By Lizzy Okoji
Abuja – Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama and his Ghanaian counterpart, Mrs Shirley Botchwey, said on Wednesday that both countries had agreed on modalities to resolve the trade challenges arising from the recent border closure by Nigeria.
Both ministers disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Abuja after a closed-door meeting.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Botchwey, who was accompanied by the Ghanaian Trade Minister, Hon. Alan Kyerematen, is expected to engage in further discussions with Nigeria’s Trade Minister and Comptroller General of Customs.
According to Onyeama, the meeting between the both countries is aimed at addressing the “collateral damage” arising from “some mischief”.
He said that the issues at stake would be addressed as soon as possible.
He gave an assurance that after the meeting between the ministers and relevant stakeholders, the challenges militating against the ease of trade between Ghana and Nigeria, especially in relation to the Nigeria-Benin border closure would be resolved quickly.
“You are here to address the issue of collateral damage to your country as a result of the border closure in place at the moment.
“And we are trying to find a way through because the mischief is not related to trade with Ghana.
“We are hoping that from there you will be able to take back positive message to your President, the business, and trade community.
“And we will sort it out as soon as possible because time is of the essence.
“We are targeting criminal activities and not countries.
“So, in addressing a particular country’s issues, it would not be a disadvantage to another country because for us, it is a measure to address a particular issue,” Onyeama said.
Responding, Bothwey said that the visit was to bring to the fore the challenges being faced by Ghanaian exporters, currently unable to transport goods into Nigeria as a result of the Nigerian-Benin border closure.
“We came here with the issues and within a few minutes of our meeting we have sort of found common grounds in resolving it and from here we would be going to meet with the minister of trade and also the customs boss.
“We are hoping that quickly, we should resolve the issues so that our exports to Nigeria will continue to have safe passage without any impediment as a result of what is not supposed to affect Ghana negatively.
“For thirty days or so, we have had several trucks that have been stuck at the Benin side of the border.
“They have not been able to cross into Nigeria and hopefully this will be a thing of the past.
“We have agreed on the process that would lead to it being resolved and the first is to give our Nigerian counterparts more details.
“Details of the companies that do business in Nigeria, the kind of business that they do, and the details of the trucks that have been stuck on the Benin side of the border.
“Once we are able to give them that, both sides will determine the modalities that we need to put in place for the safe passage,” Botchwey said.
She said that at the moment, there was no impediment on the way of Nigerian businesses that export their goods to Ghana.
She described the meeting as a fruitful one and expressed optimism that the meetings with Nigeria’s trade minister and Comptroller General of Customs would lead to the emplacement of measures that would help resolve the issues as quickly as possible.
Also speaking, Kyerematen said that Nigerians and Ghanaians had been trading for a long time, hence the need for a practical approach to tackling emerging challenges.
He said that occasionally in business, challenges would come up, but the most important thing would be to have a formula for dealing with such challenges when they came up.
Responding to a question on the retail trade tussle between Nigerian and Ghanaian spare part dealers in Ghana, Kyerematen said that the issue had been resolved and that normalcy had been restored.
“We need within the context of ECOWAS to try and deal with some of these challenges in a more structured way.
“Yes, there is a domestic legislation in our country that basically has been the basis for the representation that has been made by the Ghanaian traders.
“On the side of the Nigerian traders they have also made references to the ECOWAS protocol which also has provisions that support them.
“I am pleased that we have found a way to work together to deal with these problems,” Kyerematen said.
NAN reports that retail trade laws in Ghana have limited the capacity of foreigners to engage in retail business in that country.
Hence, the engagement of Nigerian spare part dealers in that country led their Ghanaian counterparts to attack them and force them to close their shops. (NAN)