Importation is a business operation that involves acquiring commercial consumable goods and products from another country into Nigeria while exportation is simply the outflow of goods and products from Nigeria into other countries for commercial purposes. The procedures for import and export are governed by various laws and regulations made by different government agencies responsible for import and export operations in Nigeria.

Procedure for Importation

There are certain requirements required to be complied with by any importer before carrying importing goods into Nigeria. Most times, the steps toward importation commence with the importer duly register a company with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The importer is also expected to register and open a tax file with the nearest branch of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). Tax Identification Number will be issued to the importer with a valid email address attached to it.

Also, the importer is required to open a corporate bank account by choosing any reputable bank in Nigeria to act as the Authorised Dealer Bank (ADB), which will be responsible for processing the E-Form M and Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), as well as act as the mediator among the Nigeria Customs Service, the importer and other bodies where necessary. The E-Form M and PAAR documentation are processed on the Nigeria Single Window Trade Portal. The importer must register as a client on the Nigeria Single Window Trade Portal, which is an intergovernmental online site that encourages trade between government agencies and parties on the FIRS' site.

The importer is also required to obtain the appropriate permit from the various regulatory bodies which are dependent on the kind of goods and product to be imported. For instance, an importer of petroleum products must obtain import from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), while any importer of food or drug items must obtain a requisite permit from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Upon the fulfilment of the above conditions, the importer is ready to import goods and products for commercial purposes from other countries in Nigeria. The following steps are to be taken by the importer as prescribed by the Nigeria Ports Authority;

  • Obtain the requisite regulatory permits/certificates for goods and products that are regulated.
  • The importer is required to activate the Product Certificate on the online single window for assessment.
  • The importer is expected to obtain Form M on the Nigerian Trade Platform (Single Window System, attaching the required documents such as the proforma invoice, insurance certificates, or product certificate and submit the same to the authorized dealer bank (ADB).
  • Afterwards, the authorized dealer bank is to review and validate Form M and send it to the Nigeria Customs Service.
  • The Nigerian Customs Service has the power to either accept or reject the Form M when it is not duly completed or the importer defaults in attaching some required documents.
  • Upon the acceptance of the duly completed Form M by the Nigeria Customs Service, the importer is required to forward the Form M to his exporter who will, in turn, contact Cotecna, which is a provider of laboratory testing, cargo scanning, etc where applicable.
  • Afterwards, the importer activates the SONCAP Certificate and applies for the Pre-Assessment Arrival Report (PAAR) where applicable. PAAR is an online application used by the Nigerian Customs for inspection before the arrival of the cargo to reduce the time spent when the goods arrive on the Nigerian Single Window for Trade.
  • The PAAR is therefore issued and the importer can now carry on the clearance of its products.
  • For shipping companies, the importer is required to submit the import manifest to customs, the Nigerian Port Authority, and terminal operator and pay the shipping charges.
  • Documents of each importation are required to carry the name of the product, country of origin, specifications, date of manufacture, batch number, and standard to which the goods have been produced.

Procedure for Exportation

To carry on the business of exportation, the exporter is required to incorporate a company with the CAC in Nigeria, upon incorporation the exporter is also required to register with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and obtain the exporter's certificate to be eligible for NEPC benefits. The exporter is also required to complete the NXP Form with an authorized dealer, which is any reputable bank in Nigeria.

Also, an export contract may be executed between the exporter and the importer which sets out the obligations of the exporter and importer.

It is the responsibility of the exporter of any commodity to ensure an appropriate license or export permit has been obtained from various regulatory agencies before attempting to export any consignment. For instance, an exporter of any solid minerals must obtain an export permit from and pay royalty through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD).

The Agent (Forwarder) plays significant roles in facilitating exportation on behalf of the exporters. By and large, the functions of an Agent during the export process include the followings:

  • Make arrangements for transportation to Port.
  • The agent is also expected to make arrangements for inspection by the Nigerian Customs Service, the SSS, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, and other authorized government agencies.
  • Make payment for the prescribed duty where applicable.
  • Make the necessary payment of the shipping company charges, that is, the Freight.
  • The agent is also to book space with the shipping agent.
  • He may also make payment for terminal operators' chargers.

The shipping companies also play pivotal roles in the export of any goods from Nigeria. The major duties of a shipping company are to accept the cargo at the port of departure from exporter under the bill of lading contract, transport and deliver the same to the consignee.

In closing, it is important to state that that the import license is required to be obtained from the various government agencies such as the Standard Organization of Nigeria, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, Department of Petroleum Resources, among others before relevant products can be brought into Nigeria. Also, in the case of importation, importers are to be aware that some products are banned from being imported into Nigeria by the Federal Government, which are contained in the Nigerian Customs Service import prohibited list

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.