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Nigeria: Market Profile

Picture: Nigeria factsheet
Picture: Nigeria factsheet

1. Overview

Nigeria is a key African market, accounting for almost half of West Africa's population, and the country boasts one of the largest youth populations in the world. The country also has an abundance of natural resources, with vast oil and gas reserves and significant agricultural potential. As a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) since 1971, Nigeria ranks as the largest oil producer in Africa and the 11th largest in the world. Nevertheless, oil prices continue to dictate the country's growth pattern due to high reliance on the hydrocarbons sector for exports and fiscal revenues. Moreover, as the government begins to implement the structural reforms as outlined in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020, growth can be expected to strengthen gradually in the medium term if reform momentum is ramped up. Nigeria has made significant progress in socioeconomic terms over the last 15 years; however, the country continues to face massive developmental challenges, which include diversifying the economy, addressing insufficient infrastructure, and building strong and effective institutions, as well as governance structures and public financial management systems.

Sources: World Bank, Fitch Solutions

2. Major Economic/Political Events and Upcoming Elections

March 2015
Muhammadu Buhari won the presidential election, becoming the first opposition candidate to do so in Nigeria's history.

June 2016
Nigeria’s currency, the naira, was partially floated in attempt to stave off the effects of low oil prices.

July 2018
The Dangote Group mobilised more than USD4.5 billion in debt financing to build an oil refinery project, with a capacity of 650,000 barrels per day, in Nigeria.

October 2018
The Nigerian government announced plans to add 4.2GW of electricity to the national grid from 2018-2020. A total of eight under utilised power projects have been selected to deliver incremental power to industrial centres and rural communities in the country. The projects include the Aba Integrated Power Project, the Alaoji combined cycle gas power plant, the Afam IV gas plant rehabilitation, Afam V gas project rehabilitation and a Seplat gas facility.

February 2019
General elections due to be held for the President and the National Assembly. They will be the sixth quadrennial elections since the end of military rule in 1999.

The Dangote refinery is scheduled to come online by early 2020, adding 650,000 barrels per day of extra capacity and making Nigeria a net fuels exporter. Petrolex Oil & Gas is also undertaking a FEED study for a USD3.6 billion (250,000 barrels per day) refining complex in Ogun state, and is targeting completion of construction by 2021.

Sources: BBC Country Profile – Timeline, Fitch Solutions, Nigerian government

3. Major Economic Indicators

Graph: Nigeria real GDP and inflation
Graph: Nigeria real GDP and inflation
Graph: Nigeria GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Nigeria GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Nigeria unemployment rate
Note: Latest available IMF data ends in 2016
Graph: Nigeria unemployment rate
Note: Latest available IMF data ends in 2016
Graph: Nigeria current account balance
Graph: Nigeria current account balance

e = estimate, f = forecast
Sources: IMF, World Bank, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 8, 2018

4. External Trade

4.1 Merchandise Trade

Graph: Nigeria merchandise trade
Graph: Nigeria merchandise trade

e = estimate
Sources: WTO, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 8, 2018

Graph: Nigeria trade in services
Graph: Nigeria trade in services
Graph: Nigeria major export markets (2017)
Graph: Nigeria major export markets (2017)
Graph: Nigeria major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Nigeria major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Nigeria major import markets (2017)
Graph: Nigeria major import markets (2017)

Sources: Trade Map, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 11, 2018

4.2 Trade in Services

Graph: Nigeria trade in services
Graph: Nigeria trade in services

Sources: WTO, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 8, 2018

5. Trade Policies

  • Nigeria has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since January 1, 1995 and a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) since November 18, 1960. Nigeria ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2016, entering into force in February 2017. Nigeria adopts the Harmonised System (HS) of Customs Tariffs and all duties are levied on an ad valorem basis, with rates for most product lines ranging from 0% to 35%.

  • Measures aimed at supporting local industry (including caps and special duties) have been levied on several import categories, including required inputs of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The Nigeria Customs Services increased duties in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)'s foreign exchange rate policy. This has had the adverse effect of exacerbating smuggling activities and supply shortages as local output fails to fill the gap, thereby spurring inflation – which remained in double-digit territory over 2017-18.

  • The revised Guidelines on Export Expansion Grant (EEG) Scheme guidelines were released and effective from January 1, 2017. Under this arrangement, the Export Credit Certificate (ECC) can be used to settle all federal government taxes, such as value added tax (VAT), withholding tax (WHT), and corporate income tax, among others. It can also be used to purchase government bonds and repay government credit facilities and debts due to the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON). To encourage export of value added and processed/manufactured products, exporters are divided into four categories with maximum applicable EEG rates as indicated below:

    • Fully manufactured products: 15%
    • Semi-manufactured products: 10%
    • Processed/intermediate products: 7.5%
    • Merchants/primary agricultural commodities: 5%

  • The Nigeria Customs Service imposes import duty rates on imported new and used vehicles, as well as new imported tyres. A fully built car is subject to combined duties and levies of 70% of the value (previously 22%). This is being implemented in line with the country's new policy to strengthen the local autos industry. Fully built commercial vehicles see a tariff increase from 10% to 35%. Imports of tyres will be subject to a 20% import duty. Conversely, local automotive plants can import completely knocked down vehicles for assembly free of duties, as well as semi-knocked down vehicles at 5%. The prevailing United States dollar shortage will constrain manufacturers' ability to pay for and clear shipments of imported kits and components required in the manufacturing process.

  • In 2015, Nigeria restricted importers of 41 broad categories of traded goods from accessing the Nigerian foreign exchange market. The country's import substitution policies, in effect, ban the import of some 700 individual items and severely hamper firms' ability to source inputs and raw materials. Nigeria has bans in place on imports of packaged sugar. This is done as part of the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan, which aims to achieve self-sufficiency in sugar consumption by 2020. Currently, about 98% of all sugar consumed in Nigeria is imported. Imports of raw sugar, by contrast, are subject to presidential approval on a recommendation from the trade and investment minister. In order to encourage local production of cement, the Nigerian government has approved a series of measures, including the reinstatement of a ban on the importation of bagged cement, and restrictions on the issuance of cement import licenses. A levy of NGN500 per tonne applies for all cement imports, while various incentives are available to assist in the development of local capacity through the establishment of a cement training institute in Nigeria. In October 2013, the government of Nigeria announced a gradual ban on fish imports over the years ahead, accompanied by a sharp increase in import duties in the interim period.

  • Capital controls continue to hinder companies from access to critical inputs that are not manufactured or sourced domestically. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, the measure is intended to stabilise national foreign exchange reserves, as well as support local manufacturing and job creation.

  • Due to the import substitution drive, certain sectors – Nigerian cocoa processors in particular – face a lack of competitiveness due to the government's unwillingness to sign up to a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU). Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon, Nigeria's West African cocoa export rivals, have each agreed Economic Partnership Agreements and are not subject to the levies that Nigerian shipments face on arrival at European ports. The resulting higher costs of Nigerian cocoa products have left firms running at a quarter of capacity since 2011. The government opposes the trade deal, because it believes that opening the local market to manufactured goods from the EU will destroy its fledgling domestic manufacturing sector. The latest round of talks failed to produce an agreement.

  • Nigeria is a member of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a customs union of 15 member states including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. ECOWAS adopts a five-band tariff regime, with the first four bands ranging from 0% to 20%, and the fifth subjecting some sensitive items to a 35% tariff.

  • Nigeria has also entered into effective bilateral trade agreements with China, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the UK. In spite of Nigeria's active pursuit of bilateral trade agreements, it adopts a rather protectionist trade policy.

  • The Nigerian Export Promotion Council administered an EEG scheme to improve non-oil export performance until 2014, when the government ended the program due to concerns about corruption on the part of companies who collected the grants, but did not actually export. The federal government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020, released in February 2017, proposed reviving the EEG in the form of tax credits for companies. The Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) 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 of three to five years (or longer) for the importation of machinery and raw materials used for generating exports.

Sources: WTO – Trade Policy Review, ECOWAS

6. Trade Agreement

6.1 Trade Updates

In May 2018, Nigeria and China announced that they will conduct a currency swap amounting to nearly USD2.4 billion, making trade between the two countries smoother and less reliant on the United States dollar in the future. The currency swap is valid for three years and can be renewed following the approval of both countries.

In Q4 2018, the Nigerian government moved closer towards signing the African Continental Free Trade Area, following extensive consultations with multiple stakeholders. The agreement aims to bring together the African Union's 55 member states into a common market.

6.2 Multinational Trade Agreements


As a member of the ECOWAS, Nigeria is a signatory to the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS). Having evolved considerably over the years, this scheme ultimately aims to liberalise trade in the region by abolishing customs duties levied on imports and exports, removing non-tariff barriers between member states and strengthening trade competitiveness with key global partners. The 15-country regional grouping comprises Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

Under Negotiation

EU-ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA): The EPA between the EU and ECOWAS creates free trade zones (FTZs) between member states of the two blocs, allowing the entry of some imports from Europe into West Africa and vice versa, free of tariffs. The signing of the interim EPA with the EU by Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire may have put a strain on the ETLS as Nigeria's President Buhari refused to sign the West Africa-EU free trade deal. Tariffs on non-oil exports from Nigeria to the EU are to remain in place until the country signs the EPA, which it has been reluctant to enter into due to fears that it will open up the market to EU imports, and thereby slow domestic manufacturing growth.

Sources: WTO – Trade Policy Review, ECOWAS

7. Investment Policy

7.1 Foreign Direct Investment

Graph: Nigeria FDI stock
Graph: Nigeria FDI stock
Graph: Nigeria FDI flow
Graph: Nigeria FDI flow

Sources: UNCTAD, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 8, 2018

7.2 Foreign Direct Investment Policy

  1. Nigeria has historically been a major destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) due to its oil and gas resources, and there are a number of incentives in place for foreign investors. However, Nigerian nationals are given preference in government procurement and there are tightening localisation requirements in certain investment areas, such as the agriculture sector and oil and gas businesses, which limit foreign ownership.

  2. Foreign ownership is permitted with the exception of some sectors designated as strategic in defence-related industries and some farmland. The Nigerian Oil & Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010 seeks to increase indigenous participation in the oil and gas industry by prescribing minimum thresholds for the use of local services and materials and to promote the employment of Nigerian staff in the industry. The Act imposes a levy of 1% on every contract awarded in the upstream oil and gas sector of the economy. Any violation of the Act is liable for a fine of 5% of the contract value and may result in outright cancellation of the contract.

  3. The Local Content Act derives from the Nigerian Content Policy, which seeks to promote active participation of Nigerians in the petroleum sector without compromising standards. Nigerian independent operators are given priority in the award of oil blocks, oil fields and oil lifting licenses, as well as in all projects for which contracts are to be awarded in the Nigerian petroleum industry, subject to the fulfilment of conditions specified by the Minister of Petroleum Resources.

  4. The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) was created in 1995 to promote and assist FDI. Tapping resources other than oil is part of the government's economic recovery and growth plan after the worst economic slump in 25 years as oil output and prices fell. Nigeria's potential advantages for future growth include a large consumer market, a strategic geographic location as a hub for Africa, and a young and entrepreneurial population. The first step in harnessing this opportunity requires deliberate efforts to improve value-adding activity in the non-oil economy, particularly in agriculture and the services sectors.

  5. To further encourage investors, incentives including tax holidays of as much as five years for new companies entering the market, duty-free imports on mining equipment, and mining licenses for 25 years have been put in place. According to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, from January-August 2017, 41 planned investment projects with an estimated value of USD20 billion were recorded in 22 of its 36 states. According to the country's investment body, up to 120% of expenses on research and development (R&D) are tax deductible, provided that such R&D activities are carried out in Nigeria and are connected with the business from which income or profits are derived. Also, for the purpose of R&D on local raw materials, 140% of expenses are allowed. For cases in which the research is long term, it will be regarded as a capital expenditure and will be written off against profit.

  6. Provisions in the 2018 national budget, published in early November 2017, also set out proposals that allow for the sale of state equity in joint venture (JV) oil assets, a move that officials say will raise NGN710 billion. The reform is aimed at increasing private sector equity participation to improve efficiencies in the sector, and also providing revenue to the government, which will be deployed solely and exclusively for creating new assets in Nigeria. The proposals signal a significant change in the way that the state participates in production and ownership structures in its upstream oil sector.

  7. Foreign firms will benefit from the government's efforts to improve transparency and predictability for foreign investors. For example, in May 2014, Nigeria signed a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with Canada, which is expected to enhance protection for investors by creating a framework of legally binding rights and obligations. Moreover, Nigeria has signed bilateral investment agreements with more than a dozen countries, notably China, Italy, Algeria and Egypt, as well as bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with the UK, Spain, South Korea, Germany, Finland and Turkey, enabling investors from the latter countries to enjoy similar benefits to those enjoyed by Nigerian investors. As a result, in theory, Nigerian investors are not provided preferential treatment in their investments over expatriates from BIT countries, and any infringement on the Nigerian side could then be referred to international arbitration.

  8. Employers with at least 15 employees are required to participate in a contributory pension scheme for their employees. The minimum contribution is 18% of monthly emolument (with a minimum contribution of 10% by the employer and 8% by the employee). If the employer decides to bear all the contribution, the minimum contribution is 20% of monthly emolument. Mandatory and/or voluntary contributions by the employers are deductible for income tax purposes.

  9. Minimum tax is payable by companies having no taxable profits for the year or where the tax on profits is below the minimum tax. However, companies in the first four calendar years of business, companies engaged in the agriculture business, or companies that have foreign equity capital of at least 25% are exempt from minimum tax.

  10. Corporate income tax at a rate of 30% is payable only to the federal government. State governments collect income taxes of individuals and unincorporated entities, while local governments are only allowed to collect levies and rates but not income tax.

  11. The federal government of Nigeria has lifted the suspension of the pioneer status incentive after embarking on a review of the incentive to address identified lapses, abuses and loopholes. On August 2, 2017, the Federal Executive Council approved a new Pioneer Status Incentive Policy based on the comprehensive review of the scheme. As part of the new regime, 27 new industries have been added to the list of eligible industries, while new Application Guidelines have been issued.

  12. The standard VAT rate is 5%. Based on the 2018 Budget Speech delivered by the president, there was no specific proposal to change the VAT rate in 2018. Zero-rated items include non-oil exports, goods and services purchased by diplomats, and goods and services purchased for use in humanitarian donor-funded projects. Exempt items include plants and machinery for use in export processing zones (EPZs) or FTZs, basic food items, medical products and services, pharmaceutical products, books and educational materials, and exported services. Commissions on stock market transactions are also exempted from VAT.

  13. Government agencies and oil and gas companies are required to deduct at source VAT charged by their suppliers and remit it to the tax authority. All other organisations are required to collect VAT charged on their invoices from their customers for filing and payment to the tax authority.

  14. Property taxes in Nigeria are usually levied annually by the state government with varying rates depending on the state and the location of the property within the state. The two major property taxes are the  governor's consent fee and land registration fee. In Lagos (which is the economic hub of Nigeria), the governor's consent fee, land registration fees, and other levies payable to the state give rise to a total levy of 3% of the fair value of the land.

  15. Other similar government initiatives include the establishment of raw materials-based small- and medium-scale industry clusters to promote sustainable development and the growth of local companies. Nine sites across the country have been selected as pilot clusters for deploying fish, plantain, palm oil, okra, cassava and grain processing technologies. This process could lessen the country's dependence on oil exports and could stimulate the growth of new industries offering diverse investment opportunities. Nigeria has seen some success in facilitating cluster development, and there are 15 operational (34 planned) FTZs in Nigeria with different areas of specialisation, including manufacturing, logistics services, warehousing, steel fabrication, food processing and manufacturing, oil and gas services, and trade, tourism and resort services.

  16. Foreign investors must register with the NIPC, incorporate as a limited liability company (private or public) with the Corporate Affairs Commission (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. Expatriate personnel do not require work permits, but they remain subject to quotas, requiring them to obtain residence permits that allow salary remittances abroad.

  17. The NIPC Decree of 1995 permits 100% foreign ownership of companies outside the oil and gas industry. Within oil and gas, foreign firms are obliged to participate in joint ventures or production-sharing agreements. Additionally, investments in industries related to national security are restricted to domestic investors, including ammunition, firearms and military and paramilitary apparel.

  18. The Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in the ICT sector issued by NITDA on December 3, 2013, require ICT companies to host all consumer and subscriber data locally and for government ministries, departments and agencies to source and procure software from only local and indigenous software development companies. Enforcement of the guidelines is variable as the state lacks capacity and resources to monitor digital data flows. Federal government data is hosted locally in data centres. The National Office of Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) has the main objective of regulating the international acquisition of technology while creating an environment conducive to local technology. To this end, NOTAP recommends local technical partners to Nigerian users in a bid to reduce the level of imported technology, which currently accounts for over 90% of technology in use in Nigeria. One of NOTAP's major activities is the review of Technology Transfer Agreements (TTAs), a requirement for importing technology into Nigeria and for companies operating in Nigeria to access foreign currency. NOTAP reviews the legal economic and technical aspects prior to approval of TTAs and subsequent issuance of a certificate. One of the main risks concerning the TTA is the length of the approval process, which can take up to three months. NOTAP states that it plans to have an automated system in place to streamline the TTA process, thereby reducing the approval process to one month or less.

  19. Though foreign companies may bid on government projects and do generally receive national treatment in government procurement, they may also be subject to a local content vehicle (eg, partnership with a local partner firm or the inclusion of one in a consortium) or other prerequisites, which are likely to vary from tender to tender. Procurements worth more than NGN100 million reportedly undergo full 'due process'. Nigerian companies receive a preferential margin in the bidding process. Nigeria is not a signatory to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. Corruption and lack of transparency in tender processes are key concerns for investors.

  20. In 2018, Nigeria decided to retain its multiple FX rate regime, despite calls by investors to adopt a single exchange rate, driven by market forces, such as the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing (NAFEX) mechanism. The web of different rates for different purposes continues to distort the market, keeping the naira artificially strong for groups such as: pilgrims seeking hard currency to travel to Mecca, small- and medium-sized enterprises, fuel importers, or Nigerians who need to pay overseas school fees. The central bank's limited ability to provide foreign exchange and the imposition of blanket import and FX restrictions prevent many companies from repatriating naira-denominated earnings in a timely manner. Foreign exchange demand remains high because of the dependence on foreign inputs for manufacturing and refined petroleum products. Companies are advised to acquire foreign currency denominated bank accounts.

  21. Companies engaged in the marketing and distribution of gas for domestic and industrial use (downstream operations) are subject to the Companies Income Tax Act. Beginning on the date on which they begin production, companies engaged in downstream operations and companies using gas in industrial projects benefit from an initial three-year tax holiday. This tax holiday is renewable for an additional two years after the tax holiday expires if the company is performing satisfactorily. The companies also benefit from accelerated capital allowances after the tax-holiday period.

  22. A gas-flaring penalty is imposed on oil companies for wasteful disposals of gases through burning in oil fields and refineries. Companies engaged in petroleum operations are deemed to be in the upstream sector of the oil and gas sector and are subject to tax under the Petroleum Profit Tax Act. The applicable Petroleum Profit Tax rate is 85%. A reduced rate of 65.75% applies to companies for their first five years of petroleum operations. However, for petroleum operations carried out under the production-sharing contract regime, the applicable rate is 50%.

Sources: WTO – Trade Policy Review, Fitch Solutions, government sources, PwC

7.3 Free Trade Zones and Investment Incentives

Free Trade Zone/Incentive ProgrammeMain Incentives Available
There are 15 FTZs operating in Nigeria, five in Lagos, the country’s business capital and most populous city. Industries permitted in FTZs include chemicals, petroleum, textiles, garments, rubber, plastics, electrical and electronics, telecom equipment, metal, wood, leather, education materials and cosmetics.– Incentives are available for manufacturing, logistics services, warehousing, steel production, food processing and manufacturing, oil and gas services and tourism.

– The Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) allows duty-free import of all equipment and raw materials into its export processing zones.

– Up to 25% of production in an export processing zone may be sold domestically upon payment of applicable duties.

– Investors in the zones are exempt from foreign exchange regulations and taxes and may freely repatriate capital.

– The state also encourages private sector participation and partnership with state and local governments under the 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 unionise, but may not strike for an initial ten-year period.
19 FTZs under construction or awaiting start of development– Complete tax holiday for all Federal, State and Local Government taxes, rates, custom duties and levies

– One-stop approval for all permits, operating licenses and incorporation papers

– Duty-free, tax-free import of raw materials for goods destined for re-export

– Duty-free introduction of capital goods, consumer goods, components, machinery, equipment and furniture

– Permission to sell 100% of manufactured, assembled or imported goods into the domestic Nigerian Market

– When selling in the domestic market, the amount of import duties on goods manufactured in the free zones are calculated on the basis of the value of the raw materials or components used in assembly, and not the finished product

– 100% foreign ownership of investments

– 100% repatriation of capital, profits and dividends

– Waiver of all import and export licences

– Waiver on all expatriate quotas for companies operating in the zones

– Prohibition of strikes and lockouts

– Rent-free land during the first 6 months of construction
Other incentives– The Nigerian government maintains different and overlapping investment incentive programmes.

– The Industrial Development/Income Tax Relief Act provides incentives to pioneer industries deemed beneficial to Nigeria's economic development and to labour-intensive industries, such as apparel. There are currently 71 industries defined as pioneer industries for the purposes of this incentive.

– Companies that receive pioneer status may benefit from a non-renewable, 100% tax holiday of five years (or seven years, if the company is located in an economically disadvantaged area).

– Industries that use 60-80% of local raw materials in production may benefit from a 30% tax concession for five years, and investments employing labour-intensive modes of production may enjoy a 15% tax concession for five years.

– Additional tax incentives are available for investments in domestic research and development, for companies that invest in local government areas deemed disadvantaged, for local value-added processing, for investments in solid minerals and oil and gas, and for a number of other investment scenarios.

– Approved enterprises operating in export FTZs are exempt from all federal, state and local government taxes, levies and rates.
Work Experience Acquisition Programme related incentives– If a company has a minimum net employment of five new employees and if it retains such employees for a minimum of two years from the year of assessment in which the employees are first employed, it is granted Work Experience Acquisition Programme Relief.

– This relief is an exemption from income tax equal to 5% of the company's assessable profits in the assessment period in which the company qualifies, subject to other specified conditions.

– In addition, if a company has a minimum net employment of 10 employees and if 60% of the employees do not have any form of previous work experience and are within three years of graduating from school or a vocation, the company is granted employment tax relief.

– This relief is an exemption from income tax equal to 5% of its assessable profits in the assessment period in which the profits are generated.

Sources: Fitch Solutions, government sources, PwC

8. Taxation – 2018


9. Foreign Worker Requirements

9.1 Visa Policies

Nigeria has expanded the availability of visas on arrival and broadened the list of activities permitted for both visas on arrival and consular business visas. Effective in 2017, foreign nationals from countries that do not have a Nigerian embassy will be eligible to obtain visas on arrival at a port of entry. Activities that will be permitted on a visa on arrival or consular business visa, include meetings, negotiating contracts, conducting sales, job interviews, training or research, purchasing and distributing Nigerian goods, attending trade fairs, and participating in emergency or relief work. The changes to the visa rules for foreign business travellers and investors are part of the Nigeria Immigration Service's 60-day action plan to make it easier to do business in Nigeria.

9.2 Work Permits

Existing labour regulations continue to restrict the employment of foreign nationals, particularly in low-skilled positions. Work permits are required for all foreign nationals intending to work in Nigeria. The Executive Order signed in February 2018 prohibits the Ministry of Interior from providing foreign workers with work visas if their skills and expertise are already available locally in Nigeria. Furthermore, the Executive Order elaborates that foreign professionals will be considered for contracting purposes only in cases when it is certified by relevant Nigerian authorities that their expertise is not available in Nigeria. Lastly, the Executive Order explicitly directs national Ministries, Departments and Agencies to engage local professionals in the planning, design and execution of national security projects. Employers hiring foreign workers must obtain an Expatriate Quota and a Business Permit from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Only workers coming from other ECOWAS countries do not need a work permit.

9.3 Other Procedures

The costs of employing foreign workers are generally high in Nigeria owing to high relocation expenses, and processing fees for work and residence permits. There are other fees relating to the renewal of quota position, restoration of lapsed quota and other services relating to the employment of foreign workers. The main way to legally work in Nigeria is by acquiring a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC). This document is a combined residency and work permit, but involves a lot of paperwork. An employment contract is a prerequisite for obtaining a CERPAC. In addition, there is limited flexibility for workers to change jobs on the same permit and this would require a re-application process.

9.4 Visa/Travel Restrictions

There are four different types of entry permits for Nigeria: tourist visa, business visa, temporary work permit visa and subject to regularisation (STR) visa. The STR is required for taking up paid employment as an expat in Nigeria.

The business visa is for business-related purposes only, except employment. The temporary work permit (TWP) allows holders to perform specific short-term work only, for example, equipment repairs, research, auditing and installation work.

The TWP is a short-term work and residence permit granted to foreign nationals invited by corporate bodies to provide specialised, skilled services. It is valid for three months and can be renewed at the discretion of the Nigerian authorities.

The CERPAC enables a foreign employee to work and live in Nigeria. To obtain a CERPAC: the Nigerian company must have obtained an expatriate quota approval; and the foreigner must have obtained an STR visa. The official cost of a CERPAC is just over USD1,400 and the process usually takes three to six days. The CERPAC is valid for one year and may be renewed upon expiry.

Sources: Fitch Solutions, Nigerian government sources

10. Risks

10.1 Sovereign Credit Ratings

Rating (Outlook)Rating Date
B2 (Stable)07/11/2017
Standard & Poor'sB (Stable)16/09/2016
Fitch RatingsB+ (Stable)02/11/2018

Sources: Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings

10.2 Competitiveness and Efficiency Indicators

World Ranking
Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Paying Taxes Index
Logistics Performance Index
Corruption Perception Index
IMD World CompetitivenessN/AN/AN/A

Sources: World Bank, IMD, Transparency International

10.3 Fitch Solutions Risk Indices

World Ranking
Economic Risk Index Rank87/202
Short-Term Economic Risk Score51.758.156
Long-Term Economic Risk Score54.655.154.6
Political Risk Index Rank4345.8167/202
Short-Term Political Risk Score56.049.849.8
Long-Term Political Risk Score43.045.845.8
Operational Risk Index Rank156/201
Operational Risk Score37.036.436.3

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 8, 2018

10.4 Fitch Solutions Risk Summary

Oil is a major pillar of the Nigerian economy, and when prices were high and production robust, it helped the country garner large foreign reserves, a relatively healthy current account position and low foreign debt (the country had paid off much of its debt in 2006). However, since the price slump in 2014 and Niger Delta Avengers attacks in 2016, the structural weakness of an overreliance on oil exports has been highlighted. While the economy will benefit from the beginnings of a cyclical upswing over the coming years, the trajectory of its recovery remains highly vulnerable to further shocks or a downturn in investor sentiment. Moreover, weak tax collection combined with record spending plans for 2018-2019 have forced authorities to turn to international markets for cash, adding to the country's debt burden. Power sector reforms are crucial for long-term productivity gains.


Nigeria's vast natural resources, as well as strong economic and population growth over the past decade, have given rise to a growing consumer class and expanding labour pool, and have attracted considerable investor interest; however, the country remains a difficult operating environment. Businesses operating in Nigeria face heightened security costs, limited labour and capital mobility and uncompetitive import conditions. Nigeria's economic potential remains severely constrained by the acute shortcomings in the country's utilities and transport sectors, high levels of social instability in restive south-east and north-east regions of the country and a high structural reliance on oil revenues for fiscal support and FX liquidity. Sectarian conflict is rife in many parts of the country, with inter-religious tensions occasionally erupting into massive violence in which hundreds are killed.

Militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta have staged repeated attacks on oil installations, making the region unstable, while Boko Haram remains a dangerous force in the north east. Rampant criminal activity and recurrent militant attacks on critical infrastructure – particularly in the Niger Delta – threaten the safety of foreign workers and business operations. This also disrupts the country's predominantly gas-reliant power supply and limits freight transit routes. 

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 12, 2018

10.5 Fitch Solutions Political and Economic Risk Indices 

Graph: Nigeria short term political risk index
Graph: Nigeria short term political risk index
Graph: Nigeria long term political risk index
Graph: Nigeria long term political risk index
Graph: Nigeria short term economic risk index
Graph: Nigeria short term economic risk index
Graph: Nigeria long term economic risk index
Graph: Nigeria long term economic risk index

100 = Lowest risk, 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Economic and Political Risk Indices
Date last reviewed: November 11, 2018

10.6 Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Operational RiskLabour Market RiskTrade and Investment RiskLogistics RiskCrime and Security Risk
Nigeria Score36.355.433.031.525.3
West Africa Average34.036.736.232.031.1
West Africa Position (out of 16)7
SSA Average34.838.335.333.532.0
SSA Position (out of 48)181262433
Global Average49.649.749.9
Global Position (out of 201)15659163165174

100 = Lowest risk, 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Graph: Nigeria vs global and regional averages
Graph: Nigeria vs global and regional averages
Operational Risk Index
Labour Market Risk Index
Trade and Investment Risk IndexLogistics Risk IndexCrime and Security Risk Index
Cape Verde43.738.9
Cote d'Ivoire37.636.940.646.027.0
Burkina Faso34.337.434.430.035.5
Sierra Leone28.325.332.223.931.6
Regional Averages34.036.736.232.031.1
Emerging Markets Averages46.848.047.545.746.0
Global Markets Averages49.649.749.949.149.8

100 = Lowest risk, 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index
Date last reviewed: November 11, 2018

11. Hong Kong Connection

11.1 Hong Kong’s Trade with Nigeria

Graph: Major export commodities to Nigeria (2017)
Graph: Major export commodities to Nigeria (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Nigeria (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Nigeria (2017)

Note: Graph shows the main Hong Kong exports to/import from Nigeria (by consignment)
Date last reviewed: November 11, 2018

Graph: Merchandise exports to Nigeria
Graph: Merchandise exports to Nigeria
Graph: Merchandise imports from Nigeria
Graph: Merchandise imports from Nigeria

Note: Graph shows Hong Kong exports to/import from Nigeria (by consignment)
Exchange Rate HK$/US$, average
7.76 (2013)
7.75 (2014)
7.75 (2015)
7.76 (2016)
7.79 (2017)
Sources: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 11, 2018

Growth rate (%)
Number of Nigerian residents visiting Hong Kong2,190-16.3

Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Fitch Solutions

2017Growth rate (%)
Number of Africans visiting Hong Kong142,512-11.6

Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 12, 2018

11.2 Commercial Presence in Hong Kong

Growth rate (%)
Number of Nigerian companies in Hong KongN/AN/A
- Regional headquarters
- Regional offices
- Local offices

Source: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department

11.3 Treaties and Agreements between Hong Kong and Nigeria

Tax treaty negotiations are in progress between Nigeria and Hong Kong.

11.4 Chamber of Commerce (or Related Organisations) in Hong Kong

Nigerian Consulate General in Hong Kong
Address: Suite 502, 5/F, Fortis Tower, 77-79 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Email: nigeriaconhk@yahoo.com
Tel: (852) 2827 8813
Fax: (852) 2827 8892

Source: Nigerian Consulate General in Hong Kong

11.5 Visa Requirements for Hong Kong Residents

Hong Kong residents need a visa to visit Nigeria.

Sources: Nigerian Consulate General in Hong Kong, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 12, 2018

Content provided by Picture: Fitch Solutions – BMI Research
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