• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Closure of Nigerian shops: FG may drag Ghana to ECOWAS Court

Nigerian shops in Ghana

The Federal Government has faulted the action of the authorities in Ghana to close shops belonging to Nigerians resident in that country, saying it may be forced to drag the Ghanaian authorities to the community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Court) if it’s found to have breached of the sub-region’s Protocol of free movement of peoples.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said this while welcoming a delegation of the Progressive Ambassadors of Nigerian (PAN) led by its President Jasper, which came to brief the minister on the disturbing development and the need for the Nigerian government to take urgent steps to address the issue.

It was widely reported that closure of the shops angered the National Association of Nigerian Traders in Ghana (NANT) who cried for help to the Nigerian government accusing the Ghanaian authorities of discrimination as shops belonging to Nigerians in Accra were locked up by Ghanaian authorities who demanded evidence of their Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) registration.

The requirement for GIPC registration is $1 million minimum foreign equity, while registration fee is 31,500 cedis.

The Minister told reporters that Nigerian government had reached agreement with Ghana over the GIPC over a year ago but expressed concerns that the matter has reared its head again. He added that the Ghanaian Code that stipulates that retail trade is exclusive preserve of Ghanaians appears in conflict with the ECOWAS Protocol.

“What is the point of having and economic community if at the end of the day, each country will make laws and regulations that are in contradiction with the protocol? That is an issue that needs to be addressed.

“The first step we want to take is to be sure about all the facts. Our Minister of Trade is going to engage his counterpart from Ghana. We have summoned the Ghanaian High Commissioner, who has given us information; we have the intention of calling our Charge’ D Affairs in Ghana for consultation and again to get to the fact.

“And we are also going to get in touch with ECOWAS to understand clearly what the ECOWAS perspective of this is and if this law is in contravention of the ECOWAS Protocol. So, once we have all the facts then we consider all our options with the Ghanaian authorities

“We don’t want to anticipate what our actions would be but we will consider all the options depending on the facts. Clearly if it is contravening ECOWAS Protocol, then we would have to look at solution including the ECOWAS Court as the final arbiter. “We will also consider the issue of reciprocity in terms of the concrete measures that will be applied.

“We are following the matter very closely and we want the matter to be addressed within the shortest possible time,” he said.

ECOWAS protocol relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment stipulates the right of ECOWAS citizens to enter, reside and establish economic activities in the territory of other member states and offers a three step roadmap of five years each to achieve freedom of movement of persons after fifteen years.

BusinessDay learnt that the Ghanaian authorities have suspended the action until the matter is resolved.

President of PAN Emenike, who described the action as “xenophobic attacks,’’ noted that it is taking a disturbing dimension as tension is rising because the Nigerians are being molested and beaten up.

The Ghanaian authorities through the spokesman of the Minister of Trade Boakye Boateng however, debunked the claim of discrimination.

He said the traders, who have been served notice for over a year, were pardoned in December following the intervention of President Nana Akufo-Addo.

“It cannot be that we’ve been insensitive. If that is what they’re saying, I’ll be disappointed because I’ll rather say they have rather been unfair to us as a regulatory body because we have given them more time than enough to the extent even the Ghanaians thought that the ministry was not on their side or the ministry wasn’t ready to even enforce law,” Boateng said.

“So, it’s very surprising to me for them to say that we’ve not given them enough time. If you recall as far back as December last year, these shops were locked, the president intervened and we asked that the shops be re-opened because the very law that gives GUTA the right to be the sole traders in our market, that same law requires that a certain group of people are those who can go and do law enforcement and not you, so allow us to do our work.

“They complied, the shops were opened. Since then we have given them an opportunity to regularise the document and submit it to us for verification, which has not been done. Now, this exercise started from Abossey-Okai on Monday. Because we have never been to Abossey-Okai for this exercise, when we went there we did not just start locking shops. We went there, we inspected the shops and we gave them notices that in 14-days they should ensure that all their necessary documentations be complete. These people have been served notices for over a year now.”