…as lawmakers link protests to Nigeria’s border closure

Leke Baiyewu, Abuja

The House of Representatives has condemned the attacks on Nigerian traders in Ghana, saying it is a transfer of aggression by Ghanaians over the closure of Nigeria’s land borders.

The House, at the plenary on Wednesday, urged the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate the attacks.

The House also mandated the Committees on Diaspora Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Treaties, Protocols and Agreements to “consider and investigate the recent developments among traders in Ghana and ensure that another xenophobia attack on Nigerians is prevented.”

The move followed the unanimous adoption of a motion sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Tolulope Akande-Sadipe, titled ‘Recent attacks on Nigerian Traders in Circle Market, Ghana.’

Moving the motion, Akande-Sadipe recalled that on Sunday, over 600 shops belonging to foreign traders, particularly Nigerians, at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Ghana, were locked up by members of the Ghana Union of Traders Association.

The lawmaker said, “The House is also informed that this is not the first time the quest to rid the Ghanaian market of foreign traders, who are engaging in retail businesses, has occurred. There was a case last month where Ghanaian traders at Opera Square in Accra locked up shops belonging to foreign nationals involved in retail business. Most of the shops were believed to belong to Nigerians.

“There was also a case in August last year when the Inter-Governmental Task Force constituted by the Government of Ghana, in its bid to regulate retail trade, arrested and detained 37 Nigerian traders and locked up about 10 shops in Tip Toe Lane at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Ghana, due to the failure of the traders to regularise their business concerns as prescribed by the local law and the inability to provide necessary documents such as passports, resident/work permit, among others.

“The House is concerned that the recent attack on Nigerian traders would become another xenophobia attack with loss of lives, as GUTA have decided to take laws into their hands because, according to them, the government had failed to enforce the GIPC Law 865 Articles 27 and 28, which bars foreigners from doing retail business in Ghana.”

Akande-Sadipe also recalled that in 2018, the enforcement of the quit notice initiative commenced and it was properly communicated by the Ghanaian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor-Botchwey, that the law would not affect Nigerians or other ECOWAS citizens.

The lawmaker further recalled that the National Association of Nigerian Traders warned the minister, that the law could spark xenophobic attacks from ignorant persons.

She said, “On December 2, 2019, the Ghanaian police, in the bid to control the mayhem, were pelted with stones by some of the traders, this act resulted to a repel attack by firing shots to control the crowd. Some arrests were made and detainees are currently undergoing further investigations at the police headquarters.

“According to the President of Nigeria Union of Traders in Ghana, Mr Chukwuemeka Levi Nnaji, Nigerian traders were physically attacked on December 2, 2019. The claim is that GUTA used the Ghanaian police force to lock the shops on the night of December 1, 2019, and when the Nigerian traders realised on the morning of December 2, 2019, that their shops were locked and decided to break the padlocks, the Ghanaian traders were agitated and started attacking Nigerians with all manner of weapons, including woods and iron.”

Akande-Sadipe further said, “The House is concerned that these attacks on Nigerians could be as a result of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration in August on the closure of all land borders in order to prevent any import or export of products via road as a way of combatting illegal goods in our market.

“According to other Economic Community of West African States members, the move goes against favourable trade provisions set out by ECOWAS, which promotes the movement and trade across the region’s borders. Traders in Ghana want the Ghanaian government to hit back at Nigeria with financial measures and basic law enforcement.

“The House notes that the recent attacks have resulted in three or four persons being injured and six persons arrested. The Ghanaian officials and police force have called on all traders to call off the forced closures and blockades in the streets, believing that any clampdown could cause more havoc and strain the relationship with Nigeria.”

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Several lawmakers who seconded the motion warned against another xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in Ghana as being experienced in South Africa.