Importation is the means by which goods and services are moved from one country into another. Importation and exportation are the defining financial transactions of international trade. The import procedure in Nigeria has been made simple over the years through various new import regulations and usage of technologies.

In international trade, the importation and exportation of goods are limited by import quotas and mandates from the customs authority and the procedure involved in importation are usually quite stringent to curb the importation of prohibited goods and to also regulate the goods being imported. The principal government agency that regulates importation in Nigeria is the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS).

In Nigeria, before any shipment can occur, the importer must first ensure that the following:

  1. Register their Company or business with the Corporate Affairs Commission and obtain a Certificate of Incorporation/Registration of Business Name.
  2. Register their company with the Federal Inland Revenue Service(FIRS) and obtain a Tax Identification Number (TIN) with a valid email address tagged to it.
  3. Select a Bank of choice in Nigeria to act as the Authorised Dealer Bank (ADB). This is the Bank that will process the Form MPAAR and mediate among the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the importer and other bodies.

Nigeria aborted its pre-shipment inspection policy in favour of a destination inspection policy for imports.  Under this policy, all imports are inspected on arrival in Nigeria. To receive clearance for goods imported into Nigeria, traders must present to the Nigeria Customs Service;

  1. A Bill of Lading,
  2. Commercial Invoice Exit Note,
  3. Duly completed Form 'M', Packing list,
  4. Single Goods Declaration, and
  5. Product Certificate.

Until recently, the importer was also required to submit a Combined Certificate Value & Origin (CCVO) which contains the description of goods, port of destination, country of origin, date of shipment, country of supply etc. However, in line with international trading procedures and recommendations from stakeholders, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reviewed its trade transactions guidelines and replaced the CCVO with the simpler Certificate of Origin in April 2017. The revision also prescribes a 48-hour maximum processing time from the receipt of the application. 

The NCS uses a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) system which allows importers to submit their importation documents online for assessment and clearance before the arrival of the cargo. This replaced the Risk Assessment Report System in 2013 to facilitate trade and revenue collection.

By and large, the steps to clear goods through Customs and import same into Nigeria are as follows:

  1. A duly completed E-Form M is submitted electronically to an Authorised dealer bank with the following documents attached:
    1. Proforma invoice
    2. Insurance certificate
    3. Regulatory certificates/licence/permit
  2. The original copy of the documents listed above should be submitted to the processing bank before validation.
  3. Upon receipt of the duly completed E-Form M from the importer, the authorised dealer bank shall do the following:
    1. Ensure that the E-Form M is duly completed with a detailed description of goods clearly stated.
    2. Compare the attached documents with the original.
    3. Ensure that the entire relevant documents that are to accompany the E-form M are provided. The authorised dealer bank is expected to carry out a proper Know Your Customer (KYC) and be satisfied that all the documents submitted are genuine.
  4. The bank sends the validated E-form M to the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
  5. The NCS receives the E-Form Mwith other necessary pre-import documents from the Authorized Dealer Bank and carries out preliminary preview using the information provided.
  6. The e-Form M where accepted is registered on the system by the NCS.
  7. Final import documents are sent by the Authorized Dealer Bank to the NCS. The documents referred to are:
  8. The final invoice
  9. Transport Document (Bill of Lading/Airway Bill/Roadway Bill)
  10. Packing List
  11. The NCS generates the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR).
  12. The PAAR, the Final Invoice, the Bill of Lading (with other final documents) in addition to the regulatory documents, e.g. the SONCAP Certificate (where the item is SON regulated), are used in the clearance of goods at any Nigerian port.

Conclusively, importers into Nigeria must ensure that all requirements and procedures b laid down by the Nigerian Government as well as the Nigeria Customs Service are properly followed to avoid forfeiture of such imported goods and/or prosecution.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.