Ghana’s attacks on Nigerian businesses is not all about border closure [Explainer]

There's more to the incessant attacks on Nigerians and their businesses in Ghana than reactions to border closure.

Ghanaians shut Nigerians shops over border closure (NewsNowNigeria)

In August 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the closure of Nigeria’s land borders, saying the closure was meant to address smuggling activities on the border corridors.

But it seems Ghana Trade Unions are feeling the heat of the land border closure more than Nigerians, who have for months been denied the pleasure of having their darling foreign rice.

Barely a month after Nigeria shuttered its land borders, the first wave of attacks on Nigerians in Ghana came in the form of a boycott of their businesses. No one envisaged the boycott would later graduate to physical attacks on Nigerians and their shops in the country.

In October, Ghana Union of Traders Association called on citizens of the country to stop patronizing products that are imported from Nigeria.

While making the call for the boycott, the regional secretary of the union, David Kwadwo Amoateng said the Federal Government of Nigeria is not being fair to foreign traders.

He said shunning Nigerian products would serve as pay back to Nigeria for closing its borders.

“Either somebody’s bread has been buttered or we are cowards. Government is not being fair to us.

“Let’s boycott Nigerian products as payback to their government’s action. How can we be slaves in our own country?” Amoateng fumed.

In November 2019, Ghanaians launched another attack on businesses owned by Nigerians. Over 50 shops owned by Nigerians were shut down at the Opera Square in Central Accra by the Electrical Dealers Association in the country.

According to reports, Nigerian shops at Kejetia, Suame Magazine, Adum and Asafo markets were forcefully shuttered.

Due to the attacks in November, the National President of the Nigerian Union of Traders Association in Ghana (NUTAG), Chukwuemeka Nnaji, instructed members of the association to close their shops to avoid the potential destruction of their goods.

Again on Sunday December 1, 2019, Ghana Union of Traders Association renewed its clampdown on Nigerian businesses. Over 600 shops belonging to foreign traders, particularly Nigerians, at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle were reportedly locked up by members of the union.

The House of Representatives has condemned the attack saying it is a transfer of aggression by Ghanaians over the closure of Nigeria’s land borders.

While the Ghana Union of Traders Association has been using economic loss as a result of the border closure as an excuse to defend its confrontations with Nigerian business owners in the country, it is important to note that there are other excuses for the attacks.

The angry Ghana Union of Traders Association has resorted to citing section 27 of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act 865 to support its clampdown on Nigerian businesses.

While speaking on the crackdown on Nigerian shops in November, GUTA Public Relations Officer, Albert Offei said, the Nigerian traders and shop owners flouted the Ghana constitution by operating certain businesses that are reserved for Ghanaian citizens only.

Section 27 of the GICP Act states that:

A person who is not a citizen or an enterprise which is not wholly owned by citizen shall not invest or participate in the following enterprises.

. The sale of goods or provision of services in a market, petty trading or hawking or selling of goods in a stall at any place.

. The operation of taxi or car hire service in an enterprise that has a fleet of less than twenty-five vehicles.

. The operation of a beauty salon or a barber shop.

. The printing of recharge scratch cards for the use of subscribers of telecommunication services.

. The production of exercise books and other basic stationery.

. The retail of finished pharmaceutical products.

. The production, supply and retail of sachet water.

. All aspects of pool betting business and lotteries, except football pool.

However, while the sale of electronic and electrical do not fall in any of the businesses listed above, the Electrical Dealers Association in Ghana cited the section to defend its shutting of over 50 shops belonging to Nigerians in November.

Nigerians business strategy threatens Ghanaian business community

Following the recent attacks on Nigerian businesses in the country, Pulse reached out to a Nigerian who works for a telecom company in Ghana to get his views on the attacks.

Contrary to the excuses on border closure and section 27 of GICP being used as the reason for the attacks, the young Nigerian, who pleaded anonymity offered a different explanation for the clampdown on Nigerian businesses in the country.

The Nigerian, who lives in Accra, the country’s capital said that some Ghanaians are angry with Nigerians because they are ‘spoiling the market for them.’

He said Nigerian spare parts and electronic dealers for instance, have enough money to import goods from China and sell at cheaper prices.

He added that many businessmen and women in Ghana find this practice inimical to their enterprises and they thought the best way to fight it is to shut down Nigerian shops under the guise of section 27 of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act 865.

However, the incessant attacks on Nigerian businesses may soon become a full-blown xenophobic onslaught on foreigners in the country if it continues to go unchecked.

Although, the Government of Ghana had in November clashed with the trade unions over their attacks on Nigerians and their businesses, more still needs to be done to douse the growing tension in Ghanaian business environment for Nigerians.

While addressing the issue during a recent attack on Nigerian businesses, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Trade, Carlos Ahenkorah warned GUTA against its incessant attacks on Nigerian businesses, saying Nigeria's economy is too big for Ghana to fight over border closure.

He said, “Their economy is six times ours, why go fighting them? When you need to appeal for their support. I want GUTA to understand that whether they like it or not, we need other economies to support what we do here. I’m pleading with GUTA, just take your time and let’s find a way to resolve the issue. They don’t need to go trading blows. If you trade blows, you only get the bigger guys to outsmart you.”

The recent attack has also prompted members of Nigeria's House of Representatives to make a move to prevent another round of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.

The house on Wednesday, December 4, 2019, urged the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and Federal Ministry of Affairs to investigate the attacks on Nigerians and their businesses in Ghana.

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