The Ghanaian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor-Botchwey, made the explanation on Monday in Abuja when she paid a courtesy visit on her Nigerian counterpart, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama.
Foreign nationals engaged in retail business in Ghana were on July 11 issued a quit notice to vacate the country’s markets. Ghanaian law reserves operation of retail business only for citizens.
The National Association of Nigerian Traders had warned that the quit notice could spark xenophobic attacks.
However, Botchwey maintained that Nigerians and other ECOWAS citizens were not affected by the quit notice.
“This has nothing to do with our ECOWAS brothers and sisters. It was more to do with other nationals.
“Yes there is a problem that Nigerians and other ECOWAS citizens have been cut up in this issue of traders being given quit notice to exit our markets with their retail trade which is, by the law of Ghana, reserved for Ghanaians.
“Our government is doing what it can; sitting with the Ghana Traders Association to ensure that there is that understanding that it has nothing to do with Nigerian and other ECOWAS traders.
“Even at the governmental level, we are dealing with and the president himself is handling the matter to ensure that it does not escalate,” she said.
She said that she was in Nigeria “to give assurance that between Ghana and Nigeria, this will never be an issue and we will not allow it to be an issue.”
Onyeama in his remarks said the Ghanaian minister’s visit demonstrated the country’s concern that Nigeria should, in no way, interpret the issue as xenophobia against Nigerian traders.
“The minister’s visit was to assure the government and the people of Nigeria that the government of Ghana is on top of the situation and would resolve the issue,” he said.
Onyeama said that the Minister explained that what prompted the outcry was not about nationals of ECOWAS, but nationals from outside Africa who had been installing themselves in the Ghanaian retail business.
“And that that was actually their main focus of attack. But that the Ghanaian Retail Association, is now making a general outcry against all non-Ghanaian retail traders.
“The government of Ghana is not happy about that because they want to be in strict compliance with all their obligations under the ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Persons, Goods and Services,” Onyeama said of his meeting with the Ghanaian Foreign Minister.
He said the Ghanaian Government was engaged in really coming out with a law that was consistent with their position as an ECOWAS member state.
According to him, so, they are at that process, but they are also very mindful of the special relationship they have with Nigeria.
“And we are particularly keen that in no way should it result in any targeting of Nigerians, any xenophobia against Nigerians.
“So, the government, in fact, the president himself, is personally engaged in addressing the situation,” he said.
“For her to travel, to fly here to meet with me for one hour, I think, demonstrated the concern of the Ghanaian Government that Nigeria should in no way interpret this as some kind of xenophobia against Nigerians.
“This also to assure us that the government is very much on top of this and will hopefully resolve the situation very quickly,” he said.