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Exporting to Nigeria – Useful Background Information

Exporting to Nigeria – Overview

Exporting to Nigeria – Nigeria is the largest market and biggest oil producer in Africa.

Oil accounts for 90% of Nigeria’s export revenues. More than 110 million Nigerians live below the poverty line. Nigeria plays an important leadership role in both West Africa and on the African continent.

Nigeria is 31st in the World GDP economy rankings (source  However Nigeria is ranked a lowly 145th by the World Bank in the ease of doing business rankings.

Nigeria has a population of 190.6 million people with a staggering 63% of the population under 25 years of age (source

Strengths of the Nigerian market include:

  • Biggest beneficiary of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa.
  • Abundant natural resources.
  • Large consumer base with a growing middle class.
  • Young and educated population.

Challenges of doing business in Nigeria include:

  • Security Issues.
  • High level of corruption.
  • High unemployment and poverty.
  • Poor power supply nationwide.
  • Lack of infrastructure.
  • Slow payment.
  • A very bureaucratic public sector.

Nigeria Business culture

The official language of Nigeria is English which is spoken by 75% of the population and mainly in urban areas.

Big shows of emotion in public are commonplace and perfectly acceptable in Nigeria. This may make it seem that people are having an argument or a shouting match, when in fact they are merely having a discussion or a friendly conversation.

The Nigerian attitude to business meetings and negotiations is a reflection of their wider attitude to social interactions. Therefore, expect a certain amount of emotion when negotiating, and feel free to respond in kind, however remember that losing control is not acceptable. Bargaining and haggling are an important part of Nigerian business negotiations.

Other useful information you should remember:

  • Always arrive on time for meetings however expect others to be late as tardiness does not carry the same stigma in Nigeria as it does with other countries.
  • Expect meetings to take a lot of time and to involve a lot of small talk.
  • Handshakes are the normal means of greeting in a business context, though be aware that they are often longer than average, and you may be expected to hold onto the person’s hand for the whole initial part of conversation.
  • **Tip** If you are a man, then it is best to wait to see whether a woman extends her hand to you.
  • Be wary of physical contact between a man and a woman, as Muslim Nigerians discourage this.
  • It is normal to exchange business cards. Make sure you present your card with your right hand, and accept cards from others with the same hand.
  • Status is important in Nigeria, so if you are meeting someone senior to you, a small bow when shaking hands would be appropriate. Additionally, avoid prolonged eye contact with someone more senior to you, as this could be seen as disrespectful.
  • In the same way, do not be put off if you are meeting someone junior to yourself and they do not maintain eye contact – this is their way of showing respect.
  • When greeting a group of people, always try to greet them in order of seniority.

Setting up in Nigeria

The most popular way to develop business in Nigeria is by distribution through a local agent. Exporting to Nigeria by working with an agent or distributor can have several advantages including:

  • Accessing the networks of the agent or distributor.
  • Availing of local knowledge.
  • Saving on time and costs.

Many foreign manufacturers and suppliers appoint one or more agents/distributors to accommodate Nigeria’s geographical size and ethnic diversity.

Other ways to set up in Nigeria include:

  • Establishing a Nigerian subsidiary by registering as a Nigerian company.
  • Registering as a foreign company in Nigeria.

All business enterprises in Nigeria must be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.

Banking and Finance

The unit of legal tender in Nigeria is the Naira ₦ (NGN).

If you want to transfer funds into Nigeria, you will need to obtain a CCI (Certificate of Capital Importation) from a Nigerian bank. This provides statutory evidence of an investment into a Nigerian company.

To encourage investment in Nigeria, the GON has removed all barriers to repatriation of capital, profit and dividend.  Repatriation of proceeds from disposal of assets is allowed. 

Tariffs and Non-Tariff Barriers


Tariffs remain a challenge for those exporting to Nigeria. Nigeria maintains a number of supplemental levies and duties on selected imports that significantly raise effective tariff rates. For example, Nigeria maintains a combined effective duty (tariff plus levy) of 50 percent or more on 156 tariff lines.

The majority of products imported into Nigeria are subject to two different types of taxes: tariff duty and Value Added Tax (VAT). Tariff duty is applied by multiplying the CIF value of the goods by the duty rate. This is added to the value of the goods to determine a final tax. VAT is then levied on the total sum of the CIF value, duty and excise tax, if any. Goods imported for re-export are generally exempt from import duty and VAT.

Further information on excise taxes can be obtained from the website of the Nigeria Customs Service.

Non-tariff barriers

The Government of Nigeria imposes trade barriers against foreign competition, citing the need to protect local industries.

Prohibited Goods are goods for which the import into Nigeria is prohibited.  According to the NCS (Nigeria Customs Service) it is prohibited by law to bring the following items into Nigeria:

1. Live or Dead Birds including Frozen Poultry – H.S. Codes 0105.1100 – 0105.9900, 0106.3100 – 0106.3900, 0207.1100 – 0207.3600 and 0210.9900.

2. Pork, Beef – H.S. Codes 0201.1000 – 0204.5000, 0206.1000 – 0206.9000, 0210.1000 – 0210.2000.

3. Birds Eggs – H.S. Code 0407.0000; excluding hatching eggs

4.  Refined Vegetable Oils and Fats – H.S. Code 1507.1000.00 – 1516.2000.29 [but excluding refined Linseed, Castor and Olive oils. Crude vegetable oil is however NOT banned from importation].

5. Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form containing added flavouring or colouring matter – H.S. Code 1701.91.1000 – 1701.99.9000 in retail packs.

6. Cocoa Butter, Powder and Cakes – H.S. Codes 1802.00.0000 – 1803.20000, 1805.001000 – 1805.00.9000, 1806.10.0000 – 1806.20.0000 and 1804.00.0000.

7. Spaghetti/Noodles – H.S. Codes 1902.1100 – 1902.30.0000.

8. Fruit Juice in Retail Packs – H.S. Codes 2009.11.0012 – 2009.11.0013 – 2009.9000.99

9. Waters, including Mineral Waters and Aerated Waters containing added Sugar or Sweetening Matter or Flavored, ice snow – H.S. Codes 2201.1000 – 2201.90.00, other non-alcoholic beverages H.S. Code 2202.10.00 – 2202.9000.99 [ but excluding energy or Health Drinks {Liquid Dietary Supplements} e.g. Power Horse, Red Ginseng etc.] H.S. Code 2202.9000.91 and Beer and Stout (Bottled, Canned or Otherwise packed) H.S. Code 2203.0010.00 – 2203.0090.00

10. Bagged Cement – H.S. Code 2523.2900.22.

11. Medicines falling under Headings 3003 and 3004 as indicated below:

  • Paracetamol Tablets and Syrups
  • Cotrimoxazole Tablets Syrups
  • Metronidazole Tablets and Syrups
  • Chloroquine Tablets and Syrups
  • Haematinic Formulations; Ferrous Sulphate and Ferrous Gluconate Tablets, Folic Acid Tablets, Vitamin B Complex Tablet [except modified released formulations].
  • Multivitamin Tablets, capsules and Syrups [except special formulations].
  • Aspirin Tablets [except modified released formulation and soluble aspirin].
  • Magnesium trisilicate tablets and suspensions.
  • Piperazine tablets and Syrups
  • Levamisole Tablets and Syrups
  • Clotrimazole Cream
  • Ointments – Penicillin/Gentamycin
  • Pyrantel Pamoate tablets and Syrups
  • Intravenous Fluids [Dextrose, Normal Saline, etc.]

12. Waste Pharmaceuticals – H.S. Code 3006.9200

13. Soaps and Detergents – H.S. Code 3401.11.1000 – 3402.90.0000 (in retail packs only)

14. Mosquito Repellent Coils – H.S. Code 3808.9110.91 (Mosquito Coils).

15. Re-threaded and used Pneumatic tires but excluding used trucks tires for re-threading of sized 11.00 x 20 and above 4012.2010.00.

16. Corrugated Paper and Paper Boards – H.S. Code 4808.1000, and cartons, boxes and cases made from corrugated paper and paper boards H.S. Code 4819.1000, Toilet paper, Cleaning or facial tissue – H.S. Code 4818.1000 – 4818.9000 excluding baby diapers and incontinent pads for adult use 4818.4000.41 and Exercise Books – H.S. Code 4820.2000.

17. Telephone Re-charge Cards and Vouchers – H.S. Code 4911.9990.91

18. Carpets and other Textile floor coverings falling under H.S. Code 5701.10.000 – 5705.00.0000

19. All types of Foot Wears, Bags and Suitcases H.S. Codes 6401.1000.11 – 6405.9000.99 and 4202.1100.10 – 4202.9900.99 [but excluding Safety Shoes used in oil industries, Sports Shoes, canvass shoes all Completely Knocked Down (CKD) blanks and parts]

20. Hollow Glass Bottles of a capacity exceeding 150mls (0.15 litres) of all kinds used for packaging of beverages by breweries and other beverage and drink companies – H.S. Code 7010.9021.29 and 7010.9031.00.

21. Used Compressors – H.S. Code 8414.3000, Used Air Conditioners – H.S. Codes 8415.1000.11 – 8415.9000.99 and Used Fridges/Freezers – H.S. Codes 8418.1000.11 – 8418.69.0000.

22. Used Motor Vehicles above fifteen (15) years from the year of manufacture – H.S. Codes 8703.10.00 – 8703.90.0000

23. Ball Point Pens and parts including refills (excluding tip) H.S. Code 9608.10.0000

24. Tomato paste or concentrate put up for retail sale – 2002100000, 2002902000, 2002909000

Please click on the link to find a comprehensive list of items which are prohibited from importation into Nigeria.

Product labelling, certification and packaging

Products imported into Nigeria must display the following information:

  • Name of product.
  • Country of origin.
  • Specifications.
  • Date of manufacture.
  • Batch or lot number.
  • Standards to which they were produced (e.g. BS, DIN, ISO/IEC, NIS, etc.).
  • Expiration date or the shelf life (If applicable product).
  • Active ingredient(s) (if applicable product).

Note that the metric system is used in Nigeria.

For more information please visit the Standards Organisation of Nigeria.

Nigeria requires that all food, drug, cosmetic, and pesticide imports be accompanied by certificates from manufacturers and certain national authorities, regardless of origin. These certificates must state that the product is safe for human consumption (e.g., does not contain aflatoxin). However, Nigeria’s limited capacity to review certificates, carry out inspections, and conduct testing has resulted in delays in the clearance of food imports.


Those exporting to Nigeria should make sure that any packaging used is capable of protecting the products from extreme weather and climate changes as well as the rigors of transport and handling.

Methods of quoting and payment

Quotes are usually on CIF (Incoterms 1990) basis.

An irrevocable letter of credit (L/C) payable at sight is commonly used for settlement of international transactions. It offers protection to both the exporter and the importer.

When exporting to Nigeria, caution must be exercised as fraudulent business practices involving bogus financial documents are commonplace in Nigeria.

Payment terms must be agreed to in advance. Whatever payment terms are agreed upon, make sure they are understood by all parties and that your client, representative or contact signs a mutually agreed document.

It is best practice for sellers dealing with new customers to use secured payment terms such as 100% payment prior to shipping, letters of credit, sight drafts or bills of exchange.

Documentary & Clearance Requirements

Documentation required

Nigeria’s Single Window Portal allows traders to access documentation required, customs regulations online, submit customs documents electronically, track transaction status online, and submit electronic payments.

Customs process

Nigeria has a reputation of being a troublesome costly country to send products to. When exporting to Nigeria, expect extensive delays at ports and during the customs clearance process.

A local insurance company must insure all imported goods.

Business Risks

Companies wishing to export to Nigeria should commit to the highest level of corporate behavior and familiarize themselves with the laws of the country and the penalties pertaining to bribery of foreign officials.

Intellectual Property Protection

Nigeria has a poor record in relation to the protection of intellectual property.

Nigeria is a member of the World Trade organisation (WTO) and is thus a signatory to a number of international intellectual property (IP) treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Trademark registration generally is based on a first-to-file, including in Nigeria.  Similarly, registering Patients in Nigeria is also based on a first-to-file, so you should consider how to obtain patent and trademark protection before introducing your products or services to the Nigeria market.

Registration of Patents and trademarks are the responsibility of the Trademark Registry in Abuja. Registration gives you exclusive use of the trademark or patent for seven years, this may then be renewed. Patents expire after twenty years

Dispute resolution

There are four distinct legal systems in Nigeria, these are English law, Common law, Customary law, and Sharia (Islamic) Law. The country has a judicial branch, the highest court of which is the Supreme Court of Nigeria.


Hiring a local legal representative is best advice.


Nigeria Web Resources

Trademarks & Patients office of Nigeria

Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

Corporate Affairs Commission

Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission

Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board

Nigeria Customs Service

National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)

Market Access Database (For EU Exporters)

Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)


 About the Author

Aidan Conaty is the founder of Goodada & TCI China. Aidan is a qualified Management Accountant and has a background in Supply Chain Consultancy.


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