By Anthony Areh
The Nigerian Union of Traders Association in Ghana (NUTAG), under the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), has sent a Save Our Soul (SOS), message to the federal government requesting prompt salvation of their businesses and lives.
They are seeking the Federal Government’s intervention in resolving issues bordering on closure of members’ shops by Ghanaian Authority.
NUTAG made the appeal on Friday in Abuja through a letter it conveyed to President Muhammadu Buhari, jointly signed by NANTS National President, Dr Ken Ukaoha, and NUTAG President, Chief Chukwuemeka Nnaji.
Nnaji recalled that since 2007, thousands of Nigerian citizens trading in Ghana had faced unending harassment, intimidation, general maltreatment and deprivation of economic rights by Ghanaian Government and Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA).
He said from then, the Ghanaian government was either acting alone or jointly with GUTA or GUTA alone under the guise of enforcing local investment laws which prohibited petty trading in markets by foreigners to harass Nigerians.
According to him, they have often caused grave loss of investments and untold hardship to NUTAG members by embarking on closure of shops belonging to them.
“Most of our members have come to Ghana to establish businesses believing in good faith that they are permitted and protected by the ECOWAS laws to freely move and make a living.
“But the Ghanaian government seems to believe otherwise and relying on a local investment law (the Ghana Investment Promotion Act 865), has suddenly made it a requirement for each Nigerian trader to bring into Ghana from outside a cash sum of One Million dollars or its equivalent in equity.
“The Nigeria trader will pay before being allowed to start a business or to continue doing business in the retail sector in Ghana.
“This requirement is beyond the means of the majority of Nigerian traders in Ghana.
“Moreover, to many, it makes a nonsense of the supra-nationality of ECOWAS Treaty signed unto by the 15-Member States and which confers ‘Community citizenship’ on every ECOWAS citizen irrespective of where they are located in the region,” he said.
Nnaji said that the Ghanaian government had capitalised on the inability of Nigerian traders to comply with the $1 million capital requirement to carry out frequent attacks on them including closure of shops belonging to mainly Nigerian nationals.
He said this had led to dire economic situation among the Nigerian traders most of whom were fully established in Ghana with their families, some of them even married to Ghanaian nationals.
He asserted that the Ghana authorities had insisted that petty trading was reserved by law solely for the locals.
“The enforcement is mainly targeted at Nigerian Traders in Ghana while other foreigners are allowed to freely operate in the same area of trading prohibited for so called foreigners.
“By this, it is very clear that the Ghanaian government is flagrantly discriminating against the Nigerian nationals in its purported enforcement of the so-called investment laws.
“Nonetheless, Ghanaian citizens doing business in Nigeria are moving freely without any iota of molestation or intimidation,” he noted.
Nnaji described as a false claim by their hosts that Nigerians were protected and that the exercise was not targeted at them, adding that political and diplomatic solution had thus far failed to solve the problem.
“This is absolutely unacceptable. We came to Ghana with friendship. This hardship we have been placed under has been exacerbated in recent times by the severe disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even traders who wish to forego their goods locked up in their shops and escape back to Nigeria from hardship and threat to their lives, are unable to do so as national borders remain closed,” he said.
He urged the president to give urgent consideration to its appeal and promptly intervene to avert further suffering and in some cases, deaths of Nigerians.
“This has become imperative and urgent so that we may not be pushed to a point where we defend ourselves and our investments with the last drop of our blood.
“We are ready to be evacuated alive just like you have done to Nigerian citizens who have faced like traumatic treatment and xenophobic actions/tendencies in other countries of the world,” he said.