Nigerian Customs: What You Must Know About Vehicle Duty Process

I recently had the opportunity of having a conversation with a senior Nigerian customs officer. He pointed out that because only clearing agents with licence can clear vehicles on the Nigerian ports, many Nigerians are kept in the dark about the processes involved. Sometimes careless or unscrupulous clearing agents don’t perfect this processes which leads to many things going wrong while driving a newly purchased Tokunbo (recently imported vehicle) car on the road leading to seizure by the customs task force patrol teams. The following are the processes involved from shipping a car from a foreign country till it is released at the Nigerian port.

Bill Of Lading

This is sent by the foreign shipping agent. It can be sent through courier services (DHL, FedEx, etc). Alternatively you can opt for it to be sent to you via email if you want to do “Telex Release” or “Print at Destination” in which a copy of the bill of lading can be printed here in Nigeria.


Without this document, you won’t be able to do anything in respect of clearing your vehicle. The bill of lading contains the information of the vehicle you want to clear e.g the name, the year, VIN/chassis number, weight, name of vessel, port of origin, port of discharge as well as the details of the shipping agent abroad and the consignee who will receive the vehicle in Nigeria.

Application Of Import Duty Valuation

This application must be on the letter head paper of a registered and licensed custom clearing agency. A copy of the bill of lading will be attached to the application letter which will be addressed to the Nigeria Custom office e.g TINCAN, PTML Command etc. Unfortunately, individuals cannot apply for this valuation directly, so you have to apply for it through a clearing agency.

In response to the application letter which will be submitted physically, the custom officials will write the dollar value of the vehicle and this dollar value is what is used to calculate surface duty which is 35%. Additional 35% levy is charged on brand new cars which makes it 70%. This is how to calculate the surface duty assuming the dollar rate of a car is $3000. $3000 X 35% (import duty rate) X 305.7 (custom official dollar exchange rate) = N320,985

Note that this value is just the surface duty and you’ll still pay tax, terminal, shipping and other charges.

Inputting The Valuation Into The Custom Server

After getting the valuation from the custom command, the details will have to be inputted into the custom server. This is officially called “Direct Trader Input (DTI)”. However, it is popularly referred to as “punching”. It is the unique procedure for submitting electronic manifest to Nigeria Custom Service and it can only be done through the same registered agency whose letter head paper was used to apply for the valuation. The Tax Identification Number of the consignee will also be needed at this stage.

Upon completion, print the DTI also called “Assessment Notice” as well as SGD (Single Goods Declaration Form).  The SGD gives a description of the transaction e.g type of vehicle, the terminal it is located, duty amount and content of the car if anything is loaded in it.

Import Duty Payment

The import duty has to be paid to the bank that was stated while punching. The document needed by the bank for import duty payment is the assessment notice.

After the payment is made, the bank will issue a bank receipt. Some banks now accept online payment but evidence of payment will still be picked up from their branch.

Physical Inspection And Release From Customs

Collate all the documents and submit them to the custom office. The required documents are: bank receipt, assessment notice, SGD, valuation copy and bill of lading. Upon submission, the documents are registered then they’ll schedule the vehicle for physical examination. This will enable them sight the car and confirm that it tallies with the submitted documents.

They confirm the make, year and VIN/chassis number of the vehicle. They will also check the amount paid for duty and confirm if there is any load in the vehicle after which a report will be submitted to the releasing officer. At this point, the vehicle may not be released if the amount paid is less than the required import duty as an “Alert” may have been placed on that vehicle until the outstanding is paid.

Print Exit At The Shipping Company

After releasing, proceed to the shipping company with the SGD to print exit copy. This is the simplest of all the processes.

Releasing At The Shipping Company

Collate all your documents to get the car released from the shipping company. The required documents include signed original bill of lading, SGD, exit copy and signed copy of the consignee’s identity (e.g Drivers Licence, International Passport, National ID and duly stamped/singed Certificate of Incorporation for companies). You also need a copy of the Form C30 (Custom document that permits clearing agencies to operate) and an authority letter from the agency whose details was used to apply for valuation. The shipping company will check all these documents then give an assessment to pay for shipping and terminal charges which can be paid as cash, through POS or online transfer.

Sign Gate At Custom Office

Proceed to register and sign at the gate office. The custom release document and the exit copy from the shipping company will be needed. They will check the duty paid and verify it on the system. After which, the officer in charge will stamp and sign-off your document.

Collect TDO (Terminal Delivery Order)

To collect the TDO, the shipping company’s payment receipt and copy of the signed gate document are required.

Receive Delivery Of The Vehicle At The Floor

Documents can now be submitted for the vehicle to be delivered to the open floor ready to cross the final exit gate.

Final Customs Check

At the floor, a custom officer and a shipping company official will do their final checks before the car drives out of the port.

Final Fees

Before the vehicle is driven out of the gate, final fees will be paid to custom officers on duty, clearing agent’s association, omo-onile fees etc.

As you can see this is a straight forward process but may vary from one shipping line or terminal to another. Also these steps are subject to change without notice.  The above process is based on used shipped cars through Grimaldi and Sallaum RORO (Roll-on/Roll-off).

About Nonso Okafor

I've worked as a technical support representative in major auto centers in Nigeria for more than twenty years. I have dealt with a variety of problems in my capacity as a customer service representative and auto diagnostics expert. I'm committed to assisting people in properly maintaining their automobiles and in appreciating this magnificent innovation known as an automobile.

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