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Ghana’s hostility to Nigerian business

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ON Monday, May 10, 2010, the Africa Independent Television (AIT) ran a feature on how a hostile policy put in place by the government of the Republic of Ghana has led to the closure of Nigerian businesses in that country.

Shops were seen placed under lock and key, while their owners were sitting, idly, outside hoping against hope that something would happen to change the minds of their host government. But from all indications, nothing like that is likely to happen.

As soon as he received the mandate of his people, President John Atta-Mills prodded the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Investment Protection Council (GIPC), Mr George Aboagye, to swing into action and strictly implement the GIPC Act of 1994, which demands that any foreign business based in Ghana must pay $300,000 or 48 million Naira into the coffers of the GIPC before it is allowed to open shop or continue to operate.

Way back in 2007, Nigerian businesses in Ghana were closed down as a result of this law. There are indications that the Act is being upgraded to ensure that only foreign businesses that have not less than one million US$ will be allowed to operate in Ghana. Ghana has decided to press ahead with this rather atrocious regulation in spite of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Trade and efforts by the West African regional body to move its member states towards economic unification.

Ghana decided to impose this protectionist measure in line with popular agitations among indigenous business owners, who feel that the influx of people from highly populous countries of the world, such as Nigeria, China and India are crowding them out of competition. A recent forum Aboagye had with Ghanaian business owners in Kumasi focused on ways of protecting the local entrepreneurs from their foreign counterparts and keeping the foreigners under strict control.

From their online responses, it is clear that Ghanaians are hugely in support of the measure. They have obviously not forgotten how they were shabbily treated when they flocked to Nigeria when the Ghanaian economy collapsed in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the name of getting rid of “illegal aliens”, Ghanaians were bundled into lorries and shipped across the borders by the Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s government in 1981.

Bags made from a tough polyethylene fabric were derisively named: Ghana-Must-Go, a term that rankles with Ghanaians who retort: Nigeria-Must-Die.

It is clear that relations between the two former sister countries have changed for the worse. In those days, Ghana was like an offshore territory of Nigeria, and people from both countries freely came, settled and went. Those Nigerian traders who are now marooned in Ghana went there in that old spirit of regarding Ghana as a friendly nation of Nigeria across the West Coast.

From the way Ghanaians are booing Nigerians in their country, it will not surprise anyone if, like in South Africa, we begin to see gangs of organised youths perpetrating violence against foreigners, especially Nigerians.

We must allow incidents like these to teach us a thing or two about the need to repair our own country and encourage our fleeing people to come back and join the effort to rebuild Nigeria. We should also come to terms with the fact that every country is defying globalisation and taking steps to protect their own citizens.

Nigeria is still a country where foreigners, such as Chinese, Indians, Lebanese, people of the Sahara and Sahelian region and even Ghanaians freely come and settle and carry on their economic activities without much regulation. In fact, in some parts of the country, Lebanese and other Arabs are far more welcome and are more at home than Nigerians from other parts of Nigeria.

Nigerians are hunted both in their country and abroad, and the Nigerian government is not concerned in the least. This is no longer acceptable. The presidency and the National Assembly must wake up and act to protect the interests and well being of Nigerians and encourage our people to stay in Nigeria and actualise the Nigerian dream.

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