The Senate on Tuesday mandated its Committees on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Investments to interface with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate the status of Nigerian businesses in Ghana.
This decision was reached during plenary following the consideration of a motion on “the need to investigate alleged ill-treatment and injustices suffered by Nigerian Traders and Businesses in Ghana”.
Senator Ifeanyi Ubah who sponsored the motion informed his colleagues that many Nigerian businesses were established in Ghana following the desire of the Ghanaian Government to promote trade relations with Nigeria under former President John Kufour.
According to him, the presence of Nigerian businesses created thousands of jobs and contributed to the growth of the Ghanaian economy.
The lawmaker said, “As at the end of 2010, Nigerian businesses accounted for 60 per cent of foreign investments in Ghana from the African continent.”
He added, “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.”
The GIPC Act, according to Senator Ubah, raised the amount of money in registering businesses owned by foreigners – who are mostly Nigerians – in Ghana to $200,000 as well as restricted and prohibited foreigners from trading in particular markets in that country.
He decried what he called the “molestation of Nigerian traders” and other hostile acts directed against Nigerian businesses.
The lawmaker noted the recent closure of over 600 shops and businesses belonging to Nigerians by the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) on December 2.
He explained that the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act 865 of 2013 prohibits ECOWAS citizens from engaging in Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs).
Senator Ubah pointed out that among the many obstacles placed on the way of Nigerian entrepreneurs was the requirement of proof of importation of $1million into Ghana as applicable to citizens of non-ECOWAS member states such as China and India.
He recalled that Nigeria and Ghana had previously set up a joint task force from the trade ministries of the two countries to inspect business facilities of companies registered under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) to address threats to business interests of Nigerians in Ghana.
According to the senator, 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.”
In his contribution, Senator Abubakar Yusuf, 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.
He said, “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 have come out with certain policies, I think we should be very careful in embracing the issue here and debating it,” the lawmaker added.
Senator Yusuf advised the Senate to handle the motion carefully to prevent a diplomatic row between Nigeria and Ghana.
Backing the position of the sponsor of the motion, the Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe explained that it was aimed at protecting Nigerians living in other countries.
He, however, pointed out that the drafting of the motion might have been done to raise the lawmakers’ emotions where they talked about the question of discriminatory acts among others.
Senator Abaribe said, “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.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, believes the situation was another dimension of a lack of understanding or intervention and early engagement between the two countries.
He, therefore, stated that the time has come for Nigerian authorities to engage the Ghanaian government with a single mind of getting a solution to the problem.
“We need to know what is happening, and together with the executive arm of government, we have to find a solution to this,” Senator Lawan said.