Relationship between Nigeria and Ghana at best has remained fractious, and most times actions between them are retaliatory; from the great rivalry in football to vying for a position in the market, and even trivial issues as who has the better tasting jollof rice. There’s no shortage of competition between these West African neighbours.
Last week, Ghana’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, the GIPC and the Ghana Union of Traders’ Associations in a joint operation established a task force with specific mandate to clamp down on Nigerian traders. This ultimately led to the closure of shops of 400 Nigerian traders which the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) say were lawfully established businesses in Kumasi, the Ashanti region of Ghana. NANTS laid this claim in a petition submitted to ECOWAS secretariat, Abuja.
Between 2010 and 2012, some shops were closed for not complying with what many of the traders described as a ‘vicious 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.
This recent story is similar to one of 2014 where another disagreement broke out between native traders in the Suame Spare Parts Dealers Association, consequently leading to the lockdown of some shops that belong to Nigerian retailers at the Suame Magazine in Kumasi.
According to Ghanaian authorities, the shops were locked because the traders failed to regularize their businesses as prescribed by the law. This has led to rage and on-street protests by some of the Nigerian traders and their Ghanaian wives.
Despite Nigerian traders accounting for 70 percent of the country’s petty trade, it hasn’t stood as substantial reason to avoid repressive laws from the Ghanaian government. Over the years these traders have lost their shops and goods to several clashes with Ghanaian authorities. Beyond Nigeria and Ghana’s historic spat which is obvious, the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) inability to swiftly bring resolutions to conflicts among member countries is also glaringly clear. ECOWAS should be much more alive to situations in the region and responsive to the needs of the citizens. The Nigeria-Ghana spat is just an example of many such intra region disputes and solutions that will be proffered must holistically address the problem. Until ECOWAS can achieve this and bring an end to scenarios such as the Nigeria-Ghana spat, its goal of enhancing unity and economic activity within the West African region still remains only a mirage.