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Work Permits and Employment in Nigeria

Working in Nigeria has been a popular choice for expats ever since the large oil reserves were tapped. But for the locals, doing business in Nigeria may be connected with informal employment and corruption. Read on for an overview of working in Nigeria, from employment sectors to business etiquette.
Black gold is the lifeline of the Nigerian nation.

Work Permits

As we have outlined in our article on Moving to Nigeria, the only way to legally work in Nigeria is by acquiring a CERPAC. This document is a combined residency and work permit, and it is the responsibility of your future employer to guide you through the necessary steps.

Although the process involves a lot of paperwork, it should not be too troublesome for expats. Keep in mind that the CERPAC is tied to a specific job. If you decide to change jobs, you need to re-apply.

Finding Employment

An employment contract is a prerequisite for obtaining a CERPAC. Thus, you will not be able to look for work after arriving in Nigeria, but this is probably not a step that many expats consider anyway.

It is always best to gather information about openings in the Nigerian branches of large corporations or to ask your current employer about possible transfers. The Nigerian branch of your home country’s Chamber of Commerce might be a very useful source of information as well.

Scams and Fraud

Please keep in mind that Nigeria is infamous for the “419 scam”, named after its number in the Nigerian Criminal Code. These are confidence tricks, mostly sent out via email, and they vary in strategy. In one form, they offer lucrative jobs in well-known companies; you can start right away, without applying for a visa first; all you have to do is to transfer a sum of money (usually a few hundred to a few thousand USD), so your future company can set up everything for your arrival.

Of course, you may ask yourself why a large company would need to borrow money from future employees. Please never reply to any emails asking you to transfer money or offering jobs that are almost “too good to be true”. They usually are.

Expat Opportunities

Oil companies have been a prime choice for expats for decades. Although the security situation in the Niger Delta is often problematic, there is a steady need for highly qualified expats in the oil industry. Construction and communications are also popular expat sectors.

We have mentioned some of the nation’s infrastructural challenges in our article on Living in Nigeria, and oftentimes, foreign professionals provide valuable know-how and assistance. Continued construction in the nation’s capital, Abuja, is also a good source of expat employment. Generally speaking, there is a multitude of ways in which Nigeria makes use of foreign expertise in order to improve its patchy infrastructure.

Social Security

Nigeria’s social security system is quite rudimentary and does not cover many important facets, such as unemployment insurance or healthcare (for further information on healthcare, please see our article on Moving to Nigeria). There is no paid sick leave, and maternity leave is limited to 12 weeks, six weeks before and after childbirth. According to the Nigerian Labor Act, women are entitled to at least half of their normal pay during maternity leave, although in practice, many employers keep paying employees their full salary. There is a pension fund, which covers old age and disability pensions, however this pension is not payable abroad.

Most importantly for expats, however, is that they are not required to contribute to any kind of pension scheme in Nigeria, as long as they subscribe to an equivalent program in another country. Expats should try to find an insurance company with full coverage in Nigeria, or discuss possible company insurance plans with their employer. Nigeria does not have any social security agreements with big sender countries such as the UK, the USA, or Germany.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Paul Zimmerer

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