The Senate has mandated its Committees on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Investments to, as a matter of urgency, interface with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate the status of Nigerian businesses in Ghana.
The decision to do so was reached during plenary on Tuesday, 17 December, 2019, following the consideration of a motion on “The need to investigate alleged ill treatment and injustices suffered by Nigerian Traders and Businesses in Ghana”.
Sponsor of the motion, Senator Ifeanyi Patrick Ubah (YPP, Anambra South) said many Nigerian businesses were established in Ghana following the desire of the Ghanaian Government to promote trade relations with Nigeria under President Kufour.
According to the lawmaker, the presence of Nigerian businesses created thousands of jobs and contributed to the growth of the Ghanaian economy.
“As at the end of 2010, Nigerian businesses accounted for sixty percent of foreign investments in Ghana from the African continent.
“Of recent, the once flourishing economic relations between Nigeria and Ghana have come under repeated threats as a result of recent hostile posture of Ghanaian authorities and indigenous Ghanaian Traders Union towards Nigerian traders through the adoption of discriminatory regulations aimed at frustrating Nigerian traders and businesses such as the passage of the Ghana Investment Promotion Commission (GIPC) Act,” he stated.
The GIPC Act, according to Ubah, “raised the amount of money in registering businesses owned by foreigners – who are mostly Nigerians – in Ghana to USD$200,000 and further restriction and prohibition of foreigners from trading in particular markets.”
The lawmaker bemoaned what he described as the “molestation of Nigerian traders and other hostile acts directed against Nigerian businesses such as the recent closure of over six hundred shops and businesses belonging to Nigerians carried out by the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) on December 2, 2019.”
He added that the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act 865 of 2013 prohibits ECOWAS citizens from engaging in Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs).
Ubah disclosed that among the many obstacles placed on the way on Nigerian entrepreneurs is the requirement of proof of importation of USD$1million into Ghana as applicable to citizens of non-ECOWAS member states such as China and India.
The lawmaker recalled that Nigeria and Ghana had previously set up a Joint Task For-e from the Trade Ministries of the two countries to inspect business facilities of companies registered under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) to address threats to business interests of Nigerians in Ghana.
According to Ubah, all measures and protection offered Nigerian traders under the ECOWAS framework have failed to address incessant threats to Nigerian businesses in Ghana, warning that “the situation may deteriorate into a serious diplomatic and economic crisis.”
Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, in his contribution, said the allegation of discrimination against Nigerians was for the most part in the motion speculative.
Yusuf argued that the introduction of legislation by the Ghanaian authority was most likely aimed at insulating their economy and protecting the interests of local entrepreneurs.
“I support the intendment of this motion, it is very good and the intendment is excellent. However, I differ from the procedure of achieving the intendment of this motion.
“Some few weeks ago, we passed a bill here on procurement, and we were trying to protect the interest of our local or indigenous companies.
“I have read through the motion and I find that there are so many areas that are highly speculative, and I don’t think in this chamber we work on things that are speculative.
“To talk about the $200,000, I think they (Ghanaians) are trying to protect themselves, it is not targeted at Nigerians.
“In as much as they (Ghanaians) have come out with certain policies, I think we should be very careful to embracing the issue here and debating it.
“My own suggestion on this is that we should be very careful how we handle this kind of motion so that we do not create a diplomatic row”, Senator Yusuf cautioned.
Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) said, “I think the intendment of this motion is the protection of our citizens living out of Nigeria.
“Maybe the drafting may have been such to raise our emotions where we talk about the question of discriminatory acts and so forth.
“I think that we should just let this motion seek to make sure that we call attention to the fact of what is happening to our citizens outside of this country, and see a way of making sure that they are not unduly punished for reasons best known to the countries where they belong.”
In his concluding remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said “this situation is another dimension of a lack of understanding, or maybe lack of intervention and early engagement between the two countries.”
“I think the time has come for Nigerian authorities to engage the Ghanaian authorities with the single mind of getting a solution to this problem because this has been happening for a long time.
“So, we need to know what is happening, and together with the executive arm of government, we have to find a solution to this,” Lawan said.