Spare parts dealers at Abossey Okai in Accra have agreed to suspend the locking up of retail shops belonging to foreigners.
This week leaders of the Abossey Okai Spare Parts Dealers’ Association and the Ghana Union of Traders’ Associations (GUTA) shut down over 100 shops belonging to foreign business people.
They argue that many foreigners engage in retail, contraving Ghana’s trade laws and to the detriment of Ghanaian businesses.
The Abossey Okai dealers say most of the foreigners who flout the law are Nigerian. Repeated clashes between Ghanaian and Nigerian spare parts dealers have given the dispute an abrasive tone.
Speaking on the Asaase Breakfast Show on Thursday (30 July), Clement Boateng, co-chairman of the Spare Parts Dealers’ Association, took an angry line, saying the association members would not give ground.
Boateng challenged the chairman of the Nigerian community in Ghana, Chukwuemeka Nnaji, to meet him face to face and repeat remarks he made during a press conference on 29 July. Chief Nnaji had said the Nigerian traders would take repossession of their shops on Thursday.
Dealers call ceasefire
A retail trade committee has been established by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to find a peaceful resolution to the matter.
The 20-member committee is tasked with ensuring that all foreign traders comply with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act 2013 (Act 865).
Later on Thursday 30 July, the Ghanaian dealers relented and said they would suspend locking up foreign-owned spare parts retail outlets to allow the committee to do its work.
Speaking to reporters for Asaase Radio on Thursday evening, Clement Boateng said, “So, we had a meeting with the Minister of Trade at about 4.30 pm and at the end of the day, it was agreed that we open the shops for them [foreigners].
“The minister assured us that this time around, the committee is going to swing into action and they will start the operation 10 August. The task force is going to start from Abossey Okai and then move around the country to make sure that this issue is settled once and for all.”
Sending a warning
Boateng warned that he and his colleagues will resume their agitation if the foreigners are not stopped from engaging in the retail trade.
“If both the Minister [for Trade and Industry] and the committee do their work, we won’t have any problem with anybody,” he said. “We will retreat, sit back and let the committee work.
“But so long as the committee doesn’t do what it is supposed to do, the agitations will continue.”
The unrest in the Abbosey Okai area of Accra began last week when leaders of the spare parts dealers started locking up shops without any legal permission to do so.
Space to trade
Speaking on the Asaase Breakfast Show on Thursday morning, Chief Akintola Bolanle, public relations officer for the Nigerian community in Ghana, said, “We do not have any choice. The government has taken the right steps …
“The GUTA people should not take the law into their hands by closing down shops. They should allow law-enforcement agencies to do that.
“Let me be honest with you: this law that is in Ghana, we have similar in Nigeria. But the bottom line of the matter is … whether you’ve heard the Nigerian government is closing down shops of foreigners. If you come to Nigeria today and you want to trade, space is there to trade in the local markets; there’s no discrimination.”
Chief Bolanle pointed out a discrepancy in the laws governing trading by citizens from other ECOWAS member states.
“Inasmuch as there is a bilateral relation between the two countries, the enforcement of Ghanaian law against foreigners is a breach of ECOWAS protocols on trade,” he said. “I strongly believe that there should be an adjustment to the policy, and that can allow the economy of Ghana to boom.”
Joseph Obeng, president of GUTA, said members had held successful talks with all stakeholders which would allow the foreign traders to return to their places of business.
“They are going to be opened by the close of the day [30 July]. The police will do that. We have handed the keys to the police and they will make sure that the place is opened,” he told the Accra-based Class FM.
Dr Obeng said: “We had to come to the ground to talk to our people to understand … because if those who are peeved [are not talked to], we cannot just go for a meeting and the next morning we instruct them to do something.”