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Ghana trade act: Time for government intervention

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Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah.

There does not appear the Federal Government has waded into what promises to be a very explosive development in Ghana before long, a country in the West African coast which from time immemorial can be regarded as the second home of a great many Nigerians.

The signs are already there: Ghanaians are agitated and pressing that the law reserving small-scale businesses for only Ghanaians be activated and enforced. It is an old law enacted in 1994.

By its provision, only capital intensive enterprises with a minimum capital outlay of $300,000.00 and which employ no fewer than 10 Ghanaians are open to non-Ghanaians.

Feeling threatened by the surge of non-Ghanaians, largely Nigerians into Ghana, dealing in retail businesses, Ghana Union of Traders Association, now impatient with their government’s slow awakening from its slumber, have decided to enforce the law by themselves.

The union gave 27 July as the timeline in a notice issued in June for the aliens to comply with their law or close down their enterprises.

That deadline passed about a month ago. That the deadline has passed does not mean the issue is forgotten. And there lies the danger!

The law, known as Ghana Investment Promotion centre Act, expressly states: “In case of trading enterprise involving only the purchasing and selling of goods, which is either wholly or partly owned by a non-Ghanaian, there shall be an investment of foreign capital or its equivalence in goods worth at least $300,000.00 by way of equity capital and the enterprise shall employ at least 10 Ghanaians.”

The enterprises in consideration which must exclusively be for Ghanaians cover taxi business, dealing in spare parts, running down the road pharmacy, buying and selling of clothes such as shirts and jeans, electronics, phones in markets, running of business centres, kiosks, restaurants and motels.

Ghanaians say foreigners have pushed them out of business through domination and underselling through the instrumentality of price cuts.

Their discomfiture came to the open about six years ago and the resultant agitation has been building up from year to year until now that the Ghanaian Traders Union is winking to aggrieved Ghanaian traders to take action.

Nigerians have made Ghana their homes for a very long time even before Ghana independence struggle days, particularly people from South West, those mainly from Oyo North flocking to the northern part of Ghana and others from South West settling in the central and southern parts such as Kumasi.

They felt secure under Kwame Nkrumah’s pan-Africanistic freedom mantra with the resultant awakening waves and drive.

All felt proud and protected under his wide wings.

However, come 1969, the nationalistic instinct of normally hospitable Ghanaians was awakened by Dr. Busia, the Prime Minister.

In that year, he insisted Nigerians could continue to live in Ghana only if they had residence permits, a euphemism for expulsion.

This led to an exodus of Nigerians from out of Ghana back home.

It was untold harrowing experiences with generations not familiar with home having to trace family history and relations.

Not long after the exodus, the economy of Ghana collapsed in Busia’s hands and those of succeeding military rulers.

It then became the turn of Ghanaians in their thousands if not millions to run to Nigeria for greener pastures and succour.

They acquitted themselves as competent teachers, skillful artisans, sought-after masons and so on.

However, in a fit of political thoughtlessness, the Shehu Shagari Administration sent Ghanaians themselves back to Ghana in 1982.

In 1984, the Buhari military junta with General Mohammed Magoro as Interior Minister rounded up what may remain of them and deported them.

After Ghana settled under Jerry Rawlings Nigerians began to return to Ghana.

Rawlings and his determined successors have turned Ghana into an organised, orderly and decent society, resulting in a surge of Nigerians, this time mostly from the East, back to the land of gold.

So promising had the country become that some years ago, Ghana celebrated 10 years of uninterrupted power supply.

Because of the enabling business environment, the country easily became an investment destination even for some major companies from Nigeria, such as Michelin and Dunlop, thereby turning Oba Akran Industrial Avenue into a hollow shell of its old busy and bubbling zone.

Empty warehouses and production halls have been turned into evangelical centres, ironically with youths in search of jobs congregating in them to supplicate for miracles.

The 1994 Ghana Investment Promotion Act is a dusting up of Kofi Busia’s business and residency regulation on the one hand and a suspected lingering desire for a pound of flesh by Ghanaians on the other.

Public affairs commentators are heaping the blame not on our stars but on the Nigerian government economic policies.

Whatever it is, it must be realised that the world is now in the grip of new times, a major feature of which being nationalistic fervor and within nations, tension.

Last week South Africans in Soweto put on their xenophobic armour, moved from one shop to another and demanded that foreigners should leave their land.

Nigerians, Zimbabweans and Somalis have largely been at the receiving end. Many have been killed, shops looted and property destroyed.

In the United States, Mr. Donald Trump is unrelenting that undocumented immigrants must leave his country.

He is stemming the inflow of refugees from war-ravaged lands and immigrants from developing countries in search of greener pastures.

Mr. Trump would have turned America upside down but for the accustomed strong American press and the courts.

Britain itself known for accommodation and liberalism is no longer immune to the bug.

For how long the United Kingdom and Germany will hold out remains to be seen as the spate of terrorist attacks are blamed on immigrants.

Last week, a terrorist was jailed for life for an attempt to assassinate Mrs. Theresa May, the Prime Minister using a bomb.

About the time the judicial pronouncement was made, there was a protest march in Germany over an attack believed to be an act of terrorism in which a German was killed.

Nigerian retailers do not require heavy capital for their kind of businesses. Even where expansion is called for, their kind of buying and selling does not require $300,000.00, which with today’s exchange amounts to about N108 million to set up, nor do their small-scale businesses need an establishment of more than two persons.

But the law says the staff strength must be no fewer than 10 Ghanaians.

There is, therefore, ground for serious conflict. Something is brewing. Ghanaians are not going to be in any mood to back down.

The docility of the 1950s prevalent in the northern part is giving way to acute awareness brought about by widespread quality education and consciousness of Ghanaianess, a proud people into whom the spirit of nationalism has been ingrained by the legend of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

There is now a sense of entitlement among Ghanaians which their government can ill afford to ignore.

Ghanaians complain loudly that foreigners are crowding them out of businesses that should exclusively be theirs by right in their own land.

They have no other place to call their own. They elected their government to protect fundamental rights and interest.

That interest includes safeguarding their laws and their inalienable right to determine who lives in their midst and what businesses they can do.

The Ghanaian Government says that the law is not targeted at Nigerians.

Of course, the principle of lawmaking forbids an enactment which is directed at individuals or a group of people.

If Nigerians constitute the bulk of people in small-scale enterprises, it will be reasonable to infer that even if inadvertently, it is aimed at them; it is Nigerians that constitute a threat to their business world.

The ordinary Ghanaian has not hidden this. Their union has not hidden it that they want Nigerians in retail enterprises to pack and leave their country.

We should be ready that many countries that are not expressing these protectionism sentiments will do so in no distant future.

Protectionism is not new, not even in Nigeria, indigenisation of enterprises –financial houses and industries –of early 70 was all about protectionism.

Indeed before then law practice had been exclusively in the hands of Nigerians.

In 1962, during Chief Awolowo’s treasonable trial, his preferred lawyer, Dingle Foot, from the United Kingdom, was barred from entering Nigeria.

In these times Mr. Trump is already leading the way insisting, with his sing-song America First, on slamming trade tariffs on American allies, the industrial nations in the G7 club comprising Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Italy and the United States.

He has done so to China to which China has reacted by paying him back in his own coin.

The South Africa Government is taking land from White farmers and redistributing it to Black South Africans, with the threat that any White farmer who has land in excess of 25,000 acres would have the excess seized without compensation!

It would appear not much lesson has been learnt from the experience of Mugabe in Zimbabwe who out of misguided patriotism ruined the Zimbabwe economy by sending the White farmers away and plunged his compatriots into untold hardship.

Idi Amin did a similar thing in Uganda, sending Asians away from his land after overthrowing Obote.

It was not for nothing that Nelson Mandela out of ineffable refinement of a polished spirit and disarming maturity elected to employ the Law of Gradualism and saved the economy of South Africa.

What Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Onyeama should do is to go into negotiation with his opposite number in Ghana and persuade him to allow the Law of Gradualism hold sway.

Even though Ghanaians are right to possess their land and take control of their economy, for it is given to them for their development with the radiation of the stars of their zone, of the soil, of the plants, of the air and the seas in place to nourish them to spiritual health, they should know no one can stop the mobility of human beings.

We can interact. As we mature inwardly, we strike compatibility with our hosts or vice versa, and there is seamless integration in accordance with higher laws.

There are things to learn from the stranger Nigerian retailers in their midst to get themselves well integrated in the new.

The last time they sent away Nigerians their economy collapsed. Retaliation is never the path to take.

A more realistic solution lies in our own government itself promoting the enabling environment for businesses, small, medium or big to flourish in our country through sensible policies and political steps that will unleash the creative capabilities of Nigerians within their own land.

Nations across the world will crave insatiably for protectionism principle in one form or the other in the new times.

Travel documents will be subjected to stricter conditions to obtain. Yet, mobility is inherent in the nature of man.

What will be required in the new times, therefore, is knowledge that will turn us all in the direction to attain relative equal level of inner maturity.

That is when we human beings will not be strangers to ourselves and there will be no questions asked.

For what the Law of Creation stipulates is that people would live among people among their own kind, among those with whom they have core values and ideals in common.

Pursuit of material fulfillment necessary as it may be is not the way to it.

The commonality of ideals and values which undergird harmonious living are defined by shared level of spiritual maturity.

The abundance of Light Power streaming from the Holy Spirit in this Age will ensure that the incorruptible and self-acting Law of Homogeneity prevails in the formation or sustainability of communities and nations.

The sensible nations are those that begin to loosen up and ensure that only those who have much in common by say, shared worldview, culture, ideals, values, goals and aspirations govern themselves even if they have to live together in the same union.

The primary purpose of nation state and government is to facilitate the spiritual development of us human beings through sensible policies that engender harmony, dignity, ideals and values and promote freedom.

The rule of law

EXCERPTS: A nation is a creation of law and it must be governed by law.

Its interests must, therefore, be subordinated to law and seen gazing through the law.

National interest that is placed above the law is hogwash; it has no foundation and it can only lead to acrimony, conflict, violence and more violence, and disaster.

The rule of law is the first evidence of civilisation, for it curbs human tendencies and peccadilloes and separates man from animal and states from a jungle and the land of chaos. It confines a society to a moral compass.

It gives a citizen the sense of being. With the Rule of Law behind him a citizen feels on top of the mountain, unreachable and unapproachable.

He is free from harassment, intimidation and abuse. He is free from being a victim of arbitrariness. It protects every person’s claim to dignity.

This Rule of Law is under the protectorate of the officers in the Temple of Justice. There is more.

The supremacy, beauty and triumph of the rule of law was on display on 09 August, about a month ago, in the United States when Justice Emmet Sullivan of the District Court of Colombia ordered the US President to cause his Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to get an immigrant woman and her child who had sued the Trump Administration returned to the US.

The woman was seeking asylum in the US complaining of domestic violence by her husband even after they separated.

She was also fleeing from a death threat in El-Salvador from a gang. Her asylum application was rejected and her case was taken up by American Civil Liberties Union and Centre for Gender and Refugee Studies in combined efforts.

The case, an ‘ Emergency Motion’ was pending when the Homeland and Immigration had the woman and her daughter deported from Houston , Texas.

The plane ferrying her and the daughter was already airborne on the way to El- Salvador.

Although the aircraft could not turn mid-air because aviation rules give pilots unquestionable right of decision, the Trump Administration powerful as it is and cocky as Mr. Trump is, ensured that the order of the court was carried out as the Homeland Security Secretary took steps that the lady and her daughter were not disembarked.

The same aircraft returned them to the United States to the relief of the American government and its functionaries in compliance with the court order. For them there could not be a plea of a fait accompli, and that the court order had been made in vain.

The rule of law is, indeed, the first sign of a civilised society. Its victory is always sweet and reassuring.

However, Rule of Law is one thing, its administration is another.

Full discourse next week.


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