Business Day (Nigeria) — Ghanaian authorities yesterday continued their hatred for Nigerians and their businesses by closing their shops and arresting some of them. In the past two years, businesses owned by Nigerians in Ghana have been shut severally, while the owners were arrested and received verbal threats of attack.
Beside petty traders, big time businesses owned by Nigerians, including GSM operator Globacom Limited, have been harassed by government agents. In particular, Globacom was denied the opportunity of erecting its masts in major cities of Ghana earlier in the year. Yesterday, some shops belonging to Nigerian traders based in Ghana, as was done in April and May this year, were closed down by a special task force set up to monitor Nigeriansâ€™ compliance with the Ghana Investment Promotion Councilâ€™s (GIPCâ€™s) investment law.
This development contradicts the assurances given by Ghanaâ€™s minister of trade and industry, Hanna S. Tetteh that Nigerian businesses were not under any threats. â€œNow as far as businesses between Ghana and Nigeria are concerned, again from our point of view, we do not have a problem. The issue has been a misrepresentation of the legal position as it stands with regards to business. Our position is that petty trading â€“ and by this I mean trading done in a kiosk, trading done in a market, is something which, by Ghanaian law, is reserved for Ghanaiansâ€. The mid-day raid on the shops took place simultaneously in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale, and hundreds of Nigerians were also arrested.
Speaking to BusinessDay on telephone yesterday, Jasper Emenike, President of the Nigerian Tradersâ€™ Association in Ghana, confirmed the raid as well as the arrests. â€œAs I speak to you now (2.45 p.m. Ghana time), shops of our members are being locked up simultaneously in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, and Tamale,â€ Jasper told BusinessDay.
â€œEven some of our members have been arrested and taken away by the task force for undisclosed reasons. They refused to tell us why they were taking them away,â€ Jasper further said. He could not, however, tell the number of persons arrested because of the commotion stirred up by the raid which has been on-going since 2007. Apparently, this recent raid is a continuation by a special task force set up by the government to ensure that the new GIPC investment law which stipulates $300,000 is complied with.
George Aboagye, chief executive officer of the GIPC has, on several occasions, said that according to GIPC Act, petty trading, hawking or selling from kiosks at any place is wholly reserved for Ghanaians but that the law does not bar non-Ghanaians from operating in the trading sector whether wholesaling or retailing â€œprovided they make the initial equity capital investment in cash or goods of at least $300,000.â€ Emenike had confirmed that some of his colleagues had come together to put up the money, but are waiting to see how the on-going discussions between the Nigerian and Ghanaian government would turn out before reaching a decision on which path to tow, because the stipulated $300,000 is quite on the high side for a petty trader to afford.
Talks have been on-going between the two governments for more than a year but no solution has been arrived at and traders are no longer happy with the indefinite nature of the talks. Efforts made to confirm the whereabouts of the arrested Nigerian traders produced no result as at the time of going to press. Head of public affairs, Ghana Immigration Service, Pam Deti, with whom BusinessDay spoke on phone, said that they were not aware of any such raid and if any arrests was made.
â€œWe are not aware of any such raid taking place nor have I been informed of any arrests. The thing is that the task force acts independently and does not have to inform us of their actions. Since the police are involved, perhaps you could find out from them whether there have been any arrests,â€ Deti had advised.
The police public relations department could not be reached. The task force formed to ensure the compliance of foreigners with the GIPC Investment Law is composed of members of the GIPC, Ghana Immigration Service, Customs and Excise Preventive Service, the Police Service and members of Ghana Union of Traders Associations. They carry out periodic raids in markets across the country.