The Federal Government must as a matter of urgency wade into the ordeals of Nigerian traders especially traders doing business in most African Countries such as South Africa and Ghana. The harassment of Nigerians in Ghana can no longer be treated with kid gloves. It requires serious, intensive engagement, else the issue might boil over into xenophobic attacks, like South Africa, which will seriously threaten the cordial relationship between Nigeria and Ghana.
Following the closure of more than 400 shops by the authorities in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, some members of the Nigerian Union of Traders Associations (NUTA), Ghana, led by its President, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nnaji, recently staged a protest at the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Abuja, demanding that Ghana should respect the treaty on free trade and movement of persons in the sub-region and reopen their businesses.
The little diplomatic assurances notwithstanding, there is cause to worry that the worst may still lie ahead. In 1994, the government of Ghana enacted a law which provides that only capital-intensive foreign businesses with the minimum $300,000 (over N10 million) capital outlay capable of employing at least 10 Ghanaians would be allowed to open shop or stay in business.
More than 20 years after its enactment, Ghanaian indigenous petty traders have become impatient and are putting great pressure on their government to implement the law. According to the Chairman of the Greater Accra chapter of the Ghana Union of Traders’ Associations (GUTA), Mr Kwadwo Amoateng, Ghanaians want the shops of foreign petty traders shut. The tension is growing. In June this year, non-Ghanaian petty traders got a notice to quit the markets. The closure of the 400 businesses did not come as a surprise.
Bemoaning this unwarranted suffering, President of the Nigerian Union of Traders Association in Ghana, Chief Chukwuemeka Nnaji, has regretted the continued closure of shops owned by Nigerians in Ghana, in spite of that country’s government’s directives for the shops to be reopened. He said although the government of Ghana has ordered that all shut shops belonging to Nigerian traders should be reopened with immediate effect, the directives were yet to be implemented, as the shops were yet to be reopened.
It has become imperative for the government of the two countries to act swiftly in addressing these concerns, as the consequences of this for both countries are better imagined than experienced.