Traders threaten nationwide strike if govt relaxes trading laws for Nigerians

The Ghana Traders Union (GUTA) will embark on a strike across the country if Nigerians in the local economy are exempted from a $1 million capital floor that is inscribed in Ghanaian law.

The threat of a strike was made by Dr Joseph Obeng, the President of GUTA on Wednesday, July 21, when he addressed a news conference responding to the union’s position on the proposal to exempt Nigerians from the said legislation.

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, who has in recent months been advocating intra-African trade, revealed the government’s intention to exempt Nigerian traders from the law that is meant to protect local businesses.

The law, the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act, 2013(Act 865), requires non-Ghanaians to show evidence of liquid capital of no less than $1 million as well as employ no fewer than 20 skilled Ghanaians in the event of setting up a business in Ghana.

But Bagbin, on a visit to Nigeria earlier this month, promised Nigerian lawmakers that the Ghanaian government was reviewing this law in view of its potential to impede investment from other African countries, including Nigeria.

The speaker also hinted at the passing of a Ghana-Nigeria Friendship Act, that is “intended to provide the legal and institutional framework to sustain the continued friendship and business interests of our people,” he said in Abuja.

When Ghana hosted an Extraordinary Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in June this year, diplomats from Accra and Abuja held conversations about exempting Nigerians from the application of the business law.

An agreement was found between the two countries, making Bagbin’s visit to Nigeria a symbolic gesture to conclude matters on a situation that has affected trade relations between Ghana and Nigeria for about three decades.

But Dr Obeng and GUTA disagree. Speaking to the press on Wednesday, the GUTA president said:

We will resist any attempt to take away the only retail market the 1992 Constitution grants us. No attempts by the 8th Parliament through the Speaker, Alban Bagbin, to review or change the GIPC Act that ensures foreign retailers including Nigerians, pay a minimum capital of $1 million. We will never sit back and watch this happen. GUTA is prepared for a nationwide protest should this happen.

In 2019, 600 shops belonging to foreigners were locked by Ghanaian traders in central business districts. Out of the number, 590, of the shops belonged to Nigerians.

GUTA had complained of foreign involvement in retail trading, another area that Ghanaian law preserves for only Ghanaians.

At the beginning of 2020, the Nigeria Union Traders Association of Ghana (NUTAG) asked the Ghanaian government to come clear on its plans concerning the closure of shops belonging to Nigerians.

About a month after the closure of the shops, the association was worried about the situation it claimed had brought untoward hardships on NUTAG members.

Nigeria has, in the recent past, taken similar protectionist methods in the name of saving businesses run by its citizens.

Two years ago, GUTA criticised ECOWAS for failing to step in to get Nigeria to open its borders with neighbouring West African countries, which were closed to goods.

Nigeria said it had closed its borders in a move by the government to stop about 45 products from being smuggled into the country from other ECOWAS member states.

At the time, GUTA claimed the closure of Nigeria’s frontiers impeded the free movement of people, goods and services to and from the affected ECOWAS states.

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