http://www.dailyguideghana.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/nigeria_traders.jpg The Nigeria Union of Traders Association Ghana (NUTAG) is unhappy with the closure of the shops of some of its members by officials of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Over 40 shops belonging to Nigerian traders in the Okaishie Market area in the Central Business District of Accra were closed down on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 and traders were ordered to vacate the place without an alternative.
A notice signed by K.N. Atuahene, which was pasted on the shops titled, ‘NON GHANAIANS ENGAGED IN TRADING IN MARKET PLACES read, ‘It has come to the notice of the taskforce that you are engaged in trading activities in the market place. Your activities contravene section 18 of GPIC Law 1194 (Act 478).
Please take notice that your continuous operations from the market will no more be countenanced and that your shop has been permanently closed from today.
In case you have any difficulties related to the actions of the task force please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.’
However, the aggrieved persons claimed they were mistreated at the Ministry when they approached the officials for dialogue.
Some of the affected persons, who spoke with CITY & BUSINESS GUIDE, said they were being maltreated contrary to the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) trade laws.
Meanwhile, Chinese and Lebanese have been allowed to trade openly even though they are not part of ECOWAS.
Deacon John Igwe Ukala, the president of the group, equated the treatment being meted out to them to the reintroduction of the Aliens Compliance Law under the Busia regime.
He insisted that once Ghana is a signatory to the ECOWAS treaty, it is obliged to treat persons from the ECOWAS region like Ghanaians since its citizens also receive same treatment abroad.
He called on both the Nigerian and Ghanaian governments to prevail upon the Trade Ministry to rescind its decision.
Deacon Ukala said they may have to go to the ECOWAS court to seek redress if the situation does not improve.
Deacon Ukala said even though he had lived in Ghana since 1971, it has been difficult for him to naturalize, adding that the processes are cumbersome.
Damiaw Uduba said he paid over GH¢25,000 as goodwill for his shop for a 10-year period and operated his bicycle spare parts business for only two years.
The closure of his shop, he noted, had negatively affected him, stressing that he failed to raise the needed amount of money to pay his children’s school fees.
Ghanaians were not even trading in the bicycle parts then but they even trained some Ghanaians, who are now plying the same trade. Asking them to leave now to make indigenes take over is definitely cruel and unfair, he indicated.
He said should they move to a new location, the authorities would ask them to vacate the place.
He therefore advised the ministry to create an ECOWAS market to solve the issue.
If the Trade Ministry insists on the action, we would have no option than to relay the information to our relations back home to replicate the action against Ghanaians in Nigeria, Uduba said.
Prince Ugochukwu Uzokwu, who also has lived in Ghana since 1997, said the ECOWAS mediation proved unsuccessful.
He entreated ECOWAS to take up the matter which he said was assuming a rather serious dimension.
All the aggrieved persons backed their claims with their business registration documents, resident’s permit and other information, which indicate that they are honouring their tax obligations.
Irene Nnadi, a widow, recalled how she struggled to take care of her children.
She said her husband, who lived in Ghana for over 15 years and died last September, started the shop but she took over the business after his death.
Mrs. Nnadi explained that the closure of the shop had adversely affected her.
The Nigeria High Commission is yet to make an official statement on the matter.
By Rocklyn Antonio