Leadership of the Ghana Union Traders Association (GUTA) is to blame for the influx of foreigners in Ghana’s retail sector, a situation that contravenes the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act, Mr Murtala Mohammed, a former Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, has said.
Mr Murtala explained that when he was as the Trade Ministry, officials from GUTA, GIPC and the ministry itself were trained by the Judiciary and also given prosecutorial powers to arrest all Ghanaians fronting for foreigners in the retail sector but nothing happened despite their numerous complaints of foreigners invading their retail sector.
He explained that the decision to train the officials followed numerous complaints of mistrust between the GIPC and GUTA.
“GUTA thought the GIPC was behind the foreigners who were engaged in retailing and that GIPC were unwilling to implement the law and, so, we decided that if that is the case, we will add GUTA members to the training and give them the prosecutorial powers to arrest the people they know are engaged in the illegal business, but they were not able to prosecute one person years after the training,” he told Kwabena Prah Jnr (The Don) on Ghana Yensom on Accra 100.5FM Tuesday, 25 June.
A few days ago, GUTA threatened that if the Ghanaian authorities continue to harass its members who are fighting against the invasion of the retail market by foreigners, the union will fight back to ensure that the right things are done.
GUTA said it will neither succumb nor kowtow to pressure and intimidation from the government of Ghana on the matter.
The union called on the government to work in favour of Ghanaians as far as retailing is concerned and desist from protecting foreigners engaged in retailing in Ghana, an action that is against the Act of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC).
In a press release signed by GUTA General Secretary Alpha A. Shaban, the union said: “If the authorities fail to take a decisive and swift action and decide to hide under the law and use the security agencies to harass, intimidate or molest any of our members or traders, who is genuinely fighting to reclaim the territory reserved by the law for them, it will be most unfortunate.”
“GUTA will not succumb or kowtow to any authority on this matter until the right thing is done to save Ghana and Ghanaians from the awful situation, they (authorities) have plunged [us] into as a result of their laxity and inaction”, the statement said.
According to GUTA, the authority’s actions should not be in favour of the foreigners to the detriment of Ghanaians.
“Inasmuch as GUTA would want peaceful coexistence with foreigners, we do not believe that the government’s actions through state institutions should go to favour foreigners to the detriment of its own nationals and also defeat laws that have been passed by the government itself. Ghana, as of now, is not a colony of any other nation in the world.”
But Mr Murtala put the blame on the doorstep of GUTA, saying: “I will blame GUTA. I dealt directly with GUTA, I had 24/7 interactions with them. When we were at the Ministry, we never took any decision about petty traders without involving GUTA.
“For a very long time, they expressed the concern that we need to enforce the laws. They accused the GIPC of dragging its feet in implementing the laws and also that GIPC is conniving with the Nigerians. Following that, I had meetings with GIPC and GUTA.
“My Minister, Dr Ekow Spio-Garbrah and I had an interaction with the Chief Justice and the Chief Justice advised that we could train prosecutors from the ministry so that they will have the capacity to prosecute.
“We didn’t want to train officials from the ministry alone, so, we told GUTA and GIPC to give us representatives and I remember GUTA gave us people who later were trained as prosecutors as part of our programme.
“The ministry spent money because we needed to provide the resources for the judiciary to train the prosecutors from GUTA, the ministry and GIPC.
“After the training, we told GUTA that because they are the ones dealing directly with the traders, they will best know those who are engaged in the illegality to arrest them. But several days, months and years after the training, they have not been able to bring a single person for prosecution.”
“In some of the meetings I had with them, they told me and admitted that a lot of the foreigners are being fronted for by Ghanaians who are members of GUTA.
“I then told them that I wouldn’t be able to know who is fronting for the foreigners, so, they should go ahead and arrest and prosecute them because they have been trained and given the powers to do it.
“I also told them if they could not prosecute, they should tell us at the ministry who the people were so we prosecute them from the ministry but not a single person was brought.
“They never brought one person to be prosecuted yet they always make claims that Ghanaians are fronting for foreigners. So, sometimes when I listen to GUTA, I feel extremely shocked.”