THE trade crisis between Nigeria and Ghana has continued to escalate because both countries (particularly Nigeria) have been living in denial.
Nigeria has traditionally reacted to other African countries with the mindset of the continental Big Brother.
Unfortunately, Nigerian leaders have failed to realise that most African countries have abandoned the “brotherhood” template. They seek to put the interests of their citizens first. They are under great pressure from their citizens to do so.
Politicians, like Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, have leveraged the growing anti-foreigner sentiments within their populace to promote their electoral chances.
Ghana now means serious business. It is serious about protecting indigenous retail traders from foreign competition dominated by Nigerians. That is why it is using its trade laws to incessantly harass Nigerian traders out of their country.
On the other hand, Ghana wants to leverage on the ECOWAS Protocol on the free movement of persons and goods to have full access to the huge Nigerian market in order to sell the bulk of goods manufactured even by some of the industries that abandoned Nigeria for Ghana.
What does Nigeria want? We must answer this question in unambiguous terms. Ghana’s Investment Promotion Centre, GIPC, Act 478 was enacted in 1994. The $300,000 foreigners needed in their account to trade in Ghana was recently raised to $1million.
This law has been used for years to shut down Nigerian businesses. So, the claim by Ghana that the harassment of Nigerian traders was because of our border closure is a non-sequitur.
Apart from the ongoing flurry of diplomatic moves at the parliamentary, ministerial and presidential levels, an ECOWAS summit must be held to re-examine and upgrade the Community’s trade protocols.
Nigeria also has many vital interests to push. The border closure in August 2019 was because of our security breaches.
Massive smuggling which ruins our economy benefits our neighbours, including Ghana. Nigeria is partly responsible for the thriving of smuggling because of its backward and corrupt port operations which force traders to route their goods through our neighbouring countries through smuggling.
Unless we implement the proposed digitalisation of our port operations this trend will continue.
While we sort out our own port problems, ECOWAS must decide to adopt a common protectionist or open trade policy within the Community.
A situation where some members of the Community feel free to adopt extreme protectionist measures while enjoying the benefits of free movement is a recipe for crises.
Ghana, in particular, must be mindful that if Nigeria, the Big Apple of the region, adopts a similar pugnacious attitude to its people and interests in our country, it will also be badly hurt.
Politicians must rise above petty and myopic sentiments and take in the bigger picture to promote healthy cohabitation with their neighbours.