Mrs. Safiya Usman, the Chief Investment Officer of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), says there are numerous advantages of investing in Nigeria.

Usman disclosed this in an interview on Friday in Abuja.

“Our population alone is an attraction. 170 million people is a huge market and you will agree with me that whatever comes into Nigeria sells,’’ she said.

According to her, investors are interested in Nigeria because of its unique position in Africa and globally.

“Nigeria is key in the ECOWAS region; we are the gateway to ECOWAS countries; we have the largest market combined.

“So with this, investors are sure that they won’t only serve the Nigerian market but other counties like Ghana, Cameroon, Niger and others,’’ she said.

Usman said that the role of NIPC in investment drive was crucial as it served as the Federal Government agency that promotes the opportunities available in the country.

“The role of NIPC is to walk investors through the step by step processes. We do this through the One Stop Investment Centre (OSIC).

“And with the OSIC, we have agencies that are relevant to investment from start to finish.

“This is a single window that caters to investments; from registration of businesses to orientation, also giving after-care services to investors.

“Business registration can be done in 24 hours. We can provide investors with expatriates quota slots, information and much more at the OSIC.

“We have a very low tax regime of five percent, which is one of the lowest in the world, so a lot of investors are taking advantage of that.

“Investors can have 37 to 40 percent return on investments.

“We have about 27 government agencies operating there; like the NAFDAC, Immigration Desk, the Customs Desk, and others.

“But we have a long way to go because we still have to tidy the registration processes so businesses can register online instead of coming all the way here for that.

“We have served countries like China, France, India, South Africa, Germany, Spain, the UK, the U.S., Italy, Greece and others.

“We can see some of the success stories of investment in the country such as South Africa with MTN; which recouped almost twice their investment in their first year of operation.

“I know we have about 36 solid minerals in commercial quantities, and there are a lot out there that haven’t been discovered.

“We have a lot of intelligent people in Nigeria; cutting across all disciplines. So, skilled labour is very much available.

“Nigeria’s population is about 60 percent youth, which means we have able bodied men and women for unskilled labour, which is relatively cheap.”

She described the fertility of Nigerian soil as agricultural-friendly.

“Nigerian soil is very fertile for agriculture. Think about all the cash crops around that have grown without even being planted by anyone.

“We have very good climate, we are not prone to natural disasters. I mean we have floods but not in the magnitude we see in other countries.”

Usman, however, said that lack of capacity for information gathering by some agencies had been a major challenge for the commission.

She said that the commission had been working with these agencies to tidy up the aspect of information gathering.

“I won’t deny that there are a lot of hitches because depending on the state where the investment will take place, there are a lot of tax issues and that is why the NIPC is mandated to give tax relief.

“So, we have what we call the pioneer status, which is an incentive that is meant to give corporate tax relief of three years in the first instance.

“This tax relief is to make investors recoup their investments within a short while. Because of that, investors find it easy to expand and stay in Nigeria.”

Usman said that with the new government administration committed to sanitising the economy, NIPC was going to be in the limelight.

“We are enjoying a lot of goodwill now internationally with the new government because people know it is against corruption.

“And with this present government, NIPC is going to be at the forefront of achieving its aim of industrialising Nigeria through foreign direct investment,’’ she said.

Usman explained the need for changing the attitude of people toward Nigeria, both locally and internationally.

“We have to go out there and change the perception of investors about Nigeria. We have to make sure everybody on the streets of Nigeria is an investment promotion officer.

“We have to behave in a manner that depicts the Nigerian people and kill the bad publicity we have out there to attract investors to come in.

“We have to start looking at alternative revenue generation activities, which can be through foreign and local direct investment.

“We are expecting a lot of investments between now and next year. We are going to have our hands full so we are ready and excited, “ she adds.

“We have five zonal offices in Nigeria – Maiduguri, Plateau, Kano, Enugu and Ibadan,’’ Usman said. (NAN)