The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) has bemoaned the decision by the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) parliament to open investigations into the impact of a seven-month closure of the Nigerian-Benin borders to trade.The decision follows a statement by Nigeria’s presidency stating that; “ECOWAS will study and make a full report on Nigeria’s land border closure with her neighbors”.
President of GUTA, Dr Joseph Obeng, reacting to the news in an interview with GhanaWeb, said the decision is rather late and comes at a very unfavorable period due to the losses some Ghanaian traders have incurred, particularly those who have had their goods stuck and others destroyed at the borders.
“The call by ECOWAS is rather late and hopeless at this point. How long did it take for them to now be reaching out to investigate? It’s been almost 7 months and people have already lost their capital. We [GUTA] will now contend ourselves with the continental free trade area that is coming and we will work to make sure that any grey areas that we encounter in this regional bloc is prevented towards the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement,” he stressed.
“We will make sure that all those loopholes that did not make the ECOWAS parliament do their work will be avoided, we will give our input to make sure that the continental free trade becomes a success,” Dr Obeng added.
Dr. Obeng however advised that the leaders of the AfCFTA hold talks with the relevant stakeholders to address the challenges encountered and offer solution-based results towards the implementation of the regional trade bloc.
Recently, Minister for Trade and Industry, Alan Kyeremanten, said government is negotiating a dispute settlement protocol under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to facilitate free trade movement.
According to him, the effort by government is to protect traders and activities among countries in order for them not to flout trade barrier laws.
Under the new protocol, the minister says any country that is part of the Continental Free Trade Area (CTFA) can file an action against the country that flouts trade laws when instituted.
“The closure of the Nigerian border can be considered as a trade barrier and we have negotiated under the CFTA a protocol on dispute settlement, so unlike what exits in the current protocol, any country that feels aggrieved by an act or issue by another country that is part of the CFTA can file an action against that particular country or trading group,” he earlier explained.
Nigeria’s decision to close its borders
Last year, the Nigerian government in its Prohibited and Restricted Imports list banned the importation of some 45 products including rice, cement, textile products cocoa butter and other products it currently manufactures.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, in August 2019, ordered a partial closure of the Togo-Benin border to check the smuggling of cheap goods into Nigeria.