokai Auto spare parts market, to Newtown roadside electrical shops, and Suame magazine in Ashanti Region of Ghana , Nigerian traders has been unwilling players to this hurtful and frustrating scenario that debases their dignity and stifles their means of livelihood in Ghana while their Ghanaian counterparts has unhindered access to every corner of Nigerian Market be it in Oshodi , Agege or Onitsha.
Those that has been in the know of the pitiful plight of Nigerian traders in Ghana in the past 10years will unarguably testify to the fact that there seems to be a political undertone to this nightmare that consistently haunts Nigerian traders in Ghana from administration to administration and unarguably heats up whenever Ghana presidential election is around the corner.
Ghana Nigeria Trade Impasse a persisting regional embarrassment
All the past presidents of Ghana in this decade from late John Evans Atta mills, John Dramani Mahama and now president Akuffo Addo all has at one time or another in their time in office faced this worrisome debacle that always has only Nigerian shops locked and goods allowed to rot, resulting in heavy financial loss on Nigerian traders.
So many Nigerian Traders has left Ghana in the course of this brouhaha, many empty handed after pleading and waiting for years for their shops to be unlocked so that they can at least see if there are goods they can retrieve and leave Ghana for good with no avail.
The consistent locking of shops has called attention to the ECOWAS protocol on free trade ,a treaty that ascents to freedom of goods and movement of people in the sub region which Ghana signed to.
Nigerian Union of Traders Exploits on the issue.
The Nigerian Union of Traders Ghana (NUTAG) who has been at the forefront of this issue on the Nigerian side has employed every willing strategy to find a lasting solution to this issue to no avail, from taking Ghana Govt to ECOWAS Court, paying visit to the Nigerian seat of power in Aso-Rock Abuja to dialogue with Nigerian Govt on their plight and of course high delegate dialogue between officials of the two government and the Nigerian High Commission Ghana has yielded little or no answer to the faceoff.
President Akuffo Addo’s cautiousness.
After the latest incident in which members of NUTAG and GUTA clashed at tiptoe lane few weeks ago and led to arrest of about 14 people as reported in the mainstream media, the ugly situation has resurfaced at a tricky time when Ghanaians are preparing to make up their mind and cast their vote for the best presidential candidate who will portray to have their best interest at heart.
The keen observers of this situation since it erupted almost a decade now, who were elated at the body language of the present administration in reviewing the act are still optimistic on the ability of the present administration in finding a dynamic solution to the issue regardless of the fact that President Akuffo Addo has backed GUTA in his latest statement on the issue.
“Nigerians cannot complain about our enforcement of our laws, they are doing it in their own country. So they cannot complain, there is nothing discriminatory about it. The Chinese, the Nigerians all of them should be put in the same pot in terms of the application of the law.”
“What I am thinking and hoping is that members of GUTA would not take things into their own hand and that is why I intervened. GUTA cannot take the law into their own hands and by that be closing shops and all that; there is no future in that.”
“This is a very delicate and difficult issue but I think some things are obvious. GUTA are right in their interpretation of the law. The laws of our country until they are changed, have banned foreigners from engaging in retail trading in our country as well as activities in our market. Those are reserved mainly for Ghanaians.
“So if people who are known not to be Ghanaians get involved, people are expected to get agitated about it. What we need to do with this agitation is to be more rigid in enforcing the law and I am hoping the measures put in place with the support of GUTA have begun to work now. If people take the law into their own hands before you know, we have anarchy. So I am hoping they have taken that into account and at the same time I think it is up to us the state to make sure our laws are properly applied.” President Akuffo Addo affirmed.
From this latest official statement on the subject, the seemingly hope of Nigerian traders in Ghana had of finding a way out of the situation seem deflated as the recent shops that members of GUTA locked few weeks back has remain shut at Tip Toe Lane and the affected Nigerian traders are once again at a loss of how to find their way out of the quandary.
The 2015 Solution No one is talking about.
When this trade issue persisted in 2014 and 2015, series of dialogues were held at the time and a solution was proffered to help in addressing the situation, unfortunately everyone seems to have discarded the agreement that was seemingly reached between Nigerian High Commission Ghana led by Amb. Oluseyi Onafowokan and Hon. Ekwow Spio Garbrah the then Minister of Trade and Industry Ghana.
The accord reached then which was hinged on the need for Ghanaian Government to provide a space for Nigerian traders or as preferred by Ghana Govt an ECOWAS Market or Foreigners Market where foreigners in Ghana will have their separate space to ply their trade in Ghana thereby leaving the already existing local markets for Ghanaians.
Amb. Oluseyi Onafowokan former Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana then communicated this agreement officially to Nigerian traders in Ghana assuring them of the final end to this social tragedy ,a message they received with appreciation ,as they saw this suggestion then as an outcome that they can live with and was willing to play their part in ensuring that its accomplishment.
As this trade impasse lingers and more and more Nigerians in Ghana are having their shops locked there is no denying the potency of this issue multiplying our collective ugliness if not checked, as already some people are raising alarm on the capability of this trade impasse leading to unrest between Nigerians and Ghanaians resident in both nations thereby straining the long established bilateral relationship of the two nations thereby disturbing the peace in the two nation.
In this era of the world as a global village and nations inter-dependence on each other no countries economy or socio cultural space can function or thrive perfectly without collaborations with other nations. So Ghana Government who has the most to do in finding a way to effectively resolve this issue needs to act quickly to avert the world misinterpreting their self preserving law as prejudicial.