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GUTA strikes @ Suame Magazine again; Closes down shops of foreigners.

The closure of the Benin-Nigeria border, which has stifled free trade among Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) member countries, has forced the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) to revive the pressure being mounted on the government to enforce Section 27 (1) of the GIPC Act, which debars foreigners from engaging in retail trade.

GUTA would, however, not publicly confirm this insisting that they only want the enforcement of the law.

In the past three days, GUTA members have pounded Suame Magazine, an industrial hub in Kumasi, and closed down stores and shops belonging to Nigerians and other foreigners.

Reports emanating from the mechanical hub indicate that there was uneasy calm when GUTA members stormed the area and started locking up shops, which belong mainly to Nigerian traders.

The Ashanti Regional Chairman of GUTA, Mr. Anthony Oppong, however, told The Chronicle that their protest was not directed towards only Nigerians, but all foreigners who are not following the Ghanaian regulations on trade. According to Oppong, the issues at stake are 'Bread and Butter, and that they will not sit aloof to lose their resources, before they call the authorities into action.

He expressed worry about the government's inability to correct this aberration, adding that GUTA have been cooperative with the authorities, including Parliament, in a high-level meeting, but there has not been enough commitment from the government to solve the challenge at hand.

He alleged that they pay taxes and other charges at the ports, but some of these foreigners do not do same. Asked if they are not trying to retaliate the Nigerian government over their border closure, he responded that the border closure had affected them inadvertently, but their protest had nothing to do with the closure.

Mr. Osei Bobie, Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of Suame, who spoke on Kumasi-based Nhyira FM, expressed worry about the development, saying they have met over the issue at the Municipal Security Council Meeting (MISEC).

He continued that they had invited the Nigerian community at Sumae Magazine to come and register with the assembly, an initiative, Dr. Bobie noted, is meant to get their database and provided them with the needed protection, but the Nigerians have failed to come forward to register with the assembly.

Frantic efforts to speak to the head of Nigerian Union of Traders Association, Ghana (NUTAG), Chief Kizito, failed, as all three calls placed to him were not answered.

Meanwhile, the Ashanti Regional Public Relations Officer of GUTA, Mr. Albert Offei Mensah, is also calling on the government to enforce GIPC Law 2013, (Act.865) section 27 (1) that bars foreigners from engaging in retail business.

He said it is time for the government to implement the Act, which has been passed since 2013, to the letter in Kumasi, and told the OTEC FM last Wednesday that members of the local union, who claimed responsibility for the closure of the shops owned by foreigners, would not allow the law to remain dormant.

He said GUTA would not relent in its bid to see the enforcement of the law. The Ghanaian traders also urged the government to act swiftly to ensure the border between Benin and Nigeria opens to business.

The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, reacting to the concerns of GUTA, bemoaned the current trade relations between Ghana and Nigeria, stating that the latter was taking advantage of her high population.

He added that with the advent of industries springing up under the Nana Addo government's One District One Factory, more Ghanaian products could penetrate into other African countries, including Nigeria.

The deputy Minister of Trade and Industry maintained that President Nana Akufo-Addo was worried about the current situation where Ghanaian traders plying their trade through the same routes have had their goods locked at the border.

According to the Minister, the Government of Ghana is threading tactfully on the issue of trade amongst West Africa countries, including Nigeria, and stressed the need for the people of Ghana, especially members of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), to understand the discourse before Ghana worsens its relations with Nigeria.

The Deputy Minister, however, disclosed that a team of industry players in the Trade Ministry, led by his good self, would head towards the Nigeria-Benin border to seek deliberations with the authorities to ensure the border is opened immediately to ensure trade resumes.

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Publication:Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra, Ghana)
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Nov 7, 2019
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