Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah says Nigeria did not err in closing its western land borders countries in the ecowas sub-region.
The Minister said the only way to get Nigeria open the border is through diplomacy because there is no law forbidding Nigeria from closing its borders.
Nigeria partially closed its borders with Benin in August this year to curb the spate of rice smuggling which Africa’s most populous country said is threatening its attempt to boost local production.
The move, according to Nigeria’s High Commission to Ghana, Olufemi Michael Abikoye also aims at stopping the movement of illicit weapons and other smuggled goods through the various entry points.
The closure has however affected the movement of goods and services from the West African sub-region into Nigeria.
Ghana’s Foreign Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey on October 15 assured that government will exhaust all diplomatic avenues to get Nigeria to re-open its western borders for the free flow of goods from Ghana to the sub-region.
Though unilateral border closures go against all commercial and freedom of movement treaties signed under ECOWAS, Mr Ahenkorah told Bright Asempa Onua FM’s Yen Sempa on Wednesday that “Nigeria has not violated any laws”.
He explained that the ECOWAS treaty says factories in the sub-region can produce and export to other ECOWAS countries “but we did not inculcate how to resolve disputes and grievances in the law so if it happens that way, we use diplomatic means to resolve the issue”.
The Tema West MP said “they [Nigeria] can change their laws which will affect other African countries and if it happens that way, we use diplomacy to resolve it”.
Nigerian trade supremacy
He explained that “when the government got wind of the issue, we notified our High Commission in Nigeria and they went in and asked, and they said it’s an exercise they are doing and will be opened soon”.
“Nigeria is bigger than us, and so if they want to bluff, we can’t say anything. They have the bigger market and that gives them the competitive edge but there are no laws that prevent them from closing their borders”.
“They have the money and the bigger market than us,” he added.
Government delegation to Nigeria
Mr Ahenkorah noted that President Akufo-Addo has delegated the Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey and the Trade and Industry Minister, Allan Kwadwo Kyerematen, to visit Nigeria and deliberate on the issue for the opening of the border as early as possible.
“We should be careful because it will affect traders. So, President Akufo-Addo has asked the Foreign and Trade Ministers to go to Nigeria to deliberate on the issue”.
Can Ghana emulate Nigeria?
Asked whether Ghana can also close its borders to prevent other countries from bringing their goods into Ghana, the Deputy Minister explained that “Ghana government must get dollars to support Ghanaians businesses because we buy our good with dollars”.
“The business men and women do not know how the dollar comes into the market. All they know is get the dollars in the market. If we also export to other countries, the money comes in dollars and that helps the nation so if we stop them, it will affect us”.
The Deputy Minister said “the balance of trade between Ghana and Nigeria, we export good things to Nigeria than they bring to Ghana, so we need to do assessments to see if we can produce more for the nation”.
Mr Ahenkorah explained that before government could ban importation of a product into the country, it has to ensure that the companies in the country could produce enough for the country.
“If we satisfied all these, then we can say we can produce enough for the nation but if we are unable to do all these and we stop the importation, it will affect us and that will lead to smuggling”.
He said “if we stop for instance the importation of paracetamol into Ghana and the Ghanaian companies are not able to produce enough for the nation, people will die”.
The President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), Dr. Joseph Kwaku Obeng reacting to the action by Nigeria said “Nigeria has annulled the ECOWAS protocol”.
He said Nigerians have the penchant of ensuring that their businesses would not be taken over by foreigners “but it is not like that in Ghana”.
“We are not going to agree any longer. We are also humans. We went to ECOWAS because of the citizens. Why can we say Nigeria can do it but we Ghanaians cannot do it”.
He advised that “we should learn from Nigeria. I have respected the Nigerians and we need to learn. We can also close some of our boarders to serve as a deterrent”.
By Kweku Antwi-Otoo|3news.com|Ghana