Nigeria - Country Commercial Guide
Investment Climate Statement

The Investment Climate Statement Chapter of the CCG is provided by the State Department.

Last published date: 2021-10-13

The U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statements provide information on the business climates of more than 170 economies and are prepared by economic officers stationed in embassies and posts around the world.  They analyze a variety of economies that are or could be markets for U.S. businesses.

Topics include Openness to Investment, Legal and Regulatory systems, Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property Rights, Transparency, Performance Requirements, State-Owned Enterprises, Responsible Business Conduct, and Corruption.

These statements highlight persistent barriers to further U.S. investment.  Addressing these barriers would expand high-quality, private sector-led investment in infrastructure, further women’s economic empowerment, and facilitate a healthy business environment for the digital economy.  To access the ICS, visit the U.S. Department of Investment Climate Statement for Nigeria.

Executive Summary

Nigeria’s economy – Africa’s largest – exited recession in 2017, assisted by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s more rationalized foreign exchange regime.  No growth is expected in the near term and although 2019 ended with a real growth rate of 2.3 percent this is still below Nigeria’s population growth rate of 2.6 percent.  With the largest population in Africa (estimated at nearly 200 million), Nigeria continues to represent a large consumer market for investors and traders.  Nigeria has a very young population with nearly two-thirds under the age of 25.  It offers abundant natural resources and a low-cost labor pool and enjoys mostly duty-free trade with other member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  Nigeria’s full market potential remains unrealized because of pervasive corruption, inadequate power and transportation infrastructure, high energy costs, an inconsistent regulatory and legal environment, insecurity, a slow and ineffective bureaucracy and judicial system, and inadequate intellectual property rights protections and enforcement.  The Nigerian government has undertaken reforms to help improve the business environment, including making starting a business faster by allowing electronic stamping of registration documents, and making it easier to obtain construction permits, register property, get credit, and pay taxes.  Reforms undertaken since 2017 have helped boost Nigeria’s ranking on the World Bank’s annual Doing Business rankings to 131 out of 190.

Nigeria’s underdeveloped power sector remains a bottleneck to broad-based economic development.  Power on the national grid currently averages 4,000 megawatts, forcing most businesses to generate much of their own electricity.  The World Bank currently ranks Nigeria 169 out of 190 countries for ease of obtaining electricity for business.  Reform of Nigeria’s power sector is ongoing, but investor confidence continues to be shaken by tariff and regulatory uncertainty.  The Nigerian Government, in partnership with the World Bank, published a Power Sector Recovery Plan (PSRP) in 2017.  However, three years after its launch, differing perspectives on various PSRP interventions have delayed implementation.  The Ministry of Finance is driving the implementation effort and has convened three Federal Government of Nigeria committees charged with moving the process forward in the areas of regulation, policy, and finances.  Discussions between the government and the World Bank are continuing, but some sector players report skepticism that the World Bank’s USD 1 billion loan will be enacted, though FGN may proceed without it.  The plan is ambitious and will require political will from the administration, external investment to address the accumulated deficit, and discipline in implementing plans to mitigate future shortfalls.  It is, nevertheless, a step in the right direction, and recognizes explicitly that the Nigerian economy is losing on average approximately USD 29 billion annually due to lack of adequate power.

Nigeria’s trade regime remains protectionist in key areas.  High tariffs, restricted forex availability for 44 categories of imports, and prohibitions on many other import items have the aim of spurring domestic agricultural and manufacturing sector growth.  Nigeria’s imports rose in 2019, largely as a result of the country’s continued recovery from the 2016 economic recession.  U.S. goods exports to Nigeria in 2018 were valued at USD 2.7 billion, up nearly 23 percent from the previous year, while U.S. imports from Nigeria totaled USD 5.6 billion, a decrease of 20.3 percent.  U.S. exports to Nigeria are primarily refined petroleum products, used vehicles, cereals, and machinery.  Crude oil and petroleum products continued to account for over 95 percent of Nigerian exports to the United States in 2018 (latest data available).  The stock of U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nigeria was USD 5.6 billion in 2018, a substantial increase from USD 3.8 billion in 2016, but only a modest increase from 2015’s USD 5.5 billion in FDI.  U.S. FDI in Nigeria continues to be led by the oil and gas sector.

Given the corruption risk associated with the Nigerian business environment, potential investors often develop anti-bribery compliance programs.  The United States and other parties to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention aggressively enforce anti-bribery laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  A high-profile FCPA case in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector resulted in U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and U.S. Department of Justice rulings in 2010 that included record fines for a U.S. multinational and its subsidiaries that had paid bribes to Nigerian officials.  Since then, the SEC has charged an additional four international companies with bribing Nigerian government officials to obtain contracts, permits, and resolve customs disputes.  See SEC enforcement actions at https://www.sec.gov/spotlight/fcpa/fcpa-cases.shtml.

Security remains a concern to investors in Nigeria due to high rates of violent crime, kidnappings for ransom, and terrorism.  The ongoing Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa (ISIS-WA) insurgencies have included attacks against civilian and military targets in the northeast of the country, causing general insecurity and a major humanitarian crisis there.  Militant attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta region restricted oil production and export in 2016, but a restored amnesty program and more federal government engagement in the Delta region have brought a reprieve in violence and allowed restoration of oil and gas production.  The longer-term impact of the government’s Delta peace efforts, however, remains unclear and criminal activity in the Delta – in particular, rampant oil theft – remains a serious concern.  Maritime criminality in Nigerian waters, including incidents of piracy and crew kidnapping for ransom, has increased in recent years, and law enforcement efforts have been ineffectual.  International inspectors have voiced concerns over the adequacy of security measures at some Nigerian port facilities onshore.  Businesses report that bribery of customs and port officials remains common to avoid delays, and smuggled goods routinely enter Nigeria’s seaports.

Although the constitution and laws provide for freedom of speech and press, the government frequently restricts these rights. A large and vibrant private, domestic press frequently criticizes the government, but critics report being subjected to threats, intimidation, and sometimes violence as a result.  Security services increasingly detain and harass journalists, including for reporting on sensitive topics such as corruption and security.  As a result, some journalists practice self-censorship on sensitive issues.  Journalists and local NGOs claim security services intimidate journalists, including editors and owners, into censoring reports perceived to be critical of the government.