The new import and export guidelines: Any respite for the trader?

Monday, 1 January 2018, did not only mark the celebration of New Year in Nigeria, it also heralded the effectiveness of the revised import and export guidelines (the Guidelines) issued by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN).

While the Guidelines are not entirely new, the impact of its changes are significant and traders must pay particular attention to the specific changes to avoid potential financial and reputational risks. The changes could be classified into two broad categories ranging from establishment of newer requirements and introduction of weightier sanctions for noncompliance.

Highlights of these changes are set out below:

i. Establishment of new requirements
Palletization: The most significant change is the requirement to palletize imported goods. All containerized goods, except those specifically exempted (as documented in FGN’’s Circular) are required to be stacked on pallets. Expectedly, this directive received criticism by traders who consider palletization an onerous obligation – as pallets occupy space, add extra weight and come with a fee. Traders already
operating on tight margins may not be able to survive within the boundaries of
the current business environment.

It is however imperative to note that palletization is not a novel concept in global trade. It is seen as best practice as it enhances efficient supply chain operations. Specifically, palletization facilitates easy handling by forklifts which results in improved timeline to store, load and unload goods which have been stacked on pallets. From FGN’s standpoint, palletization would help accelerate operations at the ports, aiding the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

Transmission of cargo manifest prior to arrival: Carriers are obliged to transmit cargo manifests to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) prior to arrival. This is meant to reduce
associated delays with risk profiling, cargo placement and ultimately clearance of goods. While this requirement is not entirely new, we assume the drive for compliance will be more effective under the new regime.

Joint examination of cargo: The NCS is now required to coordinate joint physical inspection of cargo to reduce duplication of physical inspection by several government agencies as this creates avenue for illicit business and impacts the turnaround time for clearance of goods.

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