Martin-Luther C. King, in Accra
The customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has lamented loss of revenue at Ghana’s busy Aflao border post, due to Nigeria’s closure of its land borders.
GRA is the state agency responsible for revenue collection in Ghana.
The Ghana Union of Traders Associations, GUTA, also urged the sub-regional Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS to call Nigeria to order over the country’s continued closure of its border, which it described as dictatorial.
GUTA is the umbrella body of all Ghanaian traders, and is at the forefront of the seemingly endless feud between Nigerian traders in Ghana and their Ghanaian counterparts.
Madam Sheila Vigbedor, the Aflao sector commander of the customs division of the GRA, said the sector could not meet its revenue target for 2019 as a result of the closure of Nigeria’s western border.
She said the closure of the border to goods coming into and leaving Nigeria, in contravention of the sub-regional ECOWAS protocol on movement of goods and persons, affected the inflow of imports and led the sector to record a shortfall of GH¢18.57 million (N1.2 billion).
The Aflao sector, which was assigned a revenue target of GH¢164.14 million (N11.078 billion) was able to collect GH¢145.57 million (N9.8 billion), representing 88.69 per cent.
Vigbedor commended the commitment and dedication of staff to duty and the collaborative efforts of other security services, which made the sector to record remarkable achievements such as the interception of a total number of 151 uncustomed vehicles, fake $761,900, 48kgs of narcotic drugs, large quantities of fake pharmaceutical products and fake electricity meters.
She called on the leadership of the GRA to address the sector’s challenges, which, she said, included limited availability of operational vehicles and accommodation for staff to improve its revenue mobilisation efforts and anti-smuggling patrols.
She asked officers to continue to work hard to enable the sector collect the assigned GH¢184.35 million (N12.4 billion) for the year 2020, despite the persistence of the Nigerian situation and the fact that the sector had already missed out on its target for the first quarter saying, “strategies have been designed to minimise possible revenue leakages and with God on our side, we shall surely succeed”.
Acknowledging the problems of officers at the sector, commissioner of the customs division of GRA, Mr Kwadwo Damoah said he had taken steps to draw the GRA management’s attention to resolve them.
He entreated officers to rededicate themselves for the task ahead this year noting, “We must understand that the solution to our problems lies in our own hands because the more revenue we are able to collect, the more the quantum of our retention”.
Also expressing disappointment at the the persisting closure of Nigeria’s border, the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) said Nigeria was behaving like a dictator.
The country should have informed member-states of ECOWAS before proceeding to take such action, Clement Boateng, GUTA national secretary said on a local radio station, monitored by West African Post in Accra.
He bemoaned the Nigerian government’s action, saying that it should have taken cognizance of the fact that closing the border abruptly would cause major problems to traders and business tycoons who use the Ghana-Togo-Benin-Nigeria corridor.
Boateng regretted that Nigeria’s government was becoming authoritarian, noting it was about time ECOWAS brings it to order.
“Nigeria thinks they are the biggest economy in the sub-region and so would want to dictate to us. It’s about time that the ECOWAS Commission calls Nigeria to order because we all belong to the Commission. So, if there is the need to close the border, you have to inform your (fellow) member-states to give a prior notice to their citizens that from this period, every person must do his or her business before the period,” he opined.
He advised Ghanaian traders to explore other countries to transact business, however.
“We have advised our traders that they should look for other options, because the Nigerian borders will not be opened for them any time soon until the pandemic is dealt with within the country,” he said.
Nigeria had partially closed its land borders last year to curb smuggling and to address other security issues. In response to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the country last month upgraded, and extended by four weeks, the closure to a complete shut-down, including to human traffic, to help curtail spread of the pandemic.