Five Months After Bilateral Talks - Nigerians' Shops Remain Shut in Ghana
Five months after a series of bilateral talks between the Nigerian government and authorities in Ghana aimed at addressing the nearly a decade-long controversy that led to the closure of Nigerian traders' shops in Ghana, the issues have not been resolved.
Dozens of shops belonging to Nigerians are still under lock and key; while most of the owners are stranded. Some of them said they beg to feed even as many of them remain reluctant to come back home despite a window created by the federal government to facilitate their safe return.
The centre of the lingering controversy was a $1 million levy imposed on Nigerian traders and other foreign investors to pay Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), before the shops would be opened.
The conditions set by the Ghanaian authorities had triggered a debate in Nigeria and within the African sub-region, which many considered as a breach 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 traders but it appeared not much has been achieved.
The committee was made up of representatives of the ministries of Interior, Trade and Investment, Foreign Affairs and the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM).
After a meeting with a delegation of the Nigerian traders, the committee resolved to engage the Ghanaian government in every way possible to end the crisis, with a promise to evacuate any trader who may wish to return home.
40 more shops closed after talks
The President of the Nigerian Traders Union in Ghana, Mr Chukwuemeka Nnaji, said in a telephone interview with Daily Trust that Ghanaian authorities closed forty more shops after the bilateral talks. According to him, Ghanaian authorities made the closure a week to Ghana's general elections.
"To be precise, it happened on November 30, 2020; one week to Ghanaian election. I returned from Nigeria then. As I arrived in Ghana, they came and locked up my shop, and 40 other shops.
"Those shops were different from what I reported months ago to the ministerial committee in Nigeria. Till date, all the shops are locked up.
"The update now is that Nigerians' shops are still closed and the authorities are warming up to close more," he said.
Nnaji said during his delegations' meeting with the ministerial committee, they were assured that Nigerian and Ghanaian governments would negotiate with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem.
On whether the government is making efforts to return some of the stranded Nigerian traders, he said, "If the only option Nigeria has is to evacuate us from Ghana, I think it's well and good because we must leave Ghana for a reason and that reason is that Ghanaians don't want us to trade in their country. We have not committed any sin. We have registered our businesses and we are paying taxes.
"Ghana is not like Nigeria; here, we pay taxes in millions of naira equivalent. Last year, they gave me an 11,000 Ghana cedis estimate, almost a million naira. A working permit is $500 while a resident permit is $400.
"Ghana's law does not stop foreigners from trading. There is nowhere the law says that, but they just formed it (a new rule) and are using it to colour us blue. And, I'm surprised that the government of Nana Akufo-Addo is supporting such things."
On the impact of the intervention by the ECOWAS parliament, he said, "Back in 2010, ECOWAS came and told Ghanaian officials that they do not have the right to sack Nigerian traders because we have the same citizenship as ECOWAS member states. But Ghanaians don't care about that."
Also speaking, the Secretary General of the Nigeria Union of Traders Association, Ghana (NUTAG), Comrade Evaristus Chukwuduruo Nwankwo, said: "The update on our situation here in Ghana is that the local traders are unrelenting in their agenda of chasing Nigerian traders away from Ghana, especially where they seem to have any little competition.
"As we speak, the over 250 shops locked on December 2, 2019, July 2020 and December 2020 have not been opened. In fact, some landlords who are working with GUTA have forcefully taken some shops back even when rents have not expired."