Ghana and Nigeria need a preferential, bilateral trade agreement – NIDO

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The Nigerians In Diaspora Organization [NIDO], Ghana chapter has observed with worry the renewed pressure on the Ghanaian Government, by vested interest groups to fully implement the aspect of the Ghana Investment Code [the GIPC Act of 1994] that prohibits foreigners from engaging in relatively small scale retail trading activities involving start-up capital of less than USD1million. This has been part of Ghana’s laws for more than two decades, duly passed by Parliament, which the country, as a sovereign nation, has every right to pass and subsequently enforce. However, affected entrepreneurs from other ECOWAS member states correctly point out that it directly contradicts the sub regional economic community’s protocols on the rights of citizens of member states to engage in such trade, albeit without prejudice to other laws that regulate such trading activities for all and sundry, including indigenes.
This situation has persuaded some Nigerians to incorrectly allege that they are being deliberately targeted, due their relatively large numbers compared with citizens of most other individual countries.
We note further that the latest efforts to curtail the participation of foreigners in retail trading activities in Ghana – inclusive of ECOWAS citizens, Nigerians among them – accompanies efforts to stem the incidence of Ghanaians fronting for foreigners in an attempt to circumvent laws that restrict the scope of allowable foreign participation in business activity in this country.
We wish to use this opportunity firstly to discredit such fronting activities by Ghanaians and their foreign collaborators as both illegal and unethical, and we support the Government of Ghana’s declared intent to make sure those found guilty of engaging this practice, Nigerians inclusive, face the full force of the law.
Beyond this however we wish to appeal to the Ghanaian authorities to allow law abiding Nigerians to engage in retail trading, even at start up thresholds below those currently stipulated by Ghana’s investment code, in line with both ECOWAS protocols and the principle of reciprocity since Ghanaians are allowed to engage in such activities in Nigeria without legal restraint.
However, even as we make this appeal, we acknowledge that Nigeria is equally guilty of contradicting ECOWAS trading protocols to the detriment of Ghanaian enterprises in its including such Ghanaian exporters in its blanket ban on the entry of certain goods into Nigeria.
It is instructive that both countries readily present arguments of protecting their respective national interests in implementing these aforementioned unilateral trade restrictions.
In view of the situation we humbly suggest that both Ghana and Nigeria, put their unique bilateral, close political, economic, social and cultural affinities and relationships, above their efforts to protect their respective national interests on a multilateral, indeed global level. All this requires is that both countries enter into a preferential, bilateral trade pact, which excludes each other from those particular policies that are aimed at every country, but which are inadvertently irking each other.
In both countries cases, the number of the other’s enterprises engaged in the aforementioned trading activities that are causing the displeasure of the other is too small to derail the declared national interest protection motives of each of the two countries. This simple solution would not only end each country’s discontent with the other, but would enable the unleashing of the potential mutual benefits currently being constrained by the two ongoing trade disputes between the two countries.
NIDO firmly believes these potential benefits are far too great to be allowed to be nullified by multilateral trade protection policies that are not aimed specifically at each other but which, unfortunately, are unduly hurting each other more than the rest of the world, which does not share the closeness enjoyed by Ghana and Nigeria.

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