Today in the principal town of Kumasi, Ashanti region in Ghana, agitated members of Ghana Union of Traders Association, GUTA stormed the markets in the city and closed down shops owned by Nigerian traders. A similar closure of Nigerian shops occurred in July this year.
In recent years Nigerian market men and women in droves have been moving their businesses to Ghana. The traders in question have felt that they have been chocked up in the sprawling commercial activities in their country and Ghana is believed to be capable of offering them some breathing space to sell their wares.
Many of the Nigerian traders might not be aware of the fact that Ghana had in place a law that restricts retail trading to Ghanian citizens only. The law is akin to the Indigenization Decree promulgated by the Nigerian military rulers in the 70s. However, after years of amendments and inaction the Nigerian version of the law had gone to sleep. It has been on paper since former President Shehu Shagari’s civilian government tried to enforce it in the early 80s. That move gave rice to the popular slogan, ‘Ghana must Go’. The sacks with which Ghanaians used to carry their belongings during the stampede to return to their country is still called ‘Ghana must Go’ bags till this moment. However, don’t forget that back then in 1969, the regime of President Kofie Busia had deported Nigerians from Ghana. That is a sore point in the relationship between the two countries as living Nigerians born and raised in Ghana at that time still grumble about their displacement from a country that they had called home.
This time, is the contention of Ghanaian traders that if their country’s law enforcement agencies are shy of enforcing the law that forbids foreigners from carrying on retail trading on their territory, they would take the law into their own hands. That is the message underlying their action today.
However, there may be other causes of the bellyaching. Nigerian traders have been accused of selling inferior commodities. The goods are said to be comparatively cheaper than what they, the Ghanaian traders are offering their customers. For them, Nigerian traders are undercutting them. A form of trade war! You might say!!
It is not clear now whether there is also a link between the closure of Nigerian borders, the complaint by Ghana trade unions that the action taken by Nigeria is hurting their exportation of goods to the country and the shop closure incident of today.
The Nigerian authorities seemed to have acknowledged Ghana’s complaint about border issue when they announced that a corridor would be opened for Ghanaian exports to Nigeria to pass through the border. In fact, Ghana’s businesses have threatened to take retaliatory measures against Nigeria if access of their exports to the Nigerian markets remains blocked. Could the lock-up of shops belonging to Nigerian traders in Kumasi be the warning signal of what else to expect?
For the records, Nigeria and Ghana consider themselves as next door neighbours, regardless of the fact that Bene Republic and the Republic of Togo are two intervening countries separating them. Besides both former British colonies are members of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS. Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo Ado is always welcome in Nigeria. The two countries usually compare notes on policies.
We will follow up on further developments in respect of this current thaw in the strong relations between Ghana and Nigeria.