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How to import in Nigeria:

Starting to import in Nigeria require some knowledge for success. When importing goods from any country to Nigeria. You'll need to: 

1. Check which government agency regulates the commodity. Most commodities are regulated by Standard Organization of Nigeria - SON. 

2. Find out the Customs Tarrif Code to classify your duty for duty,  levy, and tax. 

3. Get rough estimate of overall cost of importing the goods. Cost includes item cost, freight cost, duty and tax payable. Also check to know the cost of local haulages and customs broker/agent service charge. 

4. Declare your imports to customs in Nigeria. Form m document help you to achieve just that. 

Choose best shipping method that guarantees less cost and is efficient to your timing. Lighter goods are best shipped by air if needed urgently. 


Who is a clearing agent?  

A clearing agent is a company that work with relevant authorities to ensure the forwarding or the release of imported goods. 

The roles of clearing Agent:

1. Documentation:

International logistics trade requires lots and lots of documents for effective and efficient movement of goods across countries. The clearance agent is an expert documentation company, thus the agent should be involved from the beginning to the end of your importation to avoid costly mistakes. Documents prepared with the assistance of a clearing and forwarding Agent includes the following:

I) . Proforma invoice: used to obtain form m in Nigeria. 

II) . Regulatory import certificates and permits: these includes NAFDAC Permit, SON product certificate/SONCAP, etc. 

III) Shipping documents: also called final documents in Nigeria. Final documents includes commercial invoice, packing list, CCVO, and bill of lading/airwaybill.

IV) . PAAR - means the pre-arrival assessment report or program. 

V) . Single goods declaration - SGD: This means that every single good/item in the volume of goods is declared through the process called "DATA CAPTURING". After data capturing, then Assessment notice is printed out. 

VI) Purchase of marine insurance certificate etc 

2. Physical Examination: the clearance specialist goes to the terminal administrator to book for the situating of the compartment for physical examination to be done, the specialist writes customs examination unit requesting examination. 

Customs Clearance Procedure: Import In Nigeria: 

There is a two-way customs clearance procedure in every international export or import of goods.. First of all, there is a customs Clearance at the country of supply/origin.

Similarly, there is the import customs clearance at the destination country. Thus, in this article I will give explicit information on import custom clearance procedure in Nigeria. 

This article will reveal all steps importers need to take so as to initiate and finish customs clearance process. Consequently, this article will help importers reduce customs clearance cost in Nigeria. 


customs clearance procedure is the process of declaration of goods and value to the customs authority.. The purpose of these declaration are: registration, levy or duty payment and even for security. The process usually involves preparation and submission of required documents to the customs authority. 

Customs authority carries out physical examination of such goods before given a clean report. Customs clearance procedure can be grouped into two namely:

1. Export customs clearance procedure 

2. Import customs clearance procedure. 

Our focus in this article is import customs clearance procedure in Nigeria trading space. 


Step One: 

.Decide on Tax Identification Number - TIN. You can either choose to import goods in your company name or in the name of another company. Preferably most importers use the clearance agency company. Take the following steps if you want cargo imported in your name or your company name. 

Otherwise, if you want to use the company owned by the clearance agent, kindly skip the step above, ie step one. 

I) approach the corporate affairs commission - CAC to register a company. The company can be an enterprise, or a limited liability or any other company acceptable by law. 

Note that individuals with tax identification number can as well import goods as persons. 

II)  Take your company certificate (the 3 certificate given at CAC)  to any office first inland revenue service - FIRS to apply at activate your tax identification number (TIN). 

thus, your TIN becomes visible in the federal government of Nigeria Single Window For trade.

III) Use the TIN (username) and the password so created with the FIRS to login to your page on the trade window website ( View your page and appreciate what you can do with your company. 


Pre-importation documents - Form M 

Every standard conventional importation method in Nigeria requires form M which is the first official document. Documents needed to open form M are: The prpforma invoice, marine insurance certificate and the SONPC - Product certificate. 

Others are SON Import permit, and NESREA Import permit for used items. Let us look at these documents in detail. 

Proforma Invoice:.

Request the shipper/seller/consignor/manufacturer of the goods or items you want to import to issue you with a proforma invoice. 

A proforma invoice is an estimated quotation of item's of import. The proforma invoice serves Only for customs purposes. It does not represent the actual invoice, and can not be a demand or request for payment. 

We shall talk about the actual or commercial invoice as we move on. In my next article, I will give template proforma invoice that could be adopted. 

For the proforma invoice to be accepted by Nigerian customs, it must contain the following:

a)  items description  b)  items unit prices  c)  total amount of items  d)  country of origin of goods.  e)  similarly, country of supply of shipment or cargo.  f)  means of transportation (air, road, or sea)      g) estimated freight cost.   h) seller or shipper's (consignor) address and contact details.    I) equally, buyer or consignee's address and contact details 

Marine or cargo insurance:.

There are a host of insurance companies in Nigeria. Popular ones iuclude NEM insurance, Zenith insurance, etc. Simply make contact with one and request for Marine Cargo Insurance Coverage. 

Obtain Standard Organization of Nigeria - SON product certificate (PC):

The SONPC is the SON confirmation that the product conform to Nigerian standards and technical regulations. The PC is valid for 6 months to one year depending on the type obtained. Alternatively, you can obtain SON import permit, which is issued to regular importers for the same 6 month to one year period.. 

The difference between SONPC and SON import permit is that SON PC can be obtained for a one-off shipment. 

Again the importer has freedom to initiate just the importation of any item at any time using the PC (Note: policy seemed to have been changed 2021: each item seperate SONPC).

Whereas, SON Import permit is meant for regular importers. The permit requires importers to state all goods or items of import for the whole period during application stage. 


There are 5 agents of SON that process SON certifications at exporter or seller's origin country. These include INTERTEK, COTECNA, CCIC, & SGS. 

Approach any of these companies and ask to obtain SON certification for your product of import. 


Let your bank know you will be using your account with them to process form M. The bank usually debits the sum of N8, 000 or a little more from your account each time you request a form M. 

Some bank takes up the responsibility/burden processing the form M for you. 


Use the documents stated above to request for form M via the Federal Government of Nigerian Single Window for Trade. Also, using the details created at stage one of this article, login to the trade portal. 

STEP THREE:  - Cargo shipping 

With the form M obtained, you are ready to ship your goods into Nigeria. 

a)  Give the form M to the seller or shipper, depending on the arrangement. We will discuss on how to find a shipping company in a seperate article. 

b)  The shipping company issues shipping documents. This document could be an airwaybill, bill of lading, sea waybill or telex release, depending on the shipping method.  Check to be sure that the form M number is added on the document. 

Airwaybill is for the cargoes coming by air, bill of lading or sea waybill for cargoes coming through the sea. 


a)  The cargo (the goods) is shipped. Before the shippment is loaded, the SON inspection agent choosen from any of the 4 inspects the shipment and certify it fit in terms of laid down regulations of SON. 

b)  The shipper/seller or someone designated at the form M approaches SON again to obtain SONCAP - Standard organization of Nigeria conformity assessment program certificate.

this sub-step is followed if SONPC was used in getting the form M. Otherwise if SON import permit was used at the form M stage, this sub-step is not necessary. This is because SON Import permit covers for form M and PAAR. 

The difference between the SON PC & SONCAP is that the PC is a confirmation that the products conform to Nigerian Standard & Technical regulations. 

SONCAP Confirms the product in a specific shipment comply with relevant Nigerian technical regulations and approved international, regional or National standards. 

c)  seller arranges the real invoices (commercial invoice or shipping invoice), also the packing list, the combine certificate of value and origin - CCVO,  with form M number on all documents. 

d) Activate your SONCAP or SON import permit against the above mentioned documents with SON direct. 

This is to enable SON vet what you received from it's agents. The essence is to ensure standards. I will talk more about the activation process in seperate article, so keep reading. 

PAAR: - Pre-arrival Assessment Report 

a)  The activated documents are sent to your bank. The bank now send the document to Nigeria Custom  for issuance of PAAR. The bank receives the PAAR via email from Nigeria Custom Service - NCS. 

b)  Lastly, the importer hands over the PAAR and other clearing documents mentioned above to clearing agents.


The custom clearance agent basically begins his work from the following step and finalises to the end. 

By taking the above steps in the customs clearance procedure, you have saved your self a huge cost associated with the documentation. 

STEP FOUR: - The customs duty  

This refers to the official and compulsory amount of money you pay to the Nigerian Government for importing goods into the country. 

a)  Single goods declaration is done via Data Capturing process, after data capturing (this is done online via DTI - Direct trade input website or clearance agency website) after capturing. An assessment notice is to be printed out for duty payment. 

This is issued either by a DTI cafe (direct trade input) or the clearance agency cafe.  This document (assessment notice) will show clearly the total amount of duty payable to the Nigerian government through it's agency - The NCS. 

This is calculated using international standards. I will write a seperate article to show you how to estimate customs duty yourself from the comfort of your office. 

b)  At this stage, the clearing agent or the importer proceed to Customs approved/designated bank with your system generated assessment notice. 

I)  The bank officer will match your printed assessment notice with the electronically received assessment notice for your SGD. if the information tallies, the Bank will receive your payments and issue you a signed bank receipt. 

ii) The bank system will then send an e-confirmation message to NCS to acknowledge that duties and taxes have been paid for your SGD. 

NOTE: Assessment notice is also called customs debit note. 


After duty payment in bank, you go back to your office or DTI cafe and request the release of your consignment from the NCS - Nigeria custom service system by presenting SGD to CPC - customs processing center and NCS will release the goods after either scan or physical examination.

NOTE: The NCS system will not permit the release of goods if outstanding duty has not been fully paid. 


When you request for the release of your consignment through the NCS system, NCS Risk Management Information (CRM) wil then determine the level of scrutiny/investigation that NCS will Giv your consignment. 

There are four (4) possible risk outcomes: 



••• Green and Blue SGDs are "Customs Cleared" ie released from customs control and do not require any customs intervention.  You should go straight to the terminal operator to claim your shipment. 

••• Yellow and Red are for sgds requiring document checking and scanning/examination

STEP FIVE:- Booking and Examination 

a)  the clearing agent writes customs examination unit requesting examination. The customs clearing Agent will now proceed to sign and secure release stamps from different units in the customs unit like the Enforcement unit, Customs intelligence Unit, and Customs Gate Control. 

b) once the release stamps are secured, signing of examination form by Government agencies in the port is the next. 

Such law Enforcement agencies like NDLEA, Anti bomb squad, police, DSS, NAFDAC, SON, and others will be visited. 

STEP SIX:- issuance Of Shipping Company Debit Note And Payment Of Shipping Company & Terminal Charges. 

a)  The clearance vendor (clearing Agent) will now obtain shipping company charges from the liner agent, also known as shipping company that conveys your cargo from country of origin. 

This he does by presenting the bill for of lading to the shipping company, who will now issue an invoice or debit note. Examples of these companies are MAERSK LINE, PIL, etc 

b)  much like the sub-step above, the clearing agent will goto terminal operator's office to get an invoice for terminal charges. 

Terminal operator have functions: to secure the Container and provide handling equipment required to carry or convey containers for examination by Customs or scanning process in and around the sea port. 

c)  Both terminal and shipping company charges are made in their approved banks. 

d) some terminal require shipping company charges paid before examination is carried out. 

e)  once payment is made to shipping company and cargo is released by the shipping company. The shipping company will issue delivery order order to the consignee. Here is where all the documents are compiled (shipping company D. O,  and other supporting papers, plus customs release documents) all these documents will be required by the terminal operator for issuance of Exit Note and Terminal Delivery Order (TDO). 

TDO & Exist Note is issued by the terminal operator and cargo is released ready for truck out to the final gate. 


a)  The truck proceed to final gate and wait for another round of documentation by the customs. Example confirmation of duty payment, endorsement and multiple registration of documents. And here the truck which conveys the container should be on the way out of the sea port to destination of interest. 

b)  furthermore, Cargo delivered to your warehouse or designated point. 

In Conclusion:

Goods imported from one country to another would have to undergo two customs clearance procedure. Firstly, there is clearance at country of supply/origin and the other at country of destination 


••• TIN Number of consignee (company name or personal name) is needed to take any step, including the very first step. PAAR generated within 24hrs if there are no issues from importer or shipper or customs. 

•••  Charges from the mentioned (shipping and terminal operators)  are for condignee account. You can get the final debit notes from these operators through the assistance of your employed clearing and forwarding Agent/broker.

•••  Certain cargoes do not require form M eg personal effects and vehicle less than 15years of age. 


NCS - Nigerian customs service, CIF - cost of item, insurance and freight, S/C - Surcharge, DTY - duty, CISS - Comprehensive Inspection & Supervision Scheme (Administrative charge), ETLS - ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme,  VAT - Value added tax, FOB - Freight onboard value/cost, CRM - Customs Risk Management.

HOW TO CALCULATE CUSTOMS DUTY - FORMULA. (duty percentages are accessible in Common External Tarrif) 

Your duty is calculated based on summing up the following: Surface duty (% of CIF); surcharge (% of duty); CISS (Assessed FOB in transaction currency multiply by Exchange rate - PAAR); ETLS (% of CIF) & VAT (% of total + CIF).

Lets take an example, if total goods cost + shipping fees = 4,400,000.  FOB + Freight and insurance cost = CIF which is 4,400,000 in your case. 

Surface duty (35% of N4, 400,000)

= N1,540,000

Surcharge (7% of 1,540,000)

= N107,800

ETLS (0.5% of 4,400,000)

= 22,000

CISS (assessed FOB in transaction currency multiply by exchange rate -PAAR) 



To find VAT = ANSWER   X   7.5 (VAT)      = VAT 

                              100.              1 

     GROSS DUTY  (total duty payment) = VAT + TOTAL


CIF = 8,000,324.85

DUTY %10= 800,032.49

S/C= %7 = 56,022.27

CISS = 66,753.18

ETLS %0.5= 40,001.62

TOTAL =962,809.56 + CIF = 8,963,134.41

VAT = 672,235.08


GROSS DUTY = 1,635,044.64

Letter Of Credit (LC) As It Relate To Clearing and Forwarding Process:

A Letter of Credit (LC) is a document that guarantees the buyer’s payment to the sellers. It is issued by a bank and ensures timely and full payment to the seller. If the buyer is unable to make such a payment, the bank covers the full or the remaining amount on behalf of the buyer.

A letter of credit is issued against a pledge of securities or cash. Banks typically collect a fee, ie, a percentage of the size/amount of the letter of credit.

Importance of Letters of Credit:

Since the nature of international trade includes factors such as distance, different laws in each country and the lack of personal contact during international trade, letters of credit make a reliable payment mechanism. The ‘International Chamber of Commerce Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits’ oversees letters of credit used in international transactions.

Parties to a Letter of Credit:

a. Applicant (importer) requests the bank to issue the LC.
b. Issuing bank (importer’s bank which issues the LC [also known as the Opening banker of LC]).
c. Beneficiary (exporter).

Types of a Letter of Credit:

The letters of credit can be divided into the following categories:

1. Sight Credit:
Under this LC, documents are payable at the sight/ upon presentation of the correct documentation. For example, a businessman can present a bill of exchange to a lender along with a sight letter of credit and take the necessary funds right away. A sight letter of credit is more immediate than other forms of letters of credit.

2. Acceptance Credit/ Time Credit:
The Bills of Exchange which are drawn and payable after a period, are called usance bills. Under acceptance credit, these usance bills are accepted upon presentation and eventually honoured on their respective due dates.

For example, a company purchases materials from a supplier and receives the goods on the same day. The bill will be delivered with the shipment of goods, but the company may have up to 30 days to pay it. This 30 day period marks the usance for the sale.

3. Revocable and Irrevocable Credit:

A revocable LC is a credit, the terms and conditions of which can be amended/ cancelled by the Issuing Bank. This cancellation can be done without prior notice to the beneficiaries. An irrevocable credit is a credit, the terms and conditions of which can neither be amended nor cancelled. Hence, the opening bank is bound by the commitments given in the LC.

4. Confirmed Credit:

Only irrevocable LC can be confirmed. A confirmed LC is one when a banker other than the Issuing bank, adds its own confirmation to the credit. In case of confirmed LCs, the beneficiary’s bank would submit the documents to the confirming banker.

5. Back-to-Back credit: In a back to back credit, the exporter (the beneficiary) requests his banker to issue an LC in favour of his supplier to procure raw materials, goods on the basis of the export LC received by him. This type of LC is known as Back-to-Back credit.

Example: An Indian exporter receives an export LC from his overseas client in the Netherlands. The Indian exporter approaches his banker with a request to issue an LC in favour of his local supplier of raw materials. The bank issues an LC backed by the export LC. 

6. Transferable Credit: While an LC is not a negotiable instrument, the Bills of Exchange drawn under it are negotiable. A Transferable Credit is one in which a beneficiary can transfer his rights to third parties. Such LC should clearly indicate that it is a ‘Transferable’ LC.


Letter Of Credit Fee/Charge:

The bank charges a fee for issuing a letter of credit. The fees for a letter of credit depends on several factors like the risk amount and the type of letter of credit.

Importance of letter of credit to purchasers:

Usually, a letter of credit supports a beneficiary or a seller in an exchange agreement where the bank will make sure that the seller receives the amount from the purchaser or from the issuing bank itself.

However, the letter of credit arrangement also assists a purchaser in certain circumstances such as if the purchaser makes a payment to the seller for an order and the seller does not deliver the order on time. In such a situation, the purchaser will get paid with the money that was spent by him or her with the help of a letter of credit. Hence, this way, the purchaser will get a refund.

Importance of letter of credit to Sellers:

When the buyer cannot pay the full outstanding amount, the bank that issues the letter of credit will need to make the payment to the seller. Sometimes, the seller can select a banker, and that banker will have to make the payment. If a letter of credit is transferable in nature, then the seller can choose another party to make the payment.

When does a seller or a beneficiary receive the payment from the bank?

In a letter of credit facility, the seller or beneficiary will get the payment from the bank only when the seller complies with the terms laid down in the letter of credit document. When the delivery is made on time, he/she will get relevant documents to prove that the delivery was made. These documents will be sent to the bank to meet the bank requirements. The bank will then need to pay the letter of credit without fail.

What type of collateral is required to open a letter of credit?

The bank issuing the letter of credit will require collateral depending on the strength of the applicants’ finances or even a fixed deposit as collateral. The final decision of the bank to enter into a transaction is made according to a set of criteria.

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