Gabriel Idahosa: The New Expatriate Levy Has Caused Some Foreign Investors To Put Their Projects On Hold

The President and Chairman of Council of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Gabriel Idahosa, has said that the federal government’s new Expatriate Employment Levy has caused some investors to put various projects of theirs on hold.

In February, the Federal government announced a new Expatriate Employment Levy that was computed at $15,000 for every expatriate on director level and $10,000 for those on other levels.

Idahosa, however, in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Thursday, said that the expatriate levy was not what was required for foreigners to operate in Nigeria as he said, “The government already charges $2000 as a fee for service for issuing the annual card, what is generally known as a green card, a residence card, that is the fee for service which the government already charges. The new one is not an increase, it’s totally unrelated to that. It is a levy for the fact that you are a foreign person working in Nigeria. It’s nothing to do with processing your card for you to work in Nigeria.”

The LCCI President then said the implementation of the levy will do more harm than good, as it has already caused a couple of investors to put a hold on the projects that they have in Nigeria.

Idahosa said, “None of those investors know or expect that when they come to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Nigeria to build a gas processing plant, and they need to bring, let’s say five, ten, twenty employees, none of them have been told that those employees, they’re going to be paying $10,000. And these are very important factors in decision making.

“Since the announcement, a couple of investors have, we know because they are our members, have put a hold of various projects that are in the pipeline, that we have to see whether we can actually do business in Nigeria going forward.”

The LCCI President was then asked if the purpose of the levy was to protect the rights of Nigerian workers from foreign companies, to which he responded, “If you want to achieve protection of Nigerian workers, across the world, there are various labour laws and regulations that are continuously adjusted, these are not new. There are some African countries that have done several things to address it.

“Within the labour law system, you can actually regulate, end such gaps. It is clear that that is a different matter of how you protect your workers. What you charge an expatriate as a levy has nothing to do with the laws that protect your workers, the industrial laws that ensures that workers are protected, that wage gaps are not there, there are laws that can deal with that certainly. It has nothing to do with what you charge this person. And in any case, to get one expatriate into this country, it will cost you anything between N30-N50 million.

“So, it is not fun for the expatriates to be employed by these companies. We don’t see the other side when we have expatriates. So, there are specific solutions to specific issues. The issue of protections of Nigerian workers against exploitation by foreign employers, even domestic employers, there are laws there. The question is, how effectively do we implement them?”

Idahosa then said it is in our national interest to review the levy, as the levy could further drive away investment, as he explained, “When they (investors) invest, they expect to protect their investment by having some of their top people here as directors, as technical people to manage that investment. These people are part of the cost of that project, and if you want to make the investment attractive, you have to ensure that the cost of bringing those expatriates is affordable all the time.”

He said a lot of conversation is going on concerning the levy around Nigeria. Speaking on the LCCI’s position, he said, “The LCCI’ statement speaks to- first, whether we want to do it at all, a whole range of modifications that need to be done if we are going to accept that principle at all. Which industries, which countries is a blanket implication of this kind of levy will be very destructive.”

“The idea is that, look, let us look at the foreseeable implications that are staring us in the face. We don’t want to put millions of Nigerians working abroad in real jeopardy, we don’t want to do that, serious jeopardy. So, it is likely that these conversations will lead to a resolution that will address most of the concerns that have been raised,” he said.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi