By Kayode Matthew & Hugo Odiogor
LAGOS—Nigerian businessmen operating in Ghana yesterday cried out to the Nigerian government to come to their rescue as Ghanaian authorities have commenced closing their shops for allegedly operating illegally.
The Nigerian traders said their shops were closed because they were said not to comply with the government policy which requires them to have an initial capital of $300,000 and employ 10 Ghanaians before they can start any business in Ghana regardless of the size of the business.
One of the affected Nigerians, Mr Ndukaku Mbanefo, who spoke to Vanguard on phone from Ghana said the Ghanaian authorities started closing shops belonging to Nigerians yesterday in Accra, the Ghanaian capital and vowed that the operation will be nationwide.
According to him, “the authorities in Ghana yesterday closed more than 40 shops belonging to Nigerians and they are still closing more. They closed our shops because they said we did not comply with the government policy that requires every foreigner who wants to start business in Ghana to have an initial capital of $300, 000 and must employ 10 Ghanaians to work with him regardless of the size of the business. Even if it is just a small restaurant or a barber shop you must employ 10 Ghanaians and show evidence that you have $300,000 before you can start.
“There are nationals of other West African countries like Mali, Cote D’Ivoire, Niger, Cameroon who operate shops in Ghana like us but the Ghanaian authorities would not touch them. They target only Nigerians and I don’t know why. In spite of all we do to boost their economy and contribute to raise their standard of living, they don’t care, they just hate Nigerians and discriminate against us”.
He explained that “some Nigerian traders had to run away and locked up their shops when they saw the Ghanaian law enforcement agents coming but when the law enforcement agents got to the shops, they would relock the shops with their security padlocks. Their plan was to give out these shops abandoned by Nigerian businessmen to the Ghanaians”.
He therefore appealed to the Nigerian government to intervene and protect their businesses saying Nigerians who operate businesses in Ghana are law abiding and hard working, arguing that “we should be allowed to operate under the Ecowas trade treaty.
When the Foreign Affairs Ministry was contacted yesterday on the plight of Nigerian businessmen in Ghana, a source told Vanguard that the Ministry is aware of it and that the Federal Government has stepped into the matter. He said the Federal Government has reached out to its Ghanaian counterpart and that those affected should not rush to the ECOWAS court as they have threatened.
Ghanaian authorities have been embarking on hostile business practices against Nigerians who are predominantly in real estate, textile and garments, electronics, banking and telecommunication and tourism. The Ghanaian government had imposed high tariff on Nigerian movies and restricted Nigerian actors from shooting films in Ghana. Nigeria’s telecommunication giant, Globacom was caught up with the high cost of doing business which caused it to delay some crucial aspects of its operations last year. The presidential candidate of Labour Party Otunba Dele Momodu, said the attitude of Ghanaian government is a flagrant violation of the ECOWAS protocol and that the Nigerians who are doing business in Ghana hold the key to Ghana’s economic revival. He said Nigeria must stand up to the maltreatment of Nigerian in Ghana because Nigeria has been too good to their West African neighbour.
Lagos state Government had said yesterday that Nigerians should stop empowering Ghanaians and other West Africa countries by taking businesses to those countries at the detriment of Nigeria. Sources said Ghanaians are very jittery about Nigerians especially those who are in real estate business who are buying out their Ghanaian counterparts. Nigeria supplies electricity to Ghana and under the Obasanjo administration Ghana got over One hundred million dollar loans from Nigeria.