Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has made some far-reaching proposals that would bring an end to the attacks on Nigerian traders doing business in Ghana, asking his host to review the law on $1 million business capital.
Gbajabiamila, who spoke during a ‘Legislative Diplomacy’ bilateral meeting with Ghanaian lawmakers and some top government officials, as part of his on-going visit to Ghana to resolve the crisis, advocated an amicable settlement of trade disputes through arbitration and fair judicial processes.
But Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyeremateng, said until the law was reviewed, Nigerian traders in his country must obey it as their Ghanaian counterparts.
The speaker called on Ghanaian authorities to revisit the component of the law that required a capital base of $1 million for businesses to start, saying as Africans, Ghana should encourage brotherliness.
He said: “First, amicable settlement of trade disputes through arbitration and fair judicial processes. In this context, we do believe that while it is the sovereign right of the government of Ghana to pass and implement the GIPC Act, we would implore you to explore alternative and less aggressive options of engaging, sanctioning and relating with our traders and business people who operate in your country, pay taxes and contribute to the development of both our nations.
‘Review N1m business capital’
“Second, we would encourage you to revisit the component of the law that requires a capital base of $1 million.
‘’The prospect of our traders being able to raise a capital base of $1,000,000 before they can trade in goods that may be worth less than $1,000, clearly is a major challenge. Third, one of the things we are all proud about and the common surname that we all bear is ‘ECOWAS’.
‘’As you know, by virtue of being ECOWAS countries, our nations and our citizens should be able to live, work and thrive in any of our nations without any form of hindrance or discrimination. It is in this light we would encourage that we explore how the principles and the application of ECOWAS protocols – which we are both signatories to – may perhaps conflict with the application of the GIPC Act, especially vis-à-vis the recent adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, by African nations; and also the movement towards a single currency in the West African sub-region.
“Fourth, is the importance of strengthening legislative diplomacy and collaboration. Legislative diplomacy is a tool that has been used across the world – both in developing and developed nations – to negotiate, to arbitrate and to find peaceful resolution to disputes between nations.
‘Nigeria, Ghana are siblings’
“Fifth, like I said right from the beginning, Nigeria and Ghana are siblings from the same family. I, for one, would be willing to champion a law that helps to improve the bilateral trade relations and reciprocal legislation between our two countries and in this regard, we would like to explore the possibility of jointly passing what we could potentially call a Nigeria-Ghana Friendship Act – or something in that line, which will help to cement into law the good relations between our countries and also create a legal framework for further camaraderie that will enable us to ensure that, when it comes to Nigeria and Ghana, our laws will support efforts to improve relations, trade and positive and friendly interactions between our citizens, institutions and our governments.
“We do not have an exact title for such a law as at now, but agreeing on reciprocal legislation that cements the friendship between our nations; and ensures that it continues to thrive and benefit all our citizens – no matter where they live – would go a long way in strengthening our relations on all levels.’’
He said it was in a bid to improve the bilateral relationships among African countries that he had been championing the creation of the Conference of Speakers and Heads of African Parliaments, CoSAP, aimed at identifying, discussing and resolving issues and challenges that affect growth, stability and development within different regions and across the continent.
Breach of law
In his remarks, the Ghanaian Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyeremateng, said there were many Ghanaians and Nigerians going about their lawful duties without difficulties.
“The incidence that has occurred where some shops were locked up must have risen out of situations where there were clear abuses of the application of the laws.
“I was happy that the Nigerian Speaker of the House of Representatives mentioned that if they are doing legitimate business, please allow them as brothers and sisters to continue to do so. I want to give you that assurance that that will be the case. Anybody engaged in business, trading, doing the rightful things, they must have no difficulties.
“Even in cases where we found that in some instances the laws were not being followed, I, in my capacity as the Minister of Trade, had ordered that they shut the office and those who are being seen as offending the law be given an opportunity to regularize their documentation.
“I say this, being the Minister of Trade and Industry, this is not something that is new, I have always, since the time I’ve been a minister, found a way of going along, so that those who needed to regularize their businesses would do so.
“As long as the laws remain on our statute books, I will like to request that you send a strong signal to our brothers and sisters, who are engaged in retail trading, that, at least for now, until further considerations are made on our statute books, they should just respect the law, because Ghanaian traders themselves are required to respect the laws of our country. ”