Hints and tips on exporting goods to Nigeria

  • Ensure your goods are not on the banned list for import to Nigeria

It is worth ensuring that the goods you are exporting are allowable for import. Used tyres, soap, cassava, fruit juice in retail packs and used vehicles over 10 years old are all among some of the currently banned items. (Feb 2011)

Check it out at www.customs.gov.ng

  •  Check your goods Rates of duty

Duty is assessed on the HS code of the goods.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) of tariff nomenclature is an internationally standardized system of names and numbers for classifying traded products developed and maintained by the World Customs Organizationn (WCO) (formerly the Customs Co-operation Council), an independent intergovernmental organization with over 170 member countries based in Brussels, Belgium

Rates of duty vary considerably and for similar items. For example, motor vehicles can be rated at 5%, 20% or 35%.  This can lead to some interesting goods descriptions when importers are trying to lessen the duty charges!

Website www.customs.gov.ng

  •   Get a first class freight forwarder

This is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or other companies and may also act as a carrier. They are quite often agents acting as a logistics provider who organise transport by sea, air rail and truck to international destinations. A good international freight forwarder will also prepare and process documentation for you.

It can often be difficult getting your goods out of the ports in Nigeria, so be prepared for delays and extra costs.

  •  Check your documentation is correct.

The wrong documents or lack of documents will delay your goods clearing customs.

The import rules and regulations in Nigeria are subject to change, sometimes at short notice so keep an eye on what is going on.

  •   Some of the documents required are as follows:

Certificate of Origin

A Certificate of Origin (often abbreviated to CO or COO)  states from what country the shipped goods originate. Originate does not necessarily mean the country the goods are shipped from, but the country where their goods are actually made. When countries unite in trading agreements, they may allow Certificate of Origin to state the trading bloc as origin, rather than the specific country.

In the UK, the local chamber of commerce will issue a Certificate of Origin, or your freight forwarder should be able to do it.

Bill of Lading

A bill of lading (BL – sometimes referred to as BOL or B/L) is a document issued by a carrier to a  shipper, acknowledging that specified goods have been received on board as cargo for conveyance to a named place for delivery to the consignee who is usually identified. A through bill of lading involves the use of at least two different modes of transport from road, rail, air, and sea.

The bill of lading is a vital part of any letter of credit document presentation. It must contain shippers name, order and notify party, description of goods, weight of goods among other things. Bills of Lading can be endorsed and consigned to a company

The BL must contain the following information:

  • Name of the shipping company;
  • Flag of nationality;
  • Shipper’s name;
  • Order and notify party;
  • Description of goods;
  • Gross/net/tare weight; and
  • Freight rate/measurements and weighment of goods/total freight

While an air waybill (AWB) must have the name and address of the consignee, a BL may be consigned to the order of the shipper. Where the word order appears in the consignee box, the shipper may endorse it in blank or to a named transferee. A BL endorsed in blank is transferable by delivery. Once the goods arrive at the destination they will be released to the bearer or the endorsee of the original bill of lading. The carrier’s duty is to deliver goods to the first person who presents any one of the original BL. The carrier need not require all originals to be submitted before delivery. It is therefore essential that the exporter retains control over the full set of the originals till payment is effected or a bill of exchange is accepted or some other assurance for payment has been made to him. In general, the importer’s name is not shown as consignee. The bill of lading has also provision for incorporating notify party. This is the person whom the shipping company will notify on arrival of the goods at destination. The BL also contains other details such as the name of the carrying vessel and its flag of nationality, the marks and numbers on the packages in which the goods are packed, a brief description of the goods, the number of packages, their weight and measurement, whether freight costs have been paid or whether payment of freight is due on arrival at the destination. The particulars of the container in which goods are stuffed are also mentioned in case of containerised cargo. The document is dated and signed by the carrier or its agent. The date of the BL is deemed to be the date of shipment. If the date on which the goods are loaded on board is different from the date of the bill of lading then the actual date of loading on board will be evidenced by a notation the BL. In certain cases a carrier may issue a separate on board certificate to the shipper.

SONCAP Certifiation

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) introduced a Conformity Assessment Program (CAP) in 2005.  The aim of the regulation is to identify gooods that pose a potential risk to the Nigerian consumer and verify their claims of safety. This is to protect the Nigerian consumer from safe and sub-standard goods.

The presentation of a SONCAP certificate is mandatory for goods within its scope.  Not all goods are required to have a certificate.

Website www.sononline.org

Cargo Tracking Note

Introduced in January 2010, every consignment imported and exported must have a Cargo Tracking Note to accompany the Bill of Lading. A freight forwarder can obtain these for you at a cost of about £250.00

UPDATE! As of November 2011, President Jonathan Goodluck has abolished Cargo Tracking Notes as a requirement for goods imported or exported from Nigeria.


Nigeria presents an excellent commercial opportunity for business.  Follow the regulations, use your common sense and remember the adage, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Written by Fiona Johnson

September 2011


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