The Ghanaian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Alhaji Rashid Bawa, has absolved his country of blame in the closure of 400 Nigerian businesses in Ashanti, Ghana.
Bawa, who was represented by the Minister, Counsellor for Trade and Investment, Mr Sintim Asare, spoke in Lagos on Wednesday during a stakeholders’ forum on the Economic Community of West African States’ trade tagged: ‘ECOWAS Integration and Challenges of Nigerian Traders in Ghana’, organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Bawa said the closure of the businesses did not affect only Nigerians but other nationals, including Chinese and Indians.
He explained that contrary to reports that 400 Nigerian businesses were closed, only 117 were shut because they were not registered, defaulted in tax payment, their owners did not have work permits and majority of them dealt in fake drugs.
While defending the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act, Bawa said it was meant to protect small businesses in the country by preventing non-Ghanaians from engaging in petty trade.
He stated, “We are committed to the ECOWAS Treaty and we cannot fight Nigerians, because they are our brothers. Some of the 117 businesses have been reopened.
“For those that are still shut, the owners were given time to regularise their papers and they are doing that, while others have simply shut their shops out of fear of attacks or in solidarity with their brothers who have not opened theirs.”
Responding, the representatives of various Nigerian businesses in Ghana said it was not true that most of the shut businesses dealt in fake drugs or dragged space with local businesses or failed to register.
The Secretary General, Nigeria Union of Traders Association, Ghana, Pantaleon Ogbonna, accused the Ghana Union of Traders of being behind the attacks on Nigerian businesses.
He argued that the businesses that were closed mostly dealt in motor spare parts and none of them dealt in pharmaceuticals, saying that he personally deals in science equipment and had his papers complete, but his shop remained shut for the past two months.
On his part, the President, NUTAG, Chukwuemeka Nnaji, recalled that the attacks on Nigerian businesses started in 2007 and had become a recurring trend since.
He said in March, the Ghana Deputy Minister of Trade had issued an ultimatum to Nigerian businesses to leave the market as prescribed by the GIPC Act.
Nnaji maintained that the Act completely eroded the rights of other ECOWAS citizens in Ghana, whereas the citizens of Ghana enjoyed privileges all over West Africa.
The President, LCCI, Mr Babatunde Ruwase, noted that some ECOWAS member states were putting in place policies that negate the spirit of economic integration in the sub-region, adding, “We need to tackle the current frustrating barriers to trade in the sub-region. The trade treaties are not being fully implemented.”