Nigerian Stores Remain Closed in Ghana Five Months After Bilateral Talks

Nigerian Stores Remain Closed in Ghana Five Months After Bilateral Talks

Five months after a series of bilateral negotiations between the Nigerian government and the Ghanaian authorities aimed at resolving a nearly ten-year dispute that led to the closure of Nigerian merchants’ stores in Ghana, the problems have not been resolved.

Dozens of Nigerian-owned shops are still under lock and key; while most of the owners are locked out. Some of them said they were asking for food, although many were still reluctant to go home, despite the fact that the federal government had created a window to facilitate their safe return.

At the center of the ongoing controversy was a $ 1 million levy levied on Nigerian traders and other foreign investors to pay the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) prior to store openings.

The conditions imposed by the Ghanaian authorities sparked debate in Nigeria and in the African subregion, which many saw as a violation of ECOWAS trade protocols.

After receiving a formal complaint from its citizens, the Nigerian government set up a ministerial committee to find a lasting solution to the plight of the merchants, but little seems to have been achieved.

The commission included representatives from the ministries of the interior, trade and investment, foreign affairs and the Nigerian Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM).

After meeting with a delegation of Nigerian traders, the committee decided to involve the Ghanaian government in any way possible to end the crisis, promising to evacuate any traders who wish to return home.

40 more stores closed after negotiations

Chukwuemeka Nnaji, president of the Union of Nigerian Merchants in Ghana, told the Daily Trust in a telephone interview that Ghanaian authorities have closed forty more stores following bilateral talks. According to him, the Ghanaian authorities have closed the week in the general elections in Ghana.

“To be precise, it happened on November 30, 2020; election week in Ghana. So, I came back from Nigeria. When I arrived in Ghana, they came and locked up my store and 40 other stores.

“These stores were different from what I reported to the ministerial committee in Nigeria a few months ago. All shops are closed until today.

“According to the update, Nigerian stores are still closed and the authorities are preparing to close even more,” he said.

Nnaji said that when his delegations met with the committee of ministers, he was assured that the governments of Nigeria and Ghana would negotiate to find a lasting solution to the problem.

When asked if the government is making efforts to return some of the blocked Nigerian traders, he said, “If the only option Nigeria has is to evacuate us from Ghana, I think that is good because we have to leave Ghana for for a while. The reason is that the Ghans do not want us to trade in their country. We have not committed any sin. We have registered our activity and pay taxes.

“Ghana is not like Nigeria; here we pay taxes in millions of nairas. Last year they gave me an estimate of 11,000 Ghanaian cedis, almost one million naira. A work permit costs $ 500 and a residence permit costs $ 400.

“Ghanaian law does not prohibit foreigners from engaging in trade. The law doesn’t say it anywhere, but they just formed it (a new rule) and are using it to color us blue. And I’m surprised the government of Nana Akufo-Addo supports these things. “

On the impact of parliamentary intervention by ECOWAS, she said: “In 2010, ECOWAS came in and told Ghanaian officials that they had no right to fire Nigerian traders because we have the same citizenship as the country’s member states. ECOWAS. But the Ghanaians don’t care. “

Also in his speech, the Secretary General of the Nigerian Traders Union, Ghana (NUTAG), Comrade Evaristus Chukvuduruo Nwankwo, said: “The latest update on our situation here in Ghana is that local traders are tireless in their program of hunting down Nigerian traders, starting from Ghana, especially where they have few competitors.

“At the moment, more than 250 stores closed on December 2, 2019, July 2020 and December 2020 have not reopened. In fact, some of the owners working with GUTA have forcibly taken over some stores even if the rent has not expired yet. “

‘Our members are now beggars’

Speaking about the living conditions of its members since 2019, Nwankwo said, “Many people have become beggars. We lost some of them who couldn’t afford to cope with their underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes.

“The Chargé d’Affaires of the High Commissioner of Nigeria in Accra, Ms. Esther Areva, kindly sent us a donation from her widow, and we are grateful to her. I must emphasize that this was a personal donation from him and not from the government of Nigeria. “

NUTAG President Chukwuemek Nnaji also announced that their stores were closed months after the visit of the Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives. Femi Gbajabiamila, after which Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stopped.

“Currently, Ghanaian traders are demanding that our stores take over. Many of our members have lost their shops.

“We left Abuja with high hopes and full confidence that things would get better, but six months later, the Ghanaian authorities continue to close other stores.”

We work with our traders – FG

When asked about the government’s position on the plight of traders in Ghana, Nigerian Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) spokesman Abdulrahman Balogun said the newly created ministerial committee is working closely with traders.

Balogun said that after traders met with a ministerial committee last December, the federal government has pledged to facilitate the return of those wishing to return to Nigeria.

“It has been about four months, but traders have not yet accepted the offer,” he said.

Return to bilateral negotiations

The Daily Trust recalled that Foreign Minister Jeffrey Onyama last year summoned Ghana’s Chargé d’Affaires to Nigeria, Ms Iva Denu, with whom she discussed the closure of Nigerian-owned stores in Accra to address the issue. …

Oneama described the actions taken by the Ghanaian authorities as politically motivated. But his Ghanaian counterpart, Shirley Hayorkor Botchway, responded to his accusations by insisting that the repression concerned illegal foreign business in Ghana.

Botchway, described in a tweet by Onyeama, who cites Ghana’s retail policy as a politically motivated move as “the most unfortunate.”

He said the Ghanaian government did not target any specific nationality during the exercise. “Countries sometimes make difficult decisions to enforce their laws, just as Nigeria chose to close its borders to prevent smuggling despite its impact on ECOWAS countries,” he said.

In addition, on April 2, 2021, House President Femi Gbajabiamila and the current President of the Ghanaian Parliament, Albert Bagbin, held a major meeting trying to find long-term solutions to the trade dispute involving the Nigerian. traders in Ghana.

Gbajabiamila briefed his counterpart on his visit to Ghana in late 2020 to ease tensions and secure commitments from the Ghanaian government on the trade dispute.

“I am looking forward to working with you. There are many issues for both of our countries, which, I think, with the help of parliamentary diplomacy and discussions through secondary channels, we can solve for the citizens of both countries.

“I’m sure you know a couple of them, including the relationship between Ghana and Nigeria in terms of traders and residents there, as well as yours here,” he said.

Gbajabiamila said there are two critical issues right now, such as the relationship between Ghana and Nigerian traders, the CoSAP issue, and many other issues as they progress.

For his part, Bagbin said he welcomes the idea of ​​improving relations with the Nigerian parliament and is ready to reciprocate the visit of the Nigerian rapporteur to discuss the issues.

“I am sure that other African countries are looking to Ghana and Nigeria to show them the way, and I am confident that, given your vast experience and what I have gone through in 19 good years in parliamentary diplomacy, I am confident that there will be no nothing we couldn’t do. inch. able to overcome. “

Tension diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Ghana

In addition to the $ 1 million levy from the Ghanaian government, which embarrassed Nigerian traders, many analysts see the Nigerian mission’s confiscation of property in violation of the Vienna Convention and the ongoing hostilities against Nigerians as a kind of retaliation.

President Muhammadu Bukhari closed the borders with Nigeria, influencing many actions at home and abroad. Land borders were closed with Seme, Illela, Maygatari, Magama and Nfun in August 2019, which the federal government attributed to increased smuggling of weapons and agricultural products.

At the time, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo asked President Muhammad Bukhari to consider the impact of politics on Ghanaian business.

Poor negotiation opportunities

Despite attempts by the Nigerian authorities to negotiate with Ghana, Ghana’s Information Minister Kojo Nkrumah said the $ 1 million trade tax and other rules imposed on Nigerian traders in Ghana were warranted.

Nkrumah reacted to the statement by the Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Lai Mohammed, that 825 Nigerians were deported from Ghana in one year.

Mohammed also said that Nigeria is concerned about attacks and harassment of its citizens, as well as the progressive hostility towards the country by the Ghanaian authorities.

However, Nkrumah also accused Nigerian traders in Ghana of trade irregularities, which he said included “tax evasion, immigration offenses, trade in substandard products, violation of the Ghana Investment Promotion Center law, improper business registration, inadequate payment for businesses.” operating permits, falsification of documents and much more. “

The diplomat, who does not want his name to be published, said that while further diplomatic efforts are needed to resolve the problem, Nigeria must rethink its relationship with its neighbors.

“At the moment, only in Nigeria people from neighboring countries are treated like kings and queens … Once in the country, they become citizens and enjoy all the privileges.

“I’m not exaggerating, but the truth is that we have more Ghanaians and citizens of other countries here than there are Nigerians in those countries. It is unthinkable to ask a trader to pay $ 1 million because it is about almost half a billion naira.

“I feel sorry for our people in Ghana because they are afraid to return home for fear of the unknown. Our government must defend the country to protect our people from a position of strength, ”he said.

Source: – Daily Trust

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