Tensions between Ghanaian and foreign retailers appear not be dying down anytime soon.
A protest by the Ghanaian traders at Tiptoe Lane at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle on Friday, July 24, nearly led to a scuffle but for the intervention of police personnel and the President of Ghana Union of Traders’ Association, GUTA.
The traders, numbering about 200, massed up clad in red attire and arm bands, amidst chanting in protest against the foreign retailers, mostly Nigerians.
This comes barely few days after GUTA leadership warned of growing anger among its members over the reopening of the foreign-owned shops that were only opened by the Presidential Committee on Retail Trade for inspection of documents.
The protest nearly ended in fisticuffs until the President of GUTA, Dr. Joseph Obeng, intervened to calm down his members.
Per Section 27 of the GIPC Act 865, “A person who is not a citizen or an enterprise which is not wholly owned by a citizen, shall not invest or participate in the sale of goods or provision of services in a market, petty trading or hawking or selling of goods in a stall at any place,”
“What we were made to understand was that, the task force was to open the shops for them in order to assess their documents and understand the kind of trade the foreigner engages in. We will all agree that the laws do not permit for the foreigners to come into our markets and retail with us’” one trader noted.
“Petty trading is reserved for the locals, and we agree that ECOWAS trade laws allow for us to trade in other ECOWAS countries, but you do not engage in petty trading and compete with the locals. When you bring your wares, you can sell them in wholesale quantities to the citizens of the country who can later retail it, but you can’t do petty trading,” another Ghanaian trader said.
Some Nigerian retailers who had their shops locked up by GUTA sometime last year had them reopened to allow for a task force set up by the President, to assess their documents that permit them to do business in the country.
But according to GUTA, though 90 percent of the shops do not have the requisite document to engage in any trade in the country, they are still operating.
Friday’s protest, which was to precede the planned closure of the foreign-owned shops, almost became chaotic, when some of the traders from both sides nearly exchanged punches.
Calm was later restored after the President of GUTA, Dr. Joseph Obeng, spoke to his members, but not until he had also shared his sentiments.
“There’s no order in this country because of non-enforcement of the law. We want the government to see what is happening here and make sure that the laws that are made in the country are made to work. We call on government to make sure that the task force starts working. If the law exists, the law should work,” he stated.
He however announced the suspension of a planned locking up of foreign-owned shops on Wednesday by GUTA.
“The guys in this market are all brothers, they should not be divided over these issues. If the law works, nobody will argue about it. I am therefore calling off the intended nationwide closure of foreign shops on Wednesday, and I want all my members to listen to this. I want peace to prevail in this country, but while we are at it, the laws should work,” he reiterated.
Some of the foreign-owned shops that have been reopened, were locked up as far back as December last year,
This led to the formation of the Committee on Foreign Retail Trade after the President’s intervention.