Leke Baiyewu, Tobi Aworinde an Okere
Ghanaian traders under the aegis of the Ghana Union of Traders Association, has expressed displeasure at the review of the $1m capital base demanded from foreigners, including Nigerians, by the Ghanaian government.
The traders said they would resist any development that did not serve their interest.
This came as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, quoted the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, as assuring the readiness of the his government to consider the resolutions reached at the meeting between Nigerian and Ghanaian lawmakers at the Parliament House of Ghana.
Part of the resolutions is the amendment of a Ghanaian law that makes it compulsory for foreigners to have $1m as capital base to operate businesses in the West African country.
Akufo-Addo reportedly gave the assurance when the Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana, Prof Mike Oquaye, led Gbajabiamila on a courtesy visit to the President at the Jubilee House, Accra, Ghana on Thursday, after a two-day ‘Legislative Diplomacy Bilateral Meeting’ on the maltreatment of Nigerian traders in Ghana.
A statement issued on Friday by the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, quoted the Ghanaian President as saying this.
The statement was titled, ‘Ghana to Consider Resolutions from Legislative Diplomacy in Resolving Trade Dispute – Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo tells Gbajabiamila … as Nigeria’s Speaker Makes Case for the Amendment of Ghana’s GIPC Act.’
Gbajabiamila had led a delegation of members of the House on a two-day legislative diplomatic mission to Ghana to explore legislative diplomacy towards resolving trade issues affecting both countries.
Several foreign businesses in Ghana, many of which are owned by Nigerians, had been facing challenges in the demand for $1m capital base, as enshrined in the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act (2013).
Responding to a request by Gbajabiamila for a review of the GIPC Act to make certain concessions, Akufo-Addo said the request was in order as it “makes a lot of sense.”
The Ghanaian President, who expressed satisfaction with Gbajabiamila’s visit, endorsed his proposal for the establishment of a Nigeria-Ghana Business Council, which would be established by law in both countries.
Akufo-Addo further suggested the setting up of a joint ministerial committee between the two countries that would “shepherd” issues between Ghana and Nigeria.
He also reportedly told Gbajabiamila that he would raise the issue with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), when they met at the ECOWAS Summit on Monday.
Akufo-Addo said, “I think the way forward, which is really what matters in situations like this, that is being suggested, one that I find very acceptable, the idea of legislation. Nigeria-Ghana Business Council, that will superintend over trade and investment matters between our two countries, maybe long overdue.
“The time has come for us to take these worthwhile steps. I suggested to Mr President that it will be a good idea to set up a joint ministerial committee of ministers from both sides who will be responsible for shepherding Ghana and Nigeria issues, reporting to both presidents at any time, and that is how they should be resolved.
“I am hoping when I see him on Monday for the ECOWAS Summit, we can advance these discussions and come to a final conclusion.
“The way you have come about this matter is very satisfactory and it requires our support. The review that you are asking for, why not? if it works in our mutual perspectives, we can’t take it for granted that your request will be taken seriously. We will have a look at it. So, the request for the review makes a lot of sense.”
Earlier, Gbajabiamila told Akufo-Addo that the Nigerian delegation was in Ghana to make efforts through parliamentary diplomacy to resolve the issues at stake.
Meanwhile, a communiqué was jointly issued at the end of the bilateral meeting between members of the two parliaments led by their respective Speakers, Gbajabiamila and Oquaye.
According to the communiqué, it was resolved that “measures will be adopted to support law-abiding traders to properly regularise their business operations to alleviate the trade challenges occasioned by the alleged closure of the retail stores, in view of the ravaging impact of COVID-19 pandemic on businesses and families in both countries.”
However, Ghanaian traders have frowned on the proposed $1m trade levy review, saying they were against the development.
The acting Vice-President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association, Mr Clement Boateng, who spoke to one of our correspondents on Friday, said, “It is not our understanding that our President said he was going to suspend the $1m levy as required by the GIPC Act. It is clear that your Speaker of parliament put before our President that he should reconsider reviewing that law. That he put it before our President doesn’t specifically say he is going to review or accept to make changes to the Act.
“One country cannot just stand up and ask another country to review its laws in the interest of another country. If, maybe, the whole ECOWAS commission is going to have a harmonised trade law which will bind all the countries together, then in that direction, we will, maybe, consider it. But the law cannot be changed to suit one country at the expense of another country.
“We will not accept anything that will be of detriment to the indigenes, as far as retail business is concerned. Anything that will not be in the interest of the indigenes, as far as retail business is concerned, we will not accept.”
However, in their reaction, Nigerian traders in Ghana told Saturday PUNCH that though the review of the $1m levy was a welcome development, it was unnecessary by virtue of the ECOWAS Protocol.
The President, Nigerian Traders Union in Ghana, Chukwuemeka Nnaji, said, “I think it’s in a good direction, if I may say. The President, Nana Akufo-Addo, has responded well that he is considering it, but I think it is long overdue.
“Why do we have to consider while we have the ECOWAS Protocol that has solved the issue? What is stopping us from using the protocol that all of us have signed? That is my problem with this whole setup.”
Speaking on the impact of the law on Ghanaian traders mistreating their Nigerian counterparts, Nnaji said, “If the law is reviewed, they will not have any basis now to agitate or put pressure on the government to do anything against other traders.”