Nigerians' Shops in Ghana Still Shut, Says Nnaji

(file photo).
6 October 2018

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.

Nnaji told The Guardian exclusively that according to the directives given by the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Ado, shops belonging to his members, which were supposed to have been opened, were still locked, adding: "They symbolically opened about five shops and warned the owners to pack their things and leave Ashanti Region in three months' time, boasting that if they failed to leave, they were going to destroy their wares."

Nnaji reiterated that another trader who tried to open his shop was severely beaten by thugs of the Ghana Union of Traders (GUTA) and that particular shop was sealed with welding machine by the same thugs, querying: "Our questions are: Why is the government not arresting these thugs? Why are locals so emboldened and boasting that Nigerians cannot do anything? Do they know some things that we don't know? Why is the government telling the whole world that the closed shops had been opened, when they know very well that it is not true?

"Our patient is running out. For over one month now, we are not doing any business. Are they going to compensate us for this deliberate and systematic destruction of our means of livelihood?"According to him: "The crisis started recently when the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Ghana cancelled the eviction order to foreign traders by July 27, this year.

"The local traders rejected the cancellation and started attacking our members and locked their shops, because Ghanaians don't want Nigerian traders to trade in Ghana and politicians are also using it as a tools to win elections."He described the situation as terrible for Nigerian traders in Ghana, saying if it were possible for them (Nigerians) to just leave Ghana like that, many of them would have left, noting: "Many families are now finding it difficult to pay children school fees. The Nigerian High Commissioner in Ghana, Ambassador Michael Olufemi Abikoye, has done a lot for us, but the Nigerian government should have responded to his call to rescue Nigerian traders from Ghanaian traders, who keep molesting our members. So many of them have been physically attacked."

He said he did not know what the appropriate Nigerian authorities were doing to prevent future recurrence, stating: "It seems the Ghanaian government has allowed thugs to do what they like with Nigerian traders."

"The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should come out clear to interpret the Right of Establishment, which was mentioned in ECOWAS supplementary protocol of 1990." However, on September 27, this year, there was a press release in Accra signed by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alex Kyerematen (ref DA212\296\01) on the participation of foreign nationals in retail trade in Ghana.

The ministry said after extensive consultation with national executives of GUTA, Ministry of National Security, the Nigerian High Commission and other relevant institutions, it directs that all the affected shops or retail outlets that were closed as a result of the operation of the Taskforce on Retail Trade be opened with immediate effect.

According to the ministry, this is to permit the various state institutions and agencies to carry out their lawful mandate of enforcing local laws and regulations, including those related to the operation of businesses in Ghana, assuring the general public, particularly the international community, that there is no orchestrated action by government or any state institution targeted at Nigerian nationals.

"It, therefore, strongly condemns the malicious and inaccurate reportage by some media organisations, including reports on social media, that foreign nationals operating businesses in Ghana are under any form of threat. On the contrary, Ghanaians are internationally acknowledged as very hospitable and friendly particularly to foreign nationals."

"The Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ghana Union of Traders Association and the Diplomatic Missions in Ghana will implement a comprehensive sensitisation programme to enhance collaboration among all stakeholders engaged in the retail trade sector in Ghana.

"The Ministry, therefore, wishes to encourage the trading community in Ghana, including foreign nationals to take all necessary steps to avoid any incidence that will mar the longstanding bonds of friendship between Ghana and other countries, both within the continent of Africa and across the world," the minister added.But this does not appear to have had any impact or mitigated the situation, as Nnaji insisted that his members' shops remained closed, despite the minister's position.

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