By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The Ghanaian Minister of Information, Kojo Nkrumah, on Sunday, defended the $1 million trade levy and other regulations imposed on Nigerian traders in Ghana, noting that Nigeria had equally issued executive orders preventing foreigners from getting jobs which Nigerians can do.
The minister said it was astonishing that Ghanaian laws could be described as outrageous, noting that it was on record that Nigeria had taken a number of steps in pursuit of its national interests.
He cited the closure of the Seme Krake borders since August 2019 as part of steps taken by the Federal Government, which, he said, had affected the neighbouring countries.
Nkrumah accused Nigerian traders in Ghana of gross violations of retail trade laws, including tax evasion, immigration offences, and selling substandard products.
He said there was widespread abuse and disregard for local laws and regulations governing retail trade by some foreigners, including Nigerians, which needed to be addressed.
Nkrumah stated this in reaction to a statement by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the Federal Government would no longer condone the reported harassment of Nigerians in the former Gold Coast.
Mohammed had in his statement last Friday listed various acts of aggression against Nigeria and its citizens by the Ghanaian authorities, including the take over of some Nigerian diplomatic properties, discriminatory deportation of 825 Nigerians within one year, and harsh jail sentences on Nigerian nationals.
Contrary to Mohammed’s claims that 825 Nigerians were deported between January 2018 and February 2019, the minister explained that 700 Nigerians involved in fraud, prostitution, and armed robbery were deported from Ghana.
Nkrumah stated, “The Federal Republic (Nigeria), on the other hand, is on record to have taken a number of steps in recent months, in pursuit of her national interests, which have gravely affected other countries in the region.
“These include the closure of Nigeria’s Seme Krake border from August 2019 to date and the issuance of executive orders by Nigeria’s Presidency preventing foreigners from getting jobs which Nigerians can do, to mention a few.”
The minister assured that the Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, would engage with his counterpart, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and develop a framework for validating the claims of ill-treatment of citizens of either country and ensure they enjoy the full exercise of their rights while respecting the sovereignty and laws of both countries.
Responding to the allegations raised by Mohammed point by point in a four-page statement, Nkrumah said his counterpart’s assertion on the alleged seizure of Nigerian Mission property located at No. 10, Barnes road, Accra, was incorrect, noting that the land was acquired by Nigeria from a private citizen, Thomas Hardy, on October 23, 1959.
The minister explained that the commercial lease on the land expired 46 years ago without any evidence of renewal by the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana.
“The Government of Ghana was not involved in the transaction and had not seized the property in question,” the minister stressed.
In response to the claim that the lease on some of the properties owned by the Ghana Mission in Nigeria had expired, Nkrumah explained that Accra had acquired a freehold land at Pope John Paul Street, Maitama, Abuja, through a commercial arrangement in 1989 and built a residential structure for the staff.
He stated that the residential building on the Nigerian Mission premises in Accra demolished in June was carried out by a representative of the Osu traditional stool and had nothing to do with the government.
On the high residency permit levies, including the $120 for COVID-19 test imposed by the authorities, Ghana stated that this applied to all foreigners and not just Nigerians.
Speaking on the closure of over 1,000 shops belonging to Nigerians over non-payment of the $1 million trade levy, the information minister stated, “The compliance exercises conducted in the selected markets revealed gross violations of retail trade laws and regulations by Ghanaians and foreigners, including Nigerians.
“These violations included tax evasion, immigration offences, trading in substandard products, violation of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre law, improper registration of firms, under-payment of business operating permits, falsification of documents, among others.”