In 1969/70, a rather unfortunate event took place in Ghana. That was the Aliens Compliance Order which rendered people, mostly Nigerians, born and bred in Ghana as aliens and were forced to leave these shores.
Some of them had never visited their home countries before while some actually could not speak their local languages.
But when that order was made, they hurriedly disposed of their properties at rock bottom prices so that they could pay their transport fares to their roots.
In 1983, Nigeria did the same. It expelled all ‘aliens’ from West Africa domiciled in their country with Ghanaians being the most affected.
Despite the existence of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, the sub-regional body could do nothing about Nigeria’s decision to expel foreigners. Ghana as an emergency measure sent ships to bring her citizens home. To many observers, Nigeria’s action was to avenge, most especially when it was happening at a time the Ghanaian economy was very fragile. But for the ingenuity of her then rulers, the social dislocation that would have resulted from the sudden influx of one million citizens could have created dire consequences for the local economy which figuratively speaking was on life support.
Now 35 years later, we can hear echoes from the past as Nigerian traders in Ghana claim they are being discriminated against. They do not want to accept the fact that despite the ECOWAS treaty, to which Ghana is a signatory, confers certain privileges on foreigners. There are other laws that protect Ghanaian businesses, but the Nigerians do not recognize that.
What they have failed to understand is that Ghana’s investment law specifies who resides and conducts business here. The law is also very specific as to areas of business reserved for citizens.
For Ghana not allowing them to have their way, the National Association of Nigerian Traders on Monday staged a demonstration in front of the ECOWAS office in Abuja to protest what they consider as the victimisation of their counterparts by the Ghanaian authorities, citing the Ghana Investment Promotion Act as an intimidation. According to them, the development has so far led to the closure of about 400 shops belonging to Nigerian traders in Ghana.
According to the protesters, non-Ghanaians in retail trade were ordered to leave the Ghanaian markets by end of July threatening to take legal action against non-Ghanaian traders who fail to adhere to the directive.
Unfortunately the protesting traders are getting it wrong.
We at Goldstreet Business cannot understand the beef of the traders, especially when this law has been in existence since the early 1990s; it was not passed with any specific nationality in mind. The truth is that the protesting Nigerians are not telling their compatriots the truth but rather inciting their countrymen against Ghana’s laws.
We know that at the onset of this controversy, Ghana’s Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway went to the ECOWAS headquarters to explain our country’s law as it relates to doing business here to them.
With the Nigerians still insisting that they are being discriminated against, Goldstreet Business believes that it is time government sends a high-powered delegation comprising officials from the Ministries of Trade, Foreign Affairs, GIPC and the Ghana Free Zones Board, GFZB, to Abuja, call the stakeholders to a forum and crown it with a press conference to explain our laws as it relates to self-employment by foreigners. Failure to do that will only further worsen the poisoned atmosphere.