In March 2015, Muhammadu Buhari won the Nigerian presidential election, inheriting a country that under former president Goodluck Jonathan had suffered the consequences of deep-rooted corruption among officials, as well as widespread violence at the hand of Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The World Bank puts the cost of destruction at approximately $6 billion, with more than 2 million people displaced. Since then the country has faced the effects of the dramatic fall in oil prices, the slowdown in the Chinese economy, the depreciation of the Naira, continued domestic insurgency and the start of a new political administration. Despite recent instability, investors and stakeholders in the country will be looking for assurance of improvements from the new regime.
So far Buhari has made inroads into tackling the problems that plagued his predecessor’s administration, particularly that of corruption, which has seen him focus on the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation from which $16 billion of oil revenue went missing in 2014. He has also dealt with key individuals such as former Nigerian national security adviser Sambo Dasuki who, along with other officials, has been accused of diverting over $2 billion of funds allocated for fighting Boko Haram. Buhari’s victory last year by more than 2.5 million votes indicates a domestic desire for growth and improvement.
According to a report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, foreign direct investment into Nigeria declined by 27 per cent to $3.4 billion in 2015, as a result of the recent collapse in commodity prices. It comes as no surprise that one of the government’s main priorities has been attracting foreign investment and easing the way in which companies can operate within the country. As a result, the effectiveness of dispute resolution as a means of providing legal security for the commercial interests of stakeholders has been scrutinised.
Arbitration came to the fore early last year, when the proposed bill seeking to establish a commission on alternative dispute resolution in Nigeria faced opposition from the legal community, including the African Bar Association which branded the move as “retrogressive” and limiting to practitioners from other jurisdictions. Despite the negativity surrounding the incentive, its existence is indicative of a concerted focus to develop arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution in the country. Furthermore, Nigeria as a potential hub of arbitration has gained global attention; the International Council for Commercial Arbitration hosted a training workshop in Lagos for over 60 young arbitration practitioners and law students in November last year. The growing importance of the practice area is evident, and it forms one of the largest chapters in our research this year with 29 listings.
The country’s energy and power space has also faced a turbulent year. Despite the privatisation of the power sector in 2013, the reforms have failed to improve the country’s power supply, with the current output providing only just over half of the population with electricity. The government has attributed this dearth to a combination of aging and vandalised equipment, poor energy management, poor revenue collection and unreliable gas supply to plants (the latter caused the power output to drop to only 2,000 megawatts earlier this year). Such instability in the sector has previously caused major companies such as Dunlop to cease operations in the country; it is feared that this trend could continue unless the operating environment is improved. President Buhari recently addressed the severity of the power crisis, giving his administration a target of generating 10,000 megawatts of power by the end of its term and adding 2,000 megawatts by the end of 2016, which has provided investors with much needed encouragement.
Despite the struggles faced by many of the country’s sectors, the telecommunications and technology sectors are areas in which Nigeria continues to grow. Over the past decade, the industry has leapfrogged straight to mobile technology, bypassing the gradual technological evolution seen in other countries. In 2014, mobile cellular subscriptions were at 78 per cent and 67 million Nigerians were online, demonstrating the widespread nature of technology throughout the country. By June 2015, it was reported that 7.1 million Nigerians were using Facebook. Earlier this year, telecommunications provider Bharti Airtel Africa announced it had partnered with Facebook to launch Free Basics in Nigeria, a service that allows customers to access digital content at no extra cost. Lawyers have noted that a continuation of Nigeria’s technological boom and the ability of it citizens to leverage the internet will be key to wider development and economic growth.
The next year looks set to be busy for lawyers, particularly in key developing practice areas. Competition within the legal community continues to be robust, with lawyers battling an increase in practitioners and outfits, as well as subsequent fee pressures. It would seem that Nigeria must now look to solving the internal problems that it currently faces in order to become a viable option for both foreign law firms and investors.
Arbitration in Nigeria has become increasingly prevalent as an alternative method of dispute resolution over the past few years. As civil litigation is known to often be a lengthy and inefficient process for resolving commercial disputes, Nigerian courts have become more arbitration-friendly, with more institutions becoming proficient at administering multiple forms of arbitration and local businesses preferring to use domestic seats for resolving disputes. Nigeria’s enhanced status as an arbitration centre is reflected in the recent trend for parties in commercial transactions to insert arbitration clauses into contracts. Some sources suggest that across the oil and gas, construction, and maritime sectors 75 per cent of contracts now contain arbitration agreements. Alongside this increased demand for arbitration services, the country is home to many national and internationally recognised arbitration experts within its borders. Our research highlights 30 leading experts this year compared with 26 last year.
Civil aviation is a vital part of Nigeria's transportation system and its economy. As Africa’s most populated country it has over 20 airports, five of which operate internationally serving as important destinations for over 22 foreign carriers. Indeed, Nigeria currently has bilateral air services agreements with more than 78 countries. The country also passed the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme in the first half of this year. By passing it for the second time in 10 years, Nigeria has shown consistency in maintaining and sustaining the ICAO safety standards. However, industry analysts note that Nigeria still lags behind its potential as an aviation hub for West Africa. Revenue from the aviation sector does not reflect the high population of air travellers, as many Nigerian airlines are experiencing financial lows. Two issues in particular are hindering the aviation sector: Nigeria does not have a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility, and skilled manpower in this sector is diminishing with no defined government supported programme for manpower development. Against this backdrop we identify seven leading practitioners.
While the market may be depressed in Nigeria, and indeed across the whole of Africa, banking is one area in which investment remains steady. A circular issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria in April 2015 meant that all products and services must be priced or denominated only in naira, and that all banks should refrain from using foreign currency to settle transactions originated and concluded in Nigeria. With reforms being attempted and the increasing presence of electronic and digital banking in the country, we recognise 15 lawyers who are best placed to advise on this fast-changing landscape.
In this chapter, 19 individuals gain recognition as stand out practitioners in the Nigeria capital markets, including experts in debt and equity offerings, and derivatives transactions. Below we highlight some of the most highly regarded in the country.
Nigeria’s construction market has been among the world’s fastest-growing over the past few years, and 2016 has led to a valuation of Nigeria’s construction industry at $13.65 billion, accounting for 7.6 per cent of the country’s GDP. A rapidly increasing population has ensured that there is a growing demand for housing across all levels of society, and this, coupled with a boom in the office development sector, means that the future is certainly bright for the Nigerian construction industry. That said, given the dire economic situation currently gripping the country, typified by the economy’s first negative GDP contraction since the establishment of democracy in 1999, there is cause for concern as the fortune of the construction and real estate market naturally goes hand-in-hand with the fortunes of the economy as a whole. The supply, demand and price of space hinges on the financial security of occupiers, developers and investors. Therefore, stakeholders will need to monitor the situation carefully and choose their projects wisely before taking the plunge and investing.
On 25 May 2015, the new Immigration Act was signed in by the then Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan. Replacing the previous bill from 1963, it marks the beginning of a more structured and robust approach to immigration. Among other objectives, the act looks to establish immigration courts at ports of entry into the country, enabling the quick resolution of immediate immigration matters; it also introduces a short visit business visa in a bid to allow greater flexibility for travel and consequently increase the country’s appeal to foreign investors. Along with a strong focus on corporate liability and compliancy, the new act has paved the way for what has been and is expected to be a busy time for Nigerian practitioners. In this chapter we highlight six leading lawyers.
Tax disputes in Nigeria have been steady, and with the recent establishment of the Nigerian Tax Appeal Tribunal as the first-line adjudicator in disputes between taxpayers and authorities, the landscape is quickly developing. However, tax compliance in Nigeria remains low, and the government has stepped up efforts to make companies and individuals fulfil their tax obligations. Five lawyers make up the leading tax experts in Nigeria.
At the top of President Muhammadu Buhari’s agenda since taking office in May 2015 is reform of the oil and gas sector. The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which was drafted in 2007, has failed to become law and now a new approach is being taken that have seen the PIB split into a series of bills to unbundle the controversial provisions in the hope that it will ease its passage through parliament. This reform comes at a difficult time for Nigeria which is suffering from dwindling oil prices. Economists are warning of a slowdown in economic growth due to the country’s heavy reliance on crude oil and lack of diversification. In the meantime, many of the operators are calling for a renegotiation of terms to try to avoid having to stop projects half-way. In this sector, we single out 34 leading lawyers.
Nineteen standout individuals make it into this chapter for their expertise in trademark and patent matters, including infringement disputes, anti-counterfeiting, prosecution and enforcement.
The employment market in Nigeria is going through some significant changes. The government is pressing ahead with its social investment programme, including job schemes such as N-Power, which is designed to provide and develop skills for Nigerians to support and maintain their local communities as well as become contributors in the domestic and global markets. With 500 billion naira having been provided for it in the 2016 budget, this is one of the most ambitious social protection programmes in Nigeria’s history. It will provide employment opportunities for graduates across the education, agriculture, healthcare, construction and software industries, among others. This scheme is being heralded as a success, with the scheme’s newly launched jobs portal receiving 400,000 registrations in its first 36 hours of going live. Against this backdrop our research identifies three outstanding individuals.
All indications are that 2016 will be a challenging year for Nigeria. Anti-corruption litigation looks set to dominate the landscape as the new Buhari-led government seeks to address the crippling corruption perpetrated by former political and military leaders that has left the country in a poor political and economic state. Widespread support for the anti-corruption drive, as well as a genuine hunger for change in Nigeria, ensure that 2016 is set to be a busy year for reform in terms of the judiciary, as well as an expectation for change on government and national assembly levels. In this chapter, we identify 24 leading individuals in the field of commercial litigation.
Although Nigeria’s M&A transactions in 2015 totalled $3.2 billion, with oil and gas conglomerates such as Mobil and Statoil tying up mergers in the country, it still saw a decrease in the number and value of deals from previous years. This may be accounted for by attempts at tighter regulation by Muhammadu Buhari’s new government. Two of its major goals are stamping out corruption, and bringing the economy back towards the growth it experienced in the early years of the decade – both difficult tasks that will continue to affect the M&A sphere. This chapter recognises 23 lawyers as leaders in the field.
The Nigerian project finance arena has faced significant challenges in recent times, with its $11 billion budget deficit forcing the government to look to the Chinese and Japanese bond markets, as well as to organisations such as the World Bank and the African Development Fund, so it can finance infrastructure projects. The power sector has also struggled this year, with the drop in oil prices and political disruption making it difficult to source funding for much needed projects. However, with the government set on tackling the country’s power crisis, and the successful financial close of the Azura-Edo 450 megawatt power plant at the end of last year, it seems that the Nigerian project finance market is set to improve. This chapter highlights 23 leading practitioners.
It has been an important year for insolvency law in Nigeria. The global financial crisis in 2008 and the concurrent capital markets crisis in 2009 saw several Nigerian banks left exposed with large non-performing loans. The crises forced the Nigerian government into carrying out an injection of bailout funds and it also established Asset Management Company of Nigeria with a mandate to resolve the non-performing asset loans of Nigerian banks. This turbulent atmosphere, coupled with the lack of a functional bankruptcy and insolvency laws, has brought the risk and cost of borrowing to an unsustainable level. That being said, 2016 saw the Nigerian senate pass its bankruptcy and insolvency bill in a bid to ease these problems, allowing Nigerian businesses to access credit at lower, more manageable costs. In this chapter, we identify 11 practitioners who are equipped to advise corporates on, and act during, insolvency proceedings and restructurings.
It’s been a year of bleak news regarding the shipping and maritime sector in Nigeria. From corruption, sea piracy and midstream discharge to pollution and dismissals, the sector has seen little by way of positive achievements. Furthermore, the National Assembly failed to deliver on the passage of key maritime bills. During this difficult time, we recognise 11 lawyers who are equipped to advise stakeholders on the difficult legal environment.
Over the last decade, Nigeria has experienced a technological boom, in which mobile technology went from being almost non-existent
, to commonplace. According to the World Bank, the figure for mobile cellular subscriptions in the country in 2014 was 78 per cent; although the figure for internet users was just over half of that, this too seems set to change. Earlier this year, telecommunications provider Bharti Airtel Africa announced it had partnered with Facebook to launch Free Basics in Nigeria, a service that allows customers to access digital content at no extra cost. As connectivity and internet access develops, it is predicted that so will the country’s media market which in 2014 grew by 19.3 per cent. The Nigerian TMT space has had an extremely active year, a trend that looks set to continue and keep lawyers increasingly busy. Fifteen lawyers are recognised in this chapter for their impressive work.
AÉLEX is a firm that excels in all the main areas of Nigerian business law, which is conveyed by the fact that its strong bench of senior lawyers are listed across 13 distinct practices in our research, including corporate, banking, labour, IP and tax law, as well as in dispute resolution. It is one of the largest law firms in West Africa, with three offices in Nigeria and a further office in Accra, Ghana. The firm emphasises both local expertise and an international outlook, counting itself a member of Meritas – a global alliance of leading independent law firms. Clients of the firm are typically multinationals and government agencies, including financial institutions, airline carriers, oil and gas companies, insurance companies, shipping lines, pharmaceuticals, global brands and telecoms operators.
With 15 partners across Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, Aluko & Oyebode is a full-service law firm that offers “some of the best legal minds” working in Nigeria today. This year the firm has expanded its presence in our guide, with 27 listings across 12 practice areas, and demonstrates strong expertise in finance, banking, and corporate law, and in arbitration and alternative dispute resolution.
Babalakin & Co was established in July 1988 and has become one of the leading commercial law firms in Nigeria with three decades of experience. With over 60 lawyers working from offices in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, we are readily accessible to most corporate institutions, clients, government regulatory bodies and courtrooms generally.
“One of the elite” firms in Nigeria, Banwo & Ighodalo enjoys an enviable client list comprising of public and private companies, governments, financial institutions, and other major stakeholders in Nigeria. The firm consists of more than 40 lawyers and six partners, covering the key sectors of business law in the country, and it is known for its “innovative and market leading advice” in the corporate, finance and energy sectors in particular.
Olaniwun Ajayi is among Nigeria’s leading and most well-established law firms. Founded in 1962, the firm has grown to be one of the largest partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 12 partners, 11 senior associates and 43 associates. Olaniwun Ajayi has predominantly established a reputation for the quality of its work in the areas of commercial litigation, banking, project finance and capital markets. The wide ranging expertise of its practitioners is reflected by four individuals being recognised within this report, who achieve 14 listings in total across our practice area chapters.
Perchstone & Graeys is a leading commercial law firm committed to providing premium legal services in diverse areas of law, with especial competence in energy and infrastructure, banking and finance, dispute resolution, capital markets, ICT law and corporate and commercial law. From the onset, the firm set for itself the mission of creating a world-class law firm driven by quality and professionalism. Founded in 1997, we have become a significant presence in the provision of first-class legal services, offering guidance and support of the highest standards. The firm has a team of diversely talented lawyers managed by a board of accomplished partners well versed in the delivery of exceptional and innovative legal solutions to complex transactions.
Since it was founded in 1983, Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie has evolved to become one of the best-known and respected Nigerian law firms. The full-service outfit, which initially focused on oil and gas matters, now boasts four offices in the country and ten partners excelling in banking and finance, capital markets, labour and corporate law, as well as dispute resolution. Respondents note that the firm offers “creative, practical and commercially sound counsel”. Across nine practice areas, the firm achieves an impressive 27 listings, more than any other firm in our publication this year.
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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.