Economic activities in and around the western border town of Elubo is virtually dead as a result of the closure of the Ghana-Ivory Coast border since March 2020.
Transport sector business, trading activities between the local indigenes and their neighbours from Ivory Coast, food vending, cloth and shoe businesses have all collapsed virtually due to the border closure over a year ago.
Some hotels have been shut because those operating record less patronage.
Some indigenes have fled to seek business refuge elsewhere while the rest have also resorted to begging for alms before they can eat.
Elubo is turning into a ‘ghost’ town since the once vibrant business town is now virtually empty.
These came to light when Onua TV visited the border town to ascertain how the closure is affecting the lives and livelihood of the people.
The team first spoke to the service commanders at the border town to ascertain how they are managing the situation of border closure.
The Elubo Sector Commander, Assistant Commissioner for Ghana Immigration Service Joshua Okraku said “we have sealed off all the unapproved routes to and from Ghana and Ivory Coast but it’s very difficult to tell somebody not to attempt to cross because they sneak to other places”.
“Whatever you do, the people would want to come. The closure was for human traffic and we try to prevent Ghanaians from there as well”.
AC Okraku said “people have attempt to breach the directives but we prevent them….We have made some arrests from March till now…we have arrested about 5,000 and returned them….Ivorians have been cooperative…we have to return their nationals when we arrest them here [in Ghana] and they also have to return our nationals when they arrest them…this is what we have been battling with”.
The Commander added that “the difficulty is those coming from afar and want to cross….we have to return them and they say they don’t have a place to stay….and it’s also not proper to ask them to go….so it’s always very difficult to ask them to go”.
Health Port testing
AC Okraku noted that “the Port Health officials are always at post to test people….when we arrest them, we bring them to the border….test you and then repatriate you”.
He said “we don’t have machines for testing now”.
The Commander noted that “the cargo are allowed to go but they go through the testing….the number of persons that should be on cargo truck are a driver and a mate…and owners of the goods….maximum on a cargo 4, maximum 5 persons”.
Visa on arrival
The Immigration officer noted that “there has not been any visa on arrival ever since the border was closed so there is a loss of revenue…we used to get about $1,000 per month but for now we don’t have any so there is a loss”.
He said “the more we close the unapproved one the more they close…we cannot count the unapproved routes….Those that we are manning now are about 20”.
AC Okraku noted that “if the borders were to be open, no one will use the unapproved routes….and whatever checks that will be put in place will rather help those that are able to sneak in that we are unable to check…who knows their status….this is a community…they depend on each other….inter social relationship is gone….they come and seek permission to go for funeral and we ask them to write to the President….practically two families are living on other sides…. economic wise, they are really suffering”.
The Elubo Sector Commander, Assistant Commissioner for Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Rev. J. Gyan Mensah, noted that “the borders are closed for both Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians”.
“If you are a non-Ghanaian and want to come…there are procedures….your embassy will have to write to the Ghana official and you go through immigration processes”.
The GRA man said “we have a river here so people want to sneak in….but we together with the military, navy, we have been able to stop them”.
AC Gyan Mensah said “it’s a challenge enforcing this…because it’s a river….and we can’t stretch ourselves being at the whole frontiers….even with that one, the immigration will have a challenge dealing with that….you asking the drivers to take the passengers back…the immigration doesn’t have money to take them back because we have issues of personnel…if it is raining we don’t have tents for the personnel….we have challenges with equipment as well”.
He said “the restrictions were on human movement…but cargo is allowed to come …cargo trucks cannot move by itself….they come with driver and mates or spare driver and spare mates so they are allowed”.
He said “we have large importers and exporters…some are ending up other to Takoradi…but because the movement is restricted now they are not coming and that has affected revenue in a way”.
“We are still collecting the revenue from the big time exporters …in terms of the big time importers, we have not lost any revenue but domestic businesses we are losing revenue”.
The Member of Parliament for Jomoro Constituency, Dorcas Affo-Toffey, who is championing and advocating for the reopening of the borders because of the dire impact it has had on the residents, toured the Bohye market at the Elubo border and observed that the place was deserted.
Most of their goods had expired, people had turned the place into one for open defecation while some people were stealing their goods.
Madam Affo-Toffey told Onua TV that “it’s been very devastating here….a lot of people have been crying to me to ask the government to help them by reopening the border”.
She said “they don’t know what to do and how to repay the loans from the banks….it has become a challenge”.
The MP urged that “the same measure that was at the airport which is working should be used here so that the border can be reopened”.
“People keep creating unapproved routes and that defeats the purpose of the closure”.
The MP promised that she is organizing some soft loans for the traders in order to support them get back to business but the border needs to be open first.
When asked whether the people of Elubo are ready to comply with the rigidity of Covid-19 protocols should the border be reopened, Madam Affo-Toffey said measures would be put in place in readiness in the event the borders officially open.
The Assembly members for Elubo West and East, Nana Frendoh Bosso Kwasi and Ebenezer Paul Angovi respectively, who were part of the MP’s entourage that toured the Bohye market explained that the traders secured bank loans for their businesses and they are unable to pay now.
“They went for loans and the banks are on them…we are appealing to the President to institute the right procedures to reopen the border….Elubo is the economic city of Jomoro….a lot of business people are living here because of this.”
By Kweku Antwi-Otoo|3news.com|Ghana