The standoff between Ghanaian traders and their Nigerian counterparts seems to be closing in on a solution.
Trade tensions between the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) and the Nigeria Union of Traders, Ghana (NUTAG), have increased over the past decade over what the former describes as infiltration of the retail market by strangers.
The bone of contention has been whether or not it is legal for these foreigners, especially Nigerians, to engage in retail trade on Ghanaian soil.
It should be recalled that the Greater Accra Regional Chairman of GUTA, David Kwadwo Amoateng, on Eye on Port in 2019, stated vehemently that the GIPC Law 865, as well as the ECOWAS Protocol on the Importation of Trade, are clear and, therefore, any practice inconsistent with them, are illegal.
The President of NUTAG however called for the harmonization of the GIPC law with that of ECOWAS.
More than two years later, there remains significant unrest among professional groups, but agreement has been reached on the way forward.
Speaking on Eye on Port this Sunday, the President of the Ghana Traders Association (GUTA), Dr Joseph Obeng revealed that a special dispensation has been arranged and will hopefully see the matter resolved.
He explained that “the special dispensation gives our brothers in Nigeria who are here before 2020 the opportunity to present their documents to be eligible for the trade dispensation so that over time they can regularize with the GIPC and peacefully coexist with us”.
Apparently, these documents should include the list of NUTAG members, rental agreements and related business registrations to verify their legitimacy.
Dr Obeng hinted that there had been a negative response from the Nigerian counterparts.
“They first asked for time to produce the documents for review and acceptance into the special dispensation. When the time was up, they said they couldn’t comply with the mandate there and they wanted to have equal rights with the locals. It pissed us off and we thought they were taking us for a ride,” he said.
He insisted, however, that the special waiver does not cover retail traders who came on board after 2020.
The President of GUTA said that these concessions were only accepted by his outfit due to the magnanimity of Ghanaians, and that the law is on the side of eliminating foreigners in the retail business completely.
The President of the Nigeria Union of Traders Association, Ghana (NUTAG), Chief Chukwuemeka Nnaji, explained the dynamics why document provision has been such a hurdle.
Chief Nnaji said, “When the issue of the time waiver came up, I told them that anyone who closed their shops last year was eligible. Why not open and have them acquire the documents as their shops reopen. They refused. But our problem here is that some could not find these documents because many have gone home because they have no business here.
He aired the arguments that suggest their failure to submit required documents is a calculated attempt to thwart the work of the Foreign Retail Trade Commission.
Chief Chukwuemeka Nnaji revealed that their shops remain closed by GUTA members and they are struggling to make ends meet as their source of income has been cut off.
“Some have seen their stores closed since December 2, 2019 and this has affected Circle and areas of the Ashanti region. Last November 30 affected Abossey-Okai and there was one recently. It was very difficult for us. The circle alone had about 160 stores,” he lamented.
The President of GUTA clarified that this brouhaha would not have existed in the first place if these Nigerian traders were retailing goods that complied with ECOWAS rules of origin.
Dr Obeng, however, urged Ghanaians to be careful when buying from the open market and not be swayed by cheap prices but always look for quality.