4. Industrial Policies
The Nigerian government maintains different and overlapping incentive programs. The Industrial Development/Income Tax Relief Act, Cap 17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 provides incentives to pioneer industries deemed beneficial to Nigeria’s economic development and to labor-intensive industries, such as apparel. There are currently 99 industries and products that qualify for the pioneer status incentive through the NIPC, following the addition of 27 industries and products added to the list in 2017. The government has added a stipulation calling for a review of the qualifying industries and products to occur every two years. Companies that receive pioneer status may benefit from a tax holiday from payment of company income tax for an initial period of three years, extendable for one or two additional years. A pioneer industry sited in an economically disadvantaged area is entitled to a 100 percent tax holiday for seven years and an additional five percent depreciation allowance over and above the initial capital depreciation allowance. Additional tax incentives are available for investments in domestic research and development, for companies that invest in LGAs deemed disadvantaged, for local value-added processing, for investments in solid minerals and oil and gas, and for several other investment scenarios. For a full list of incentives, refer to the NIPC website at .
The NEPC administers an EEG scheme to improve non-oil export performance. The program was suspended in 2014 due to concerns about corruption on the part of companies that collected grants but did not actually export. It was revised and relaunched in 2018. The federal government set aside 5.12 billion naira (roughly USD 14.2 million) in the 2019 budget for the EEG scheme. The NEXIM Bank provides commercial bank guarantees and direct lending to facilitate export sector growth, although these services are underused. NEXIM’s Foreign Input Facility provides normal commercial terms for the importation of machinery and raw materials used for generating exports. Repayment terms are typically up to seven years, including a moratorium period of up to two years depending on the loan amount and the project being finance. Agencies created to promote industrial exports remain burdened by uneven management, vaguely defined policy guidelines, and corruption.
The NIPC states that up to 120 percent of expenses on research and development (R&D) are tax deductible, provided that such R&D activities are carried out in Nigeria and relate to the business from which income or profits are derived. Also, for the purpose of R&D on local raw materials, 140 percent of expenses are allowed. Long-term research will be regarded as a capital expenditure and written off against profit.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) allows duty-free import of all equipment and raw materials into its export processing zones. Up to 100 percent of production in an export processing zone may be sold domestically based on valid permits and upon payment of applicable duties. Investors in the zones are exempt from foreign exchange regulations and taxes and may freely repatriate capital. The Nigerian government also encourages private sector participation and partnership with state and local governments under the free trade zones (FTZ) program, resulting in the establishment of the Lekki FTZ (owned by Lagos State), and the Olokola FTZ (which straddles Ogun and Ondo States and is owned by those two states, the federal government, and private oil companies). Workers in FTZs may unionize but may not strike for an initial ten-year period.
Nigeria ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2016 and the Agreement entered into force in 2017. Nigeria already implements items in Category A under the TFA and has identified, but not yet implemented, its Category B and C commitments. In 2016, Nigeria requested additional technical assistance to implement and enforce its Category C commitments. (See )
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Foreign investors must register with the NIPC, incorporate as a limited liability company (private or public) with the CAC, procure appropriate business permits, and register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (when applicable) to conduct business in Nigeria. Manufacturing companies sometimes must meet local content requirements. Long-term expatriate personnel do not require work permits but are subject to needs quotas requiring them to obtain residence permits that allow salary remittances abroad. Expatriates looking to work in Nigeria on a short-term basis can either request a temporary work permit, which is usually granted for a two-month period and extendable to six months, or a business visa, if only traveling to Nigeria for the purpose of meetings, conferences, seminars, trainings, or other brief business activities. Authorities permit larger quotas for professions deemed in short supply, such as deep-water oilfield divers. U.S. companies often report problems in obtaining quota permits. The Nigerian government’s Immigration Regulations 2017 introduced additional means by which foreigners can obtain residence in Nigeria. Foreign nationals who have imported an annual minimum threshold of capital over a certain period may be issued a permanent residence permit, if the investment is not withdrawn. The Nigerian Oil and Gas Content Development Act, 2010 restricts the number of expatriate managers to five percent of the total number of personnel for companies in the oil and gas sector.
The National Office of Industrial Property Act of 1979 established the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) to regulate the international acquisition of technology while creating an environment conducive to developing local technology. NOTAP recommends local technical partners to Nigerian users in a bid to reduce the level of imported technology, which currently accounts for over 90 percent of technology in use in Nigeria. NOTAP reviews the Technology Transfer Agreements (TTAs) required to import technology into Nigeria and for companies operating in Nigeria to access foreign currency. NOTAP reviews three major aspects prior to approval of TTAs and subsequent issuance of a certificate:
- Legal – ensuring that the clauses in the agreement are in accordance with Nigerian laws and legal frameworks within which NOTAP operates;
- Economic – ensuring prices are fair for the technology offered; and
- Technical – ensuring transfer of technical knowledge.
U.S. firms complain that the approval process for TTAs is lengthy and can routinely take three months or more. NOTAP took steps to automate the TTA process to reduce processing time to one month or less; however, from the date of filing the application to the issuance of confirmation of reasonableness, TTA processing still requires 60 business days. .
The Nigerian Oil and Gas Content Development Act of 2010 has technology-transfer requirements that may violate a company’s intellectual property rights.
The Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in the ICT sector issued by the NITDA in 2013, require ICT companies to host all consumer and subscriber data locally to ensure the security of government data and promote development of the ICT sector by mandating all government ministries, departments, and agencies to source and procure software from only local and indigenous software development companies. Enforcement of the guidelines is largely absent as the Nigerian government lacks capacity and resources to monitor digital data flows. Federal government data is hosted locally in data centers that meet international standards. In 2019, NITDA updated the 2013 Guidelines for Data Protection ( ) and rolled out the regulatory framework for providers of public internet access services such that only registered, verified and vetted providers can provide public internet access service in Nigeria.
The NCS and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) exercise exclusive jurisdiction over customs services and port operations respectively. Nigerian law allows importers to clear goods on their own, but most importers employ clearing and forwarding agents to minimize tariffs and lower landed costs. Others ship their goods to ports in neighboring countries, primarily Benin, after which they transport overland legally or smuggle into the country. The Nigerian government began closing land borders to trade in August 2019, reportedly to stem the tide of smuggled goods entering from neighboring countries and has not reopened borders as this year’s report. The Nigerian government implements a destination inspection scheme whereby all inspections occur upon arrival into Nigeria, rather than at the ports of origin. In 2013, the NCS regained the authority to conduct destination inspections, which had previously been contracted to private companies. NCS also introduced the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) platform and an online system for filing customs documentation via a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) process. The NCS still carries out 100 percent cargo examinations, and shipments take more than 20 days to clear through the process.
Shippers report that efforts to modernize and professionalize the NCS and the NPA have largely been unsuccessful – port congestion persists and clearance times are long. A presidential directive in 2017 for the Apapa Port, which handles over 40 percent of Nigeria’s legal trade, to run a 24-hour operation and achieve 48-hour cargo clearance is not effective. The port is congested, inefficient and the proliferation of customs units incentivizes corruption from official and unofficial middlemen who complicate and extend the clearance process. Freight forwarders usually resort to bribery of customs agents and port officials to avoid long delays clearing imported goods through the NPA and NCS. Other ports face logistical and security challenges leaving most operating well below capacity. Nigeria does not currently have a true deep-sea port although one is under construction near Lagos but not expected to be finished before 2021. Smuggled goods routinely enter Nigeria’s seaports and cross its land borders.
Investors sometimes encounter difficulties acquiring entry visas and residency permits. Foreigners must obtain entry visas from Nigerian embassies or consulates abroad, seek expatriate position authorization from the NIPC, and request residency permits from the Nigerian Immigration Service. In 2018, Nigeria instituted a visa-on-arrival system, which works relatively well, but still requires lengthy processing at an embassy or consulate abroad before an authorization is issued. Some U.S. businesses have reported being solicited for bribes in the visa-on-arrival program. Visa-on-arrival is not valid for employment or residence. Investors report that the residency permit process is cumbersome and can take from two to 24 months and cost USD 1,000 to USD 3,000 in facilitation fees. The Nigerian government announced a visa rule in 2011 to encourage foreign investment, under which legitimate investors can obtain multiple-entry visas at points of entry. Obtaining a visa prior to traveling to Nigeria is strongly encouraged.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Nigeria’s skilled labor pool has declined over the past decade due to inadequate educational systems, limited employment opportunities, and the migration of educated Nigerians to other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and South Africa. The low employment capacity of Nigeria’s formal sector means that almost three-quarters of all Nigerians work in the informal and agricultural sectors or are unemployed. Companies involved in formal sector businesses, such as banking and insurance, possess an adequately skilled workforce. Manufacturing and construction sector workers often require on-the-job training. The result is that while individual wages are low, individual productivity is also low, which means overall labor costs can be high. The Buhari Administration is pushing reforms in the education sector to improve the supply of skilled workers but this and other efforts run by state governments are in their initial stages.
Labor organizations in Nigeria remain politically active and are prone to call for strikes on a regular basis against the national and state governments. While most labor actions are peaceful, difficult economic conditions fuel the risk that these actions could become violent.
Nigeria’s constitution guarantees the rights of free assembly and association, and protects workers’ rights to form or belong to trade unions. Several statutory laws, nonetheless, restrict the rights of workers to associate or disassociate with labor organizations. Nigerian unions belong to one of three trade union federations: the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), which tends to represent junior (i.e., blue collar) workers; the United Labor Congress of Nigeria (ULC), which represents a group of unions that separated from the NLC in 2015; and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), which represents the “senior” (i.e., white collar) workers. According to figures provided by the Ministry of Labor and Employment, total union membership stands at roughly 7 million. A majority of these union members work in the public sector, although unions exist across the private sector. The Trade Union Amendment Act of 2005 allowed non-management senior staff to join unions.
Collective bargaining occurred throughout the public sector and the organized private sector in 2019. However, public sector employees have become increasingly concerned about the Nigerian governments’ and state governments’ failure to honor previous agreements from the collective bargaining process.
Collective bargaining in the oil and gas industry is relatively efficient compared to other sectors. Issues pertaining to salaries, benefits, health and safety, and working conditions tend to be resolved quickly through negotiations. Workers under collective bargaining agreements cannot participate in strikes unless their unions comply with the requirements of the law, which includes provisions for mandatory mediation and referral of disputes to the Nigerian government. Despite these restrictions on staging strikes, unions occasionally conduct strikes in the private and public sectors without warning. Localized strikes occurred in the education, government, energy, power, and healthcare sectors in 2019. The law forbids employers from granting general wage increases to workers without prior government approval, but the law is not often enforced.
Despite widespread opposition from state governors, in April 2019, President Buhari signed into law a new minimum wage, increasing it from 18,000 naira (USD 50) to 30,000 naira (USD 83) per month. After months of negotiations, the government finally reached an agreement with organized labor in October 2019 on the consequential adjustments in civil servants’ salaries that must be implemented across the board to apply the new minimum wage. While the VAT rate was recently raised from 5.5 to 7.5 percent to help fund the increased minimum wage, it will not be enough to offset the cost of the adjustments. This, in turn, means that the government will need to borrow more money, which will not only increase the debt burden but open it to criticism that that money should be used for critical infrastructure projects rather than civil servant salaries.
The Nigerian Minister of Labor and Employment may refer unresolved disputes to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) and the National Industrial Court (NIC). In 2015, the NIC launched an Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. Union officials question the effectiveness and independence of the NIC, believing it unable to resolve disputes stemming from Nigerian government failure to fulfill contract provisions for public sector employees. Union leaders criticize the arbitration system’s dependence on the Minister of Labor and Employment’s referrals to the IAP.
Nigeria’s laws regarding minimum age for child labor and hazardous work are inconsistent. Article 59 of the Labor Act of 1974 sets the minimum age of employment at 12, and it is in force in all 36 states of Nigeria. The Act also permits children of any age to do light work alongside a family member in agriculture, horticulture, or domestic service.
The Federal 2003 Child Rights Act (CRA) codifies the rights of children in Nigeria and must be ratified by each State to become law in its territory. To date, 25 states and the FCT have ratified the CRA, with all 11 of the remaining states located in northern Nigeria.
The CRA states that the provisions related to young people in the Labor Act apply to children under the CRA, but also that the CRA supersedes any other legislation related to children. The CRA restricts children under the age of 18 from any work aside from light work for family members; however, Article 59 of the Labor Act applies these restrictions only to children under the age of 12. This language makes it unclear what minimum ages apply for certain types of work in the country.
While the Labor Act forbids the employment of youth under age 18 in work that is dangerous to their health, safety, or morals, it allows children to participate in certain types of work that may be dangerous by setting different age thresholds for various activities. For example, the Labor Act allows children age 16 and older to work at night in gold mining and the manufacturing of iron, steel, paper, raw sugar, and glass. Furthermore, the Labor Act does not extend to children employed in domestic service. Thus, children are vulnerable to dangerous work in industrial undertakings, underground, with machines, and in domestic service. In addition, the prohibitions established by the Labor Act and CRA are not comprehensive or specific enough to facilitate enforcement. In 2013, the National Steering Committee (NSC) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Nigeria validated the Report on the Identification of Hazardous Child Labor in Nigeria. The report has languished with the Ministry of Labor and Employment and still awaits the promulgation of guidelines for operationalizing the report.
The Nigerian government adopted the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement, and Administration Act of 2015. While not specifically directed against child labor, many sections of the law support anti-child labor efforts. The Violence against Persons Prohibition Act was signed into law in May 2015 and again while not specifically focused on child labor, it covers related elements such as “depriving a person of his/her liberty,” “forced financial dependence/economic abuse,” and “forced isolation/separation from family and friends” and is applicable to minors.
Nigeria’s Labor Act provides for a 40-hour work week, two to four weeks of annual leave, and overtime and holiday pay for all workers except agricultural and domestic workers. No law prohibits compulsory overtime. The Act establishes general health and safety provisions, some of which specifically apply to young or female workers, and requires the Ministry of Labor and Employment to inspect factories for compliance with health and safety standards. Under-funding and limited resources undermine the Ministry’s oversight capacity, and construction sites and other non-factory work sites are often ignored. Nigeria’s labor law requires employers to compensate injured workers and dependent survivors of workers killed in industrial accidents.
Draft legislation, such as a new Labor Standards Act which includes provisions on child labor, and an Occupational Safety and Health Act that would regulate hazardous work, have remained under consideration in the National Assembly since 2006.
Admission of foreign workers is overseen by the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Employers must seek the consent of the Ministry in order to employ foreign workers by applying for an “expatriate quota.” The quota allows a company to employ foreign nationals in specifically approved job designations as well as specifying the validity period of the designations provided on the quota.
There are two types of visas which may be granted, depending on the length of stay. For short-term assignments, an employer must apply for and receive a temporary work permit, allowing the employee to carry out some specific tasks. The temporary work permit is a single-entry visa, and expires after three months. There are no numerical limitations on short-term visas, and foreign nationals who meet the conditions for grant of a visa may apply for as many short-term visas as required.