Ayuli Jemide is the founder and lead Partner of DETAIL Commercial Solicitors, Nigeria’s first commercial solicitors’ firm to specialize exclusively in non-court room practice. As a commercial lawyer, speaking to many high-net-worth clients and gaining an understanding of how they think and plan for themselves and their families has given him some insight, which forms the basis for his thoughts shared here.
Nigerians have traditionally sought an alternative residence or a second passport for several reasons. First is education. Many families plan their lives around where their children attend boarding schools or universities and the need for caregivers to stay for extended periods. Second is mobility. Many investors, particularly businesspeople, want a passport that allows them to travel visa-free to many countries at the drop of a hat. The third reason, which links to the second, is strong family ties. For many affluent individuals, it is important to be able to visit family members who reside abroad at short notice and hassle-free. However, in the last few years, the list of reasons for investing in residence programs and second passports has expanded.
The first additional reason is the recent unfavorable exchange rates. Given that Nigeria is very import-driven, any adverse exchange rate movements affect purchasing power and quality of life. For this reason, more young people — professionals in particular — and some middle-aged people are seeking opportunities abroad. For more mature individuals, foreign exchange adversity has triggered financial planning that includes property purchases aimed at generating foreign currency income.
Retirement is another new reason for the growing demand for residence and citizenship by investment. Many Nigerian citizens who are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s now see the need to have a retirement plan that includes the option to live abroad for a myriad of reasons including access to healthcare, a change of environment, fulfilling their desire for adventure, and more.
In selecting country options for alternative residence or a second citizenship, language is a major deciding factor if the applicant intends to live there. English is Nigeria’s official language, and Nigerians tend to seek countries were English is widely spoken. Another important factor is the exchange rate differential. Many Nigerians, for example, prefer the USA to the UK because the British pound sterling exchanges for more to the naira than the US dollar does. A third factor is whether the investment migration program offers additional benefits, such as the freedom to travel within regions such as Europe’s Schengen Area, or the Caribbean, as a resident. For early retirees, it is important to be able to work or keep themselves occupied, so in their case the rules relating to work permits are an important consideration.
The demand for residence and citizenship by investment programs and the additional passports they offer, in Nigeria and other African countries, may continue to increase in the years to come, but it is important to note that if the US dollar–naira exchange rate becomes more unfavorable, investment migration options may become unaffordable wishlist items for many investors.