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Custom Clearing >> Home


Custom Clearing:Do It Yourself

Want to Start an Import Process? Steps to Take!

  1. Request for Proforma Invoice from your shipper/supplier from country of origin of goods.
  2. Check with Standard Organisation of Nigeria to confirm if product is regulated by the agency.
  3. If (b) is yes,request for Standard Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) Product Certificate from the shipper/supplier for new items, but if No, proceed!
  4. Check with National Agency for Food,DrugAdiministration and Control (NAFDAC) to confirm if your intended product is regulated by the agency.
  5. If (d) is yes, request for Import Permit from NAFDAC, but if No proceed!
  6. Check with Customs Tarriff to determine if your intended items fall under the prohibited list-countraban items. If No, proceed!
  7. Obtain a blank Form M from your bank.
  8. Fill the Form M following the stipulated instructions there in.
  9. On completion of the form, submit it back to the bank for approval attaching the following documents:
    1. Marine Insurance Certificate that covers the goods to be imported
    2. SONCAP Product Certificate for new items regulated by SON.
    3. Proforma Invoice obtained from the supplier.
    4. NAFDAC Import Permit and SONCAP Product Certificate,if required.

Please note that; some banks will request for NAFDAC import permit for items regulated by NAFDAC such as drugs, chemicals, beverages and canned food.
Once the bank is satisfied with the information supplied on the Form ‘M’ and other requirements attached to it, the bank generates a BA Number which is written on the Form M, and then  send the packaged documents to COTECNA for approval. Any required document not included and wrongly filled Form ‘M’ would lead to query or rejection of the Form ‘M’ either by the bank or by COTECNA depending at what point the error is detected.
Very Important! You do not need a clearing agent to fill your Form M, but a clearing agent or someone familiar with Form M can assist you. But it is simple, you can do it. You may need a little more assistance to locate the appropriate HS.Code for the type of goods you intend to import. Any mistake at the choice of HS.Code could cause you or your agent serious setback during customs clearing. So be Very careful here!

  1. If COTECNA is satisfied, collect the following documents from your suppiler/shipper;
    1. Original Bill of Laden,
    2. Final attested invoice,
    3. Packing list,
    4. Combined Certificate of value and origin,
    5. Any other relevant document.

These documents are sent to the designated bank in which the Form ‘M’ is opened. The bank forwards the document to Cotecna for issuance of RAR.
Some designated banks prefer receiving the final shipping documents direct from the supplier either by courier or through their e-mail.
When the RAR is issued, the bank collects it from cotecna and informs the consignee that his RAR is ready for collection.

  1. Collect the RAR from the bank and give it to your clearing agent for customs processing. From this point, you may need a clearing agent to take over, because customs clearing starts here.
  2. Negotiate with your clearing agent and agree on the terms of clearing and payment options. Available options;
    1. Exclusive Clearing Pre-quote
    2. Exclusive Clearing Pay-as-we-go

Customs Clearing:Do it yourself!

  1. You have collected the Risk Assessment Report (RAR) issued by Cotecna; work out the duty payable from the various items in the RAR, using the Harmonized System Codes (H.S. Code) which are provided according to the duty rate (Tariff) of the items. You may need an assistance here from a clearing agent or someone else that is familiar with this task
  2. Obtain the customs’ Single Good Declaration (SGD) Form.
  3. Give the SGD, RAR and Bill of Lading with the worked out duty to the typist who specializes in the act of filling the information required on the SGD Form.
  4. Take the complete SGD Form to a Commercial Direct Trade Input (DTI) café to capture the information in the completed Form electronically.
    The DTI Operators capture the SGD Form, assess the duty worked out in the SGD Form electronically and produce the computer print-out of the SGD and the assessment notice of the duty payable.
  5. Payment of the assessed duty is made at the designated bank and the bank prints receipt of payment acknowledgement for you.
    The confirmation of payment is sent to Nigeria Customs on-line by the bank which will be electronically confirmed by the customs.
  6. Attach the bank payment receipt to the SGD Form and other documents- purchasing Invoice, RAR, Form ‘M’, Packing list, Combined Certificate of Value and Origin(C.C.V.O) and the Bill of Laden. Go back to the DTI operator to trigger the selectivity channels. The selected channel can be any one of the following:
    • GREEN CHANNEL:This channel is specifically meant for diplomatic goods belonging to returning diplomats and foreign diplomats. Diplomatic goods of foreign embassies in Nigeria do not pay duty and are not examined.
      The consignment will be released in the Customs’ Processing Centre (C.P.C) without physically examining it. The agent takes delivery of the container with the seal intact after paying the shipping company and the terminal charges.
    • BLUE CHANNEL: This lane is assigned to Multi-national companies like PZ, U.A.C, Dangote Groups, Nigeria Breweries etc who import large bulk of raw materials.
      Once their goods arrive the port, they are cleared immediately through the blue lane. All the SGDs for the consignment are pre-released in the C.P.C to enable delivery to be effected after paying shipping company and terminal charges. They pay the customs duty assessed for the goods latter.
    • YELLOW CHANNEL: Also known as documentary. If the lane selected is DOCUMENTARY CHECK, the SGD is lodged in the C.P.C to the front desk officer. The front desk officer goes through the customs system to check the information supplied by the shipping company about the consignment as manifested. He compares it with the documents attached to the SGD submitted to them. If the officer is satisfied, the SGD is released in the C.P.C. The consignee through his agent takes delivery of his goods without physically examining the container. The seal will be broken at the gate when the container is exited. If the officer is not satisfied with the documentation, he can re-assign the SGD to a 100% physical examination or re-channel to scan.Documentary check is not reserved for any particular group of companies or persons. Any SGD can trigger this lane.
    • RED CHANNEL:there are two types of RED Channels:
    1. Light Red: This is also known as SCAN
    2. Deep Red: This is the main Physical Examination lane.

It is difficult to differentiate between the light and deep red. When an SGD is triggered by the DTI – operators and the channel selected is physical examination in RED COLOUR in their system, it is always advisable to confirm the true channel from the front desk officers in the C.P.C. This is because the physical examination that appears on RED in the system could be either scan or physical. And the DTI operators do not have the full access to confirm whether it is Red scan or Red physical but the customs have.

  1.  Agent pays the shipping company and terminal charges. The terminal operator gives the agent permission to take delivery of the container after exiting it. The container is loaded on a truck and moved to scan base for scanning.

When the good is scanned, the result could be either NOT SUSPECT or SUSPECT. If the result is NOT SUSPECT, the good is delivered to the warehouse of the importer without further delay. But the seal must be broken before the container leaves the port for delivery. When the seal is broken, the container will be opened by custom officer for inspection to be sure of what is being released to the agent. 
If the result of the scan reads SUSPECT, the container will be moved to examination bay for 100% physical examination to ascertain the reason for the SUSPECT.
The cause of the scan suspect could be as a result of excess quantity not declared in the RAR or items not manifested. Either of these would attract additional payment. Demand Notice (D/N) would be raised commensurate with the items discovered. Once the additional duty raised is paid, the container will be allowed to leave the port to the importer’s warehouse.
PHYSICAL EXAMINATION: The agent goes to terminal operator to book for positioning of the container for customs physical examination of the goods. On the day the Physical Examination will be performed, the agent obtains customs’ examination form and fills in the required information. He invites the customs resident officer who is the examiner to come and perform the examination. The agent also invites other customs’ units and government agencies to come and witness the exercise. The various customs unit that would be on hand to participate in the Physical Examination are: the valuation unit, the gate control unit, the enforcement unit and the Customs Intelligent Unit (C.I.U). These units provide oversight function for the resident customs officer who is charge of the examination.
At the end of the Physical examination, each unit representative will write his own independent report about its finding and submit it to the head of the unit. They compare the result of the examination with what are in the document presented by the agent. Any unit that is satisfied with the outcome of the physical examination will sign the customs’ examination form which the agent will present, showing that the unit participated in the exercise and are satisfied with it.
The customs resident officer that examined the container will electronically release the good to the importer through the agent if he is satisfied with the examination he performed. If he discovers any excess quantities or concealed dutiable items, demand notice will be raised against those items found in the container but are not manifested. The importer pays the additional duty before his container will be released by the examiner.

Other government agencies that will take part in every physical examination and their roles are:

  1. National Agency For Food and Drugs Administration and Control [NAFDAC]- its role is to be sure that the importer meets all the import requirements for their regulated products. They want to be sure that the Customs SGD of their regulated products has the first stamp and the approved signature of one of their officers, which indicates that the importer has met every requirement for the importation and clearance of the product from the port.
  2. Standard Organization Of Nigeria [SON]- its role in the port is to make sure that every new item imported into Nigeria is covered by SONCAP Certificate. That certificate shows the item meets the required standard. New items that have no SONCAP Certificate are confiscated by the Agency for destruction.
  3. Plant and Animal Quarantine – These Government Agencies check the importation of woods and Animals that could bring in new diseases into Nigeria.
  4. NDLEA- Looks out for illegal importation of Narcotics.
  5. Directorate of Naval Intelligence (DNI) – Checks the illegal importation of arms and ammunitions into Nigeria.
  6. Port Police – Provides security for the good and port users as well.

These Government agencies are present in every Customs’ Area Command such as Apapa Port, Tin-can Island Port, Pan-Atlantic, Lilly Pond container terminal and in every Bonded Terminal. At the end of every Physical examination, these agencies also sign the customs examination form to confirm their participation in the exercise.
The greatest problems associated with clearing of cargos are the terminal operators. These problems arise as a result of:

  1. Lack of logistics to position containers on time for physical examination.
  2. Often time, a container booked for examination could not be located thereby causing delay that could last for upwards of five to several days. The most notable terminal where this is experienced is AP. Moller controlled Apapa Port terminals.
  3.  This delay leads to increasing demurrages both at the shipping companies and the terminal.
  4. Lack of logistics causes delay in the transfer of containers assigned to inland container terminals known as Bonded Terminals. These also affect the shipping companies and terminal charges.
  5.  Multiple government agencies that interfere in the quick removal of goods from the terminals by sometime raising frivolous arguments about the examined containers.
  6.   Multiple custom units whose approvals must be sought before an examined container can leave the terminal.
  7.  The time it takes for shipping companies to raise their charges for agents to pay is also not encouraging.
  8.   Sometimes it takes two days or more to release containers from shipping companies due to system breakdown.
  9. Non-compliance of some importers with government regulation such as SONCAP and NAFDAC permits.
  10.  Some transporter often provides aged trucks which breakdown in the terminal or on the way during delivery to warehouse.

Sometimes such rickety trucks drop the container on the way to delivery causing damage to the container and the goods within. Any damaged container will cause serious problem between the shipping company that owns the container and the importer/agency because the shipping company will demand for the replacement of it or payment for it.
REQUIREMENT:The following are the documents required to release container from shipping companies.

  1. Shipping company debit note which is the Proforma invoice raised to show the amount of money to be paid by the importer for the use of the container.
  2. Bank teller with which the payment for the shipping company charges was made.
  3.  Shipping company receipt that acknowledges the receipt of the money paid to the bank.
  4. Bank receipt of import duty payment made to customs.
  5.  Customs duty assessment notice.
  6.  Risk Assessment Report (RAR) raised for the goods.
  7.  Form ‘M’ opened for that particular import.
  8.  Importer’s copy of the SGD used to make the declaration.
  9.  Certificate of entry.
  10.  Original Bill of Lading bearing the importers stamp and signature with an instruction for the shipping company to release his consignment to his agent, and the agency authorized signatory accepting the goods.
  11.  Some shipping companies demand for a letter of indemnity from the agency.

When the shipping company has released the container to the agency standing in for the importer, the following documents will be issued to the agency.

  1. Delivery order known as D.O for short.
  2. Container card for the return of the empty container.

A copy of the delivery order known as Master D.O will be sent to the terminal operator (now it is done electronically on line) instructing them to deliver the container to the agency representing the importer.
The container card is used to drop the container when the empty is returned to the shipping company’s stacking area.

Shipping Company
The official charges of all the operating shipping companies are the same. Read More

1.            Maersk Line
2.            Pacific International Line Limited (PIL)
3.            MOL Shipping Line
4.            Lagos and Niger Shipping Agency Limited (LANSAL)
5.            Blue Funnel
6.            Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC or Comet)
7.            Alraine, Crossmarine, Transcorp, Nile Dutch, WasaDelmas
8.            CMA CGM Delmas (SDV)

The operational modes of all the shipping companies are very similar. When a ship arrives at an approved port at its final destination, the shipping company that owns the ship prepares the shipping manifest of the arrived ship and sends it to the customs’ manifest report seat of the Customs’ Area Command the ship is assigned to.
A shipping Manifest is a list of all the goods on board an arrived ship compiled by shipping companies, indicating whether they are containerized or not containerized, stating the container numbers of all the containerized goods, the description of the items, their quantities, the names and addresses of the shippers, the names and addresses of the importers, the Form ‘M’ numbers opened for the items, the Bills of Laden numbers raised for the goods and other relevant information.
The shipping manifest is therefore a comprehensive descriptive list of every item onboard an arrival ship at an approved port compiled by shipping companies.
This shipping manifest prepared on both prints and in computer diskettes are submitted to Customs Manifest report seat at the C.P.C of the Customs Area Command the ship is assigned. Once the manifest is received and approved by the customs of the command, it becomes the official working document to which references are made by both customs and agents and any other interest persons or groups.
The shipping manifests of ship assigned to Apapa Area Command and its controlled bonded terminals are submitted to the manifest report seat at the Commands C.P.C, the same is applicable to all other commands.
The official charges of all the operating shipping companies are the same.
Classical analyses of shipping company charges, using Maersk Line as reference point, are as follows:




 Cleaning charge

 N1, 500.00

 N3, 000.00




 Shipping Line Agency Charge 

 N23, 400.00

 N37, 000.00

 Stamp Duty per Bill of Lading



 Demurrage per day: 1-7 days

 N2, 100.00

 N3, 200.00

  8 day onward

 N3, 900.00

 N5, 900.00

 Container deposit within Lagos State

 N75, 000.00

 N150, 000.00

 Container deposit outside Lagos State

 N150, 000.00

 N300, 000.00

The container deposit demands by some other shipping companies vary slightly from the above one. PIL and Comet demand for a deposit of N100,000.00 and N200,000.00 respectively for 20ft and 40ft containers which importers contact address is in Lagos and N200,000.00 and N400,000.00 for containers which the importers address is outside Lagos State. The good thing about deposit is that it is refundable as long as the empty container is returned in the same condition it was when delivery was taken. It must be returned within the valid date on the debit note.
That is why it is necessary to obtain a container condition report of the container from the terminal operators during delivery. The report will state whether the container has dent or dents and at which side, damage, broken and any other observable abnormality on the container. If this is not done, such dents, or damage would be assumed by shipping company that owns the container to have been caused during delivery to the importer and therefore would attract various degrees of penalties known as DAMAGE CHARGES.
When the empty container is returned later than the valid date demurrage charges would be subtracted from the container deposit. Also, if the empty container is returned before the expiry date of the debit note, excess days of the daily demurrage up to the valid date would be refunded along with the container deposit.
Request for the refund of container deposit and excess demurrage is made by the clearing agency on behalf of the importer in the form of application. The application letter typed with the letter-head paper of the clearing agency will be addressed to the shipping manager of the shipping company that brought the container.
The application letter will be accompanied with the following shipping company documents:

  1.  Container card issued by the shipping company during release.
  2.  Original bank teller with which payment was made.
  3.  Original invoice issued by the shipping company.
  4.  Original Proforma invoice in which the shipping company charges was raised.
  5.  Original receipt of payment issued by the shipping company.
  6.  Container condition report in which remark of the condition of the container was made during delivery of the laden container.
  7.  Container condition report in which remarks of the condition of the container was made when the empty was returned back to the shipping company.
  8.  A photocopy of the Bill of Lading of the container.

A set of photocopies of the above documents is made on which acknowledgement of the receipt of the refund documents will be made by the shipping company when it is submitted.
It takes twenty-one days and above for shipping company to process the application before refund is made.
The shipping company will issue a cheque in favour of the importer for the amount refunded.
When the deposit refund cheque is ready, the clearing agency will authorize one of its staffs to collect the cheque on behalf of the importer.
Once the refund cheque is collected, the transaction between the shipping company and the importer on that Bill of Laden with regard to that particular consignment is ended and closed





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