43 BUSINESSFEATURE Nigerians’ shops in Kumasi under lock despite govt order
Over 400 shops belonging to Nigerians in Suame Magazine, Adom and other markets in Kumasi, Ghana have been under lock since August after being arbitrarily closed by Ghanaian traders.
The traders’ defiance of the government is even more puzzling, as the closure is not by the Regional Task Force on Retail Trade. In spite of the directive by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Alan Kyeremateng, that all shops and trading outlets owned by foreigners be re-opened, the Kumasi traders have remained obstinate and continue to unleash pain on their Nigerian counterparts.
The Ashanti Regional Minister himself has not shown demonstrable political will to assuage the pains of the Nigerians. It was gathered that he initially feigned ignorance of the Trade Minister’s press release when the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Traders Associations in Ghana (NUTAG) went to dialogue with him. He had insisted that he would parley with GUTA members after he saw a hard copy of the statement and thereafter gave an order for the re-opening of the shops. He not only reneged on the promise, but frustrated all attempts by NUTAG to further discuss the matter with him, the Daily Trust learnt.
The culture of silence by the Ghanaian media, civil society, religious leaders and government officials perhaps gives credence to the theory of Nigerian traders that the entire show is being orchestrated to victimise them.
More so, from all indications, only Nigerians are being grilled in this latest round of closure of shops owned by foreigners in the county.
The President of the Nigerian Union of Traders Associations in Ghana (NUTAG), Mr. Emeka Nnaji, said in a chat with Daily Trust: “The assertion that Nigerians are not targeted is just a story because every other person is doing business. They haven’t gone to Shoprite to close it. They have not closed Melcom. They have not closed other shops that are owned by foreigners. It is only Nigerian shops that are closed. Even the Chinese who are in the markets are still doing their businesses.”
Nnaji asserted that the closure of the shops was unjustified because the traders to the best of his knowledge did not violate the laws of the land as people were being made to believe.
“If the shops of those who are not registered are closed, I won’t be going round telling people to come to help. I can assure you that majority of them are up to date in payment of taxes. I can tell you one guy paid 8,000 cedi as tax for one year. I saw the receipt. There were others who had paid 4,000 and 1,000 cedi. Their shops were locked. So it is not a matter of not paying tax or not paying anything,” he said.
There appears to be end yet to the traders’ pains, as intimidation and harassment continues, with Nigerian traders getting increasingly frustrated by the actions of their hosts.
Daily Trust reliably gathered that a Nigerian trader in Kumasi committed suicide a fortnight ago. According to one of her colleagues, it may not be unconnected with her travails.
“If she was in her business, she probably would not have taken her life. The hardship must have put her in depression,” he said.
It was also gathered that some Nigerian traders were selling their assets at very low prices. Another trader told our reporter that two of his colleagues sold their shops and returned to Nigeria.
“I know of two Nigerians who sold their shops for peanuts to Ghanaians in Ashanti Region. As I talk to you, they have returned to Nigeria. They sold them for peanuts. They knew they were under pressure. They dared not call a price, it is pathetic,” he lamented.
The assault on Nigerians continues unchecked. Not a single day passes without an incident. On Monday, a Nigerian who was standing in front of his shop was reportedly beaten by some Ghanaian traders.
“Can you believe that these people would see Nigerians riding motorbikes, stop them and collect their bikes. In fact, a policeman even confirmed that. They would mob them and collect their bikes,” he said.
“The acrimony is so intense that it has reached a level where some of our traders were given three months eviction notice. They have been asked to pack their belongings and leave Ashanti Region within three months,” another trader said.
The Secretary-General of NUTAG, Mr. Evaristus Nwankwo, maintained that the aggression from the Ghanaians was unwarranted. He said GUTA members had taken the laws into their hands and the government appeared not to have the political will to stop them.
He also blamed the media for being ‘silent’ on the crisis in Kumasi.
“I don’t agree with the Trade Minister that a section of the media has been peddling lies. Rather, I think what has been happening in Kumasi has been under-reported by the local media,” he said. promised to pass their demands to the Ghanaian government to see how best to address the issue.
The traders had earlier protested at the headquarters of the ECOWAS Commission in Asokoro, Abuja where NANTS president, Barrister Ken Ukaoha, described the closure of Nigerian businesses in Ghana as a bad development. He urged the commission to intervene within one week and resolve the matter, saying, “Since Ghana is a signatory to the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of goods and services, there is a need for the commission to caution the government of Ghana.”
“If we cannot accommodate each other and live together as Africans and ECOWAS citizens, then we are bond to continually frustrate and waste our young people along the desert and in the Mediterranean Sea en-route Europe,” Ukaoha added.
Stranded Nigerian traders after their shops were locked at Kumasi in Ghana