By Omeiza Ajayi
As part of measures to reduce the country’s unemployment rate, the Federal Government has vowed to punish companies who continue to abuse the expatriate quota, saying with an efficient quota management system in place, it hopes to generate about 60, 000 middle-level employment opportunities annually.
The government decried a situation where so-called expatriates engage in scam marriages in order to dubiously acquire Nigerian citizenship while others engage in jobs such as bricklaying, painting and even hawking vegetables.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja at one-day stakeholders meeting on Expatriate Quota Administration.
He said while the President Muhammadu Buhari administration arrives to ease foreign direct investments, it would however not jeopardize local content considerations.
According to him, every nation regulates its economic relations with other nations in a mutually beneficial way, but putting its national interest and citizens above others.
“It is a healthy competition that has survived the test of time. If properly and effectively managed, it will lead to technology transfer, manpower development and rapid industrialisation. Where nations are careless or unmindful, it leads to untoward consequences of lopsided and imbalanced relationship, foreign domination and stunted development of the host country’s personnel and economy and ultimately creates a dependency syndrome. This is not some far-fetched idea. We have suffered this syndrome to a reasonable degree due to non-diligent implementation of the rules and guidelines and it is what we are trying to correct now. It is also replicable in many African and developing economies. So, this is a very serious national policy and I want you to give it the seriousness it deserves.
“To be sure, an average of 30,000 expatriate quotas are issued and given to about 4,000 companies annually. In strict compliance with local content regulation and national interest, about 60,000 middle level employment opportunities are expected annually through the compulsory understudy programme for knowledge and skill transfer”, he stated.
Aregbesola added that “the outcome of the meeting will tie up a lot of loose ends in the obsolete handbook last reviewed in 2004, which has been in use as a guide to granting approvals to requests for various types of expatriate quota made to the Ministry of Interior”.
He said some of the abuses that the government has discovered are egregious.
“We have seen cases of expatriates fraudulently coming in to work as bricklayers, painters and even high-end consorts. Some also circumvent the rules by dubiously acquiring Nigerian citizenship through scam marriages. The funny but tragic case of some Asians hawking vegetables went viral. These are clear economic sabotage acts that should be detected, stopped and sanctioned”, he stated.
He charged stakeholders at the meeting to come up with a brand new, well-articulated Handbook on Expatriate Quota Administration.
Among his charge to the participants are that at the end of the meeting “we would have a fair and reasonable sanctions that will be effective enough to curb abuses of Business Permit and Expatriate Quota;
“That the benefits and revenues accruable to the country would now begin to pour in, and that the teeming unemployed youth in Nigeria would have increased opportunities for employment through the understudy programme stipulated in the Expatriate Quota guideline; and
“Companies and Organizations that are clients of the Ministry’s Citizenship and Business department would have a clear understanding of the guidelines and issues surrounding the administration of Business Permit and Expatriate Quota. They would understand what it takes to cooperate with the Ministry in its bid to provide effective and efficient services to the nation”.
The Minister had last December inaugurated a nine-man Special Task Force on Business Permit and Expatriate Quota Administration, saddling them with the responsibility to investigate, inspect, penalize and enforce sanctions on organizations confirmed to have abused the utilization of expatriate quotas in Nigeria, whether they are indigenous, joint ventures or wholly foreign.
Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Shuaib Belgore said the Ministry has established online linkages with Nigeria Immigration Service and the Federal Inland Revenue Service while the linkages with the Corporate Affairs Commission and Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board are in its final stages.
“These linkages are to enable the Ministry communicate swiftly with the respective agencies especially to confirm the authenticity of documents uploaded in support of an application thus reducing the time required for processing applications”, Belgore stated.