By William Niba
Members of Ghana’s main traders’ union GUTA, stormed Accra’s shopping district on Monday closing down more than 100 foreign–run shops.
The businesses targeted were said to be violating a Ghanaian law barring non-nationals from operating in the domestic retail space, according to the Myjoyonline news website.
But experts see the action as a response to Nigeria’s closure of its border with Benin on August 21st of this year.
The measure left scores of Ghanaian traders stuck inside Nigeria with thousands of tons of goods which were due to transit through Benin by road.
The Ghanaian traders’ union says up to 100 trucks of goods belonging to Ghanaian traders have been locked up in Nigeria since Abuja closed the country’s border with Benin in July, 2019.
“Traders who took loans for their businesses and are counting their losses, acted out of frustration”, says Joseph Obeng, President of the Ghana Union of Traders’ Associations.
Obeng who spoke his mind in an interview published by the Accra-based Daily Graphic newspaper, accuses the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) of allowing Nigeria to renege on its international commitments.
“As we speak, their members are stuck behind the border in Nigeria with their goods while others transporting merchandise to Nigeria are stuck at Seme, the gateway to Benin”, explains David Agbenu, editor of the Ghanaian Times.
The Ghanaian journalist notes that stranded traders are still waiting to know what Foreign minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey and her colleague in charge of trade and industry achieved got from last-week’s crisis mission to Nigeria.
Ghanaian foreign minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey (middle) and trade minister Allan Kyerematen, with Nigeria’s foreign minister Geoffrey Enyeama, (right), during meeting in Abuja in October to discuss the border closure crisisgraphic.com.gh
According to Agbenu, the two parties agreed on the creation of a goods transit corridor through Benin which is still to be implemented.
Traders on the Nigerian side have also started feeling the pinch, with northern textile dealers counting their losses, since August, in the tune of €7.4 billion.
While staple food prices go up as Christmas approaches, Abuja remains determined to enforce the border security exercise until January 31st, 2020.
Nigeria partially closed its border with Benin leading West Africa to “curb rice smuggling” which Abuja claimed was pushing local producers into bankruptcy.
Nigerian authorities also pointed to the imperative to stop the proliferation of small arms, widely beleived to be behind the spate of kidnappings and worsening insecurity in the country.
African leaders at the Economic Commission for Africa launching the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) at a summit in Niamey, Niger 7th July 2019au.org
Nigeria ordered the border closure just three months, after inking the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which is projected to generate a combined GDP of €2 trillion by 2020 in all 55 countries of the African Union combined.
The rock on which ECOWAS was founded is also accused of violating the protocol establishing a free trade area in the community.