By Naomi Uzor
The Lagos Chamber ofÂ Commerce and Industry (LLCI) says the abuse of expatriate quota is compounding the problem of retail trading in the country. The President of LCCI, Chief Solomon Onafowokan, told Newsmen on Monday in Lagos that foreigners were now constituting a nuisance to informal trade.
He said that many of them were entering the country under the pretext that they were coming to establish companies and render technical expertise.
Onafowokan said that most of the foreigners ended up trading in the informal sector against their entry permit. He said there were reports from members of his chamber that foreigners had invaded retail business in Nigeria. â€œSome of them are now competing with market women in the open market, especially in Lagos. They sell shoes, bags, textiles, cosmetics and other sundry items,â€ he said.
According to him, the Nigerian informal sector traders in the distributive trade are now facing the risk of being driven out of business by the foreigners.
â€œWe have a responsibility to safeguard their trade and protect the indigenous traders from such unfair competition,â€ he said. He charged the Nigeria Immigration Service and other related regulatory authorities to take urgent steps to check the trend.
Onafowokan warned that if urgent measures were not taken to tackle the problem, it could lead to increased unemployment, job losses, poverty and a decline in living standards. He said that the informal trade sector was the largest employer of labour in the country.
â€œWe should not allow this sector to be taken over by foreigners,â€ he said. He, however, said that the chamber welcomed foreign investors whose activities would add value to the national economy, but not those who would dislodge the petty traders.
â€œEstablishing supermarkets and selling wholesale items may be tolerable, but not foreigners who are here to compete with our traders in the open market,â€™â€™â€ he said. In his remark, the director general of the LCCI, Mr Muda Yusuf, said that the issue could reduce the profit margins of the Nigerians.
He recalled that in Ghana, for instance, foreigners were not allowed into informal trade and they could not operate a business of less than $300,000. Yusuf, therefore urged the government to take a cue from the policy of the Ghanaian government and take urgent measures to stem the trend.