Trade experts in Ghana have criticized Nigeria’s bully attitude that led to the closure of its land borders from August 2019 till December 2020, and cautioned that, that kind of decision would not be condoned under the AfCFTA.
Speaking on Eye on Port, the Former Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, and the Member for Parliament for Tema West, Carlos Ahenkorah, empathized with Nigeria’s reasoning to safeguard its market and people, but disagreed with the option to close its borders.
“If you ask me, I still challenge the rationale for Nigeria to close its borders,” he stated.
According to him, Nigeria’s closure of the border was to flex its muscle as the regional superpower.
“They see themselves as big brothers of West Africa and can decide to do what they want to do,” Mr Ahenkorah expressed.
He revealed that, during his role as Deputy Minister of Trade, there was a meeting where the Nigeria proposed some 13 ultimatums that needed to be fulfilled, before reopening of its borders.
Carlos Ahenkorah, explained some of the dynamics of the border closure on businesses in Nigeria and its trading counterparts, hinting that some of the consequences may linger for some time.
“Companies in Ghana and throughout the West African region that they trade with as well as Nigerian companies themselves. The suffering is not going to end now. People have to reconnect and re-establish business relationships.”
He said the AfCFTA will fill the loopholes that the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme exposed, and ensure that such practices will not be condoned during its implementation.
“The ECOWAS protocols were couched in a gentleman’s agreement by the heads of states, and there were no dispute resolution mechanisms within that framework. The AfCFTA has corrected this mistake.”
Also contributing to the discourse, Nana Osei Bonsu, who is the CEO of the Private Enterprise Federation, corroborated the former Deputy Minister’s assertion, and emphasized that conflict resolution mechanisms embedded in the AfCFTA protocols, will not give way for trade injustices to grow.
“Whatever you do now will be subject to the AfCFTA. The rules of origin, the arbitration that was clearly missing with ECOWAS is now in place,” he cautioned.
He continued saying, “Even under that agreement, when exports were getting into Nigeria, they were imposing additional mandates on the Ghanaian businesses without any reason to do that and disregarding the protocol.”
Nana Osei Bonsu dismissed Nigeria’s position as exercising its prerogative to close its borders as a result of its responsibilities towards the ETLS.
He said the actions of Nigeria had a detrimental effect to the economies of the 14 member states, and it is unfortunate compensation hasn’t been discussed.
He said due to the all-encompassing nature of the AfCFTA constitution, it will not allow so called bigger nations to make selfish decisions in against other member states contrary to the provisions allowed in the AfCFTA protocols.
“There are mechanisms that would allow businesses to report foul behaviour. In ECOWAS, Nigeria is the biggest player so they bully, but in the Continental Free Market, we have other competitive big players who have participated well within the global village for a period and you can’t bully them. Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, etc,” he asserted.
The CEO of the Private Enterprise Federation, said because of Nigeria’s behaviour in the past year, although it has opened its land borders and deposited its instrument of ratification, he believes Ghanaian business will be reluctant to do business with Nigeria during the early stages of the implementation of the AfCFTA.