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17.10.2005 Business & Finance

Nigeria to lift ban on Ghanaian goods?

By Statesman
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THE Nigerian government's ban on over one hundred Ghanaian products may finally be lifted, following a request by the Nigerian authorities for a list of Ghanaian products wishing to access the country's market.

The move follows a successful agreement last month between the governments of Ghana and Nigeria, concerning the latter's outlaw of 96 Ghanaian products from its market earlier this year. A large number of Ghanaian industries have been affected by the ban, which applied to all Ghanaian exports to Nigeria except salt.

The ban came despite the existence of the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of goods and services in the region which should guarantee against such measures. Under the Trade Liberalisation Treaty, member countries are free to export and import items into the other country, devoid of quotas or any forms of restrictions.

The Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is the umbrella body for Ghanaian businesses, has accordingly been charged by the Trade and Industry Ministry to compile the list of Ghanaian manufacturers for onward submission to the Nigerian authorities for action, by the end of this week. Checks by The Statesman at the Chamber on Friday revealed that officials have already put together the first list of fifteen companies and their products to be submitted to the Government by the deadline.

The first list of companies include Phyto-Ricker Pharmaceuticals, manufacturers of pharmaceutical products; Duraplast, Interplast, and EPPL, all plastic manufacturing companies; Azar Chemicals, manufacturers of Azar paints; Getrade Wire and Wire Weaving Limited, all wire weaving companies.

Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, Head of Marketing, Trade and Investment Promotions at the Chamber, told The Statesman that the Nigerian authorities, led by Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iwaela, are now keen to issue a waiver on the products once their conditions are met.

Industry analysts, including some members of the Chamber of Commerce, said it was the contention of the Nigerian authorities that Ghana has “over-liberalised its markets, making it a fertile dumping ground for cheap imports from Europe and Asia”.

Speaking to The Statesman on condition of anonymity, they said it was the belief of the Nigerian authorities that Ghana attracts cheap imports from Asia because it is seen as an easy gateway, with Nigeria being the final destination for these cheap products. They said that Nigeria would want Ghana to enforce tighter control over its market to prevent an influx of cheap products swamping its domestic market.

Kwasi Abeasi, Chief Executive of the African Business Roundtable, told The Statesman that Nigeria could afford to show such adamancy on this issue because the country does not subscribe to the World Bank, which gives it greater flexibility to determine which products enter its market. Ghana, on the other hand, is less free to exercise such discretion because of the checks placed on it by the Bretton Woods Institutions.

Mr Abeasi assured The Statesman that he is taking the issue up with President Obasanjo of Nigeria, and that he will be supported in this by the Chairman of the NEPAD Business Group, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who is also a member of the Nigerian Business Advisory Council.

Last month, Private Sector Development Minister Kwabena Bartels rejected calls for retaliation to the ban, saying that Ghana is not ready for a trade war. Now, there are high hopes of reconciliation and a lift of the boycott. Meanwhile in another development, Nigeria has also introduced a new tariff structure with effect from October 1, as it begins the implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET).

The new scheme reduces from 30 to 20 percent the tariff on imported second-hand cars, but approves a special trade tariff on rice and cigarette, at 100 and 150 percent respectively, instead of 50 percent under CET.

CET seeks to harmonise the tariff regime of all ECOWAS countries for a sub-regional tariff structure. It is designed to boost the market for goods and services in the sub-region, integrate trade, and maximise opportunities for business towards the creation of an economic union for West Africa.

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