As a manufacturing company, the importation of all permitted cargoes into Nigeria, as approved by customs, requires both general and product-specific documents for hassle-free clearance and release of goods to the importer or shipper. This is a global requirement in the trade facilitation industry.

While this is a demonstration of compliance with trade regulations, inaccurate or incorrect documentation, such as incorrect valuation, classification, inaccurate invoicing, misinformation, or disinformation in shipping documents, or failure to obtain appropriate import licenses or permits can attract very costly sanctions. Document accuracy promotes compliance with extant trade laws and regulations, logistics efficiency, transparency, compliance, and trust between shippers and their agents.

The following are the necessary documents needed for import shipping documentation in Nigeria:


Form M is a mandatory statutory document to be completed by all importers for the importation of goods into Nigeria. It was put in place by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to monitor goods that are imported into the country as well as enable the collection of import duties where applicable.

Requirements for opening an E-Form M

To open an E-Form M, the importer requires the following:

  1. Certificate of Incorporation/Registration of the company in Nigeria
  2. Registration with Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS).
  3. Up-to-date Tax Payment and hence the Tax Identification Number (TIN).
  4. Valid e-mail address tagged to Tax Identification Number.
  5. Authorized Dealer Bank to process the E-Form M and initiate clearance for the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR)

You can learn more about how to obtain an E-Form M here.

Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR)

PAAR is a necessary document used for duty assessment and clearing of imported goods at any of the Nigerian Ports through Nigeria Custom Service. Usually, a PAAR document is done by the same bank that issues your Form M. This is done this way because Nigeria’s Single Window Trade Portal does not allow individuals the right to process the PAAR document.

Required documents to process PAAR

  1. Transport documents (Bill of Lading – for shipment by sea, or Airway Bill – for shipment by air and Waybill – for shipment by land/rail)
  2. Certificate of Origin
  3. Final/Commercial Invoice
  4. Packing List
  5. Manufacturer’s certificate (depending on the item of import)
  6. Certificate of Analysis (depending on the item of import).

Packing List

A packing list is an important document that provides detailed information about the goods imported to the clearing agents, the Nigerian Customs Service, and the importer/consignee. The list includes the net, gross weight, and dimension of imported items. Forwarders can also use the information on the packing list to create the bills of ladings for the imported item(s). In some cases, Customs can use the packing list to locate certain specially packed items they may want to unwrap and examine rather than searching for every box or pallet.

Proforma Invoice

Pro forma invoices streamline the sales process. In general terms, a Pro forma Invoice is prepared by the seller for the buyer with an intent to offer goods or services spelled out in the proforma invoice, the function of a proforma invoice is therefore akin to a quotation offer.

In logistic terms, a proforma invoice is like a draft invoice that provides an estimate for the final amount of an order. are like final/commercial invoices. But there is more, the buyers are not the only users of the invoice, the transporters also rely heavily on the invoice information to plan for the logistics operation Details in a proforma invoice include:

  1. The buyer (importer) and the seller (the supplier) in the transaction
  2. A comprehensive description of the shipment
  3. The Harmonized System classification of goods (HS Code)
  4. Price of the item(s) to be imported
  5. International Commercial Terms (INCOTERM) of payment
  6. Mode of transportation, place, and cost of delivery
  7. Currency used for quotation
  8. Validity period

Bill of Lading/Airwaybill

While a Bill of Lading (BL or BOL) is a shipping contract document issued by an ocean carrier to a shipper/importer, with detail of the goods being carried, an airwaybill is a contract of carriage between the air carrier and the shipper/importer with detail of the goods to be carried, as in the Bill of Lading.

Typically, a Bill of Lading includes the name of the carrier, the name of the consignee, a detailed list of goods being transported, number of packages and kind of packaging, weight and/or volume of the cargo, each package’s freight class, terms of payment and special handling instructions.

While Bills of Lading can either be direct or negotiable, Airwaybills are not negotiable. You may be wondering how a Bill of Lading is negotiable. Yes, it is!

A Negotiable Bill of Lading is common when a Letter of Credit is involved. Here, the Bill of Lading is consigned according to the order of the shipper, signed by the shipper, and sent to an authorized bank in the buyers’ country. The bank holds the original Bill of Lading until the shipper meets the terms in the Letter of Credit.

A Direct Bill of Lading is not consigned to a particular consignee (who may either be the shipper or its authorized agent), who takes possession of the consignment(s) or shipment(s), once a signed original Bill of Lading is tendered.

Certificate of Origin

Certificate of Origin is a document that certifies that an imported item is truly obtained, manufactured, or produced in a particular country of origin, as presented to Customs during an examination.

SONCAP Certificate

SONCAP is an acronym of Standard Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Program. SONCAP certificates are usually processed at origin and the aim is to ensure that manufactured goods imported into Nigeria meet the minimum safety standard. In other words, such goods must be certified by the SONCAP issuing bodies from the origin, just to make sure that the final consumer is not exposed to the safety implications of sub-standard products.

NAFDAC Permit/Certificate

Importers of NAFDAC regulated goods such as Food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, packaged water, chemicals, and detergents, are expected to obtain a NAFDAC permit before such goods can be imported. Following a recent directive by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the permit can only be obtained electronically on the CBN trade portal and this also means that:

  • Only digital forms issued by NAFDAC will be valid for the importation of NAFDAC regulated goods, as stated above.
  • Applicants must now input the approved reference code stated on the NAFDAC e-licenses for Form-M, Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) processing, Customs Clearance, and other trade-related transactions.


Getting to know what these documents mean is something, processing them the right way without any headaches is another. One mistake can land your business in seriously costly sanctions.

At Africa Trade and Strategy Consulting Limited, we offer end-to-end advisory on these documents and other key import requirements for imports in diverse industries and trade across Nigeria and other parts of the world. Reach out to us today, we are always excited to hear from our clients.

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