Despite closure of the country’s borders to help curb spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), some foreigners have been maneuvering into the country to conduct illegal businesses through border posts with Cote d’Ivoire in the Bono Region. The situation has heightened fears and anxiety among residents in communities like Sampa, Nkrankwanta, Kofibadukrom and Gonokrom along the Ghana – Cote d’Ivoire border on the western side. Coincidentally, the first confirmed case in the Bono Region has been reported at Sampa. As at May 7, 2020, the total number of confirmed cases stood at 3,091 – with Bono being the latest region to record COVID-19.
The B&FT has gathered that some Ivoirians and Burkinabes are able to cross borders into the country with the aid of some individuals, including security personnel stationed at the borders. The foreigners mostly bring in raw cashew nuts (RCN), which is not a customable or exempted commodity.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo ordered the closure of Ghana’s air, sea and land borders from March 22, 2022 – and it has since been extended to May 31. It forms part of measures to contain spread of the virus after the country recorded its first case on March 12. The border closure, however, exempts certain goods, supplies and cargo, but this does not include RCN import. Notwithstanding the border restrictions, a Cashew Buyer who spoke to B&FT on condition of anonymity revealed that many Ghanaian cashew buyers have been abetting foreign business partners (West African nationals) into the country by paying bribes to security personnel on behalf of the foreigners.
He alleged that “though the borders have been closed as directed by the president, we still manage to bring in our cashew consignments from Cote d’Ivoire, but at a higher cost. Initially, we were channeling our goods through unapproved routes, but the military presence here has made it very difficult.
“Right now, we bring the goods through checkpoints where there are only Customs-GRA and Immigration Officers on duty, particularly around Nkrankwanta area. They charge GH¢1,000 per every loaded truck, while the Ivorian security authorities on the other side take one million CFA (GH¢9,500). When you do this, it paves the way for our foreign business partners – Ivoirians and Burkinabes – to supply the cashew to us.”
Sources indicate that the ‘illegal cashew trade’ is very lucrative, hence foreigners risking their lives to beat restrictions in both countries to supply their Ghanaian counterparts. Cashew trade between the major two producing countries has been a long-established business venture.
When contacted, Sunyani Sector Commander of Customs Division-Ghana Revenue Authority, Mrs. Comfort Manu-Marfo, denied any knowledge about the practice at along that stretch of the border, adding: “Cashew is not even a Customable commodity at the land border, so I cannot comprehend how any Customs official or security person would levy a cashew-loaded cargo truck and allow it in – especially at this abnormal moment. Probably, they bring in the goods through unapproved routes. There are a lot of unapproved border routes in that part of the country”.The District Chief Executive for Dormaa-West, Mary Ameyaa, told the B&FT that the District Security Council has instituted stringent measures to curtail such illicit activities in the area, and she was not aware of any inflow of cashew through the district capital-Nkrankwanta.The DCE however noted that it could be happening on the blindside of authorities, and vowed to take the matter up, stressing: “Authorities will deal ruthlessly with persons aiding foreigners to enter the country amid the restrictions”.