Nigeria is an economic success story in a world where many countries are still struggling to balance the books. The country’s GDP showed a year-on-year growth of 6.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 and forecasters predict it will continue to rise by 7.3 per cent by 2014. This exceptional, sustained growth means Nigeria boasts one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa and the 21st fastest-growing economy in the world.
The country made its money from oil, a sector which has contributed 14.8 per cent of real GDP in 2012. However, there is growing concern over the future of the industry with the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture recently announcing that the oil sector “is killing the economy”. The amount of oil that Nigeria exports to the US has decreased drastically as the US has reduced its reliance on external supplies. In February 2013, Nigeria only exported 194,000 barrels a day, the lowest amount in 18 years according to the US Energy Information Administration. The Petroleum Industry Bill has been drafted in an attempt to improve transparency across the industry and prompt further foreign direct investment (FDI) into oil and gas exploration in Nigeria. Unfortunately the Bill has become entangled in Nigeria’s notoriously slow legislative process and has still not come to fruition, despite being introduced in 2008. The country has also taken steps to move away from oil and focus on the development of alternative industries, particularly telecommunications, construction, retail and agriculture. These efforts are beginning to show dividends and the non-oil sector now makes up 85.2 per cent of the economy.
The past few years have been a very troubled time for Nigeria. Insurgents in the north of the country have killed over 1,600 people since 2010 and President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency. It remains to be seen whether the strategies in place are sufficient to stop the conflict and terrorist threat. Nigeria remains a country undermined by corruption, with Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index rating it 139 out of 176 countries. In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Nigeria was ranked 133 out of 176 economies for corruption. The country also struggles with poverty, with many unable to access health care or education. In 2011, the country had a 24 per cent unemployment rate. Recent studies have shown that, despite the richness of the oil industry, over 63 per cent of the country lives on less than $1 per day. It is hoped that countries looking to invest in Nigeria will do so in a sustainable way which benefits society as a whole.
There are promises of further infrastructure development in Nigeria. One of the main hurdles for the country’s continued development is the lack of suitable infrastructure, particularly roads and ports, which prevent industrial growth. In 2012, Nigeria received $6.8 billion of FDI, an increase of 17.24 per cent from the previous year and improvements included the rebuilding of a railway from Lagos to Kano, but, unfortunately, lack of security has often hampered attempts at development. Project finance remains one of the most active legal areas in the country, with 19 lawyers featured in this edition. For the first time, we have also included a chapter on construction and real estate, to showcase the outstanding practitioners in this area.
Manufacturing in Nigeria has declined over the first quarter of 2013, a reduction which is blamed on the unreliable electricity supply. It is a sad irony that, in a country which produces so much oil, many companies are forced to rely on generators or expensive diesel for fuel. The mining industry has also been affected with output dropping by 0.6 per cent. This levelling out of activity has had an impact on the number of lawyers that we list in our natural resources chapter. This year we only feature 23 practitioners, compared to 27 in 2012.
One sector which is booming is telecommunications. In 2012, 1.8 million mobile phones were purchased each month in Nigeria and 73 per cent of the population reported owning their own phone. The popularity of mobile phones has significantly addressed Nigeria’s communication problems and its issue of internet access. Most people use their phone predominantly for internet access, with 23 per cent reporting that they want to use the internet specifically to access social networking sites, such as Facebook. This increase in technology has had a big impact on the sophistication of the legal market and we list 14 leading TMT lawyers in this edition.
The Nigerian legal market remains tightly closed to foreign firms and lawyers; as such the leading professionals in this publication are all local practitioners. Recently, there have been calls to liberate the legal market although this remains controversial as smaller firms fear competition from an influx of foreign lawyers. There is also a concern that the future holds more consolidation of the Nigerian legal market with many citing the creation of AELEX as the start of a shift towards further mergers. Traditionally in this market, the majority of practitioners are generalists, with expertise in numerous areas. However, lawyers have begun to develop specialisms to entice clients and keep in step with global legal trends.
This year we have included two new chapters, demonstrating the diversifying practice of Nigerian lawyers. We feature four practitioners in our construction and real estate chapter. This area will continue to grow in importance over the next few years as the country prioritises infrastructure development needs. We also include three professionals who are experts in management labour and employment law. This area is becoming increasingly active as companies find themselves under economic pressure due to the global financial crisis.
We continue to feature disputes lawyers in both our litigation and arbitration chapters. Interestingly, while the number of litigation professionals has fallen slightly over the past year, arbitration has grown dramatically and is now the largest chapter in this book.
We also list outstanding practitioners in the finance and corporate fields such as banking, capital markets, tax, project finance, insolvency and M&A. Transport is covered by our shipping and aviation chapters, while the mining and oil and gas industries remain combined in the natural resources chapter. Our 2012 regulatory communications chapter has been enlarged to cover lawyers who work within the technology, media and telecommunications field. We also commend professionals for their work in immigration and intellectual property law.
Twenty-six lawyers are selected for inclusion in this year’s edition, demonstrating the high standard of the Nigerian arbitration bar.
Dorothy Udeme Ufot SAN, FCIArb, Chartered Arbitrator of Dorothy Ufot & Co takes an in depth look at the growing use of Arbitration in Nigeria.
The last few years have been a turbulent time for Nigerian banks. After the economic downturn in 2008/9, the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced tough financial reforms aimed at addressing past weaknesses and unleashing the potential of the country’s banking sector. Despite these difficult years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently stated that Nigeria’s reforms have had “considerable success” and the banking sector is set to support the country’s growing economy. This year we list 15 superb lawyers.
Capital markets lawyers in Nigeria reported a busy year, as investor confidence seems to be rising and international players are looking to break into a potentially lucrative market. We identify 10 lawyers across six leading firms in the jurisdiction who have been highlighted for their expertise.
It has been an interesting and challenging year for commercial litigtors as disputes arose in relation to the Nigerian government’s programme of privatisation. Litigators have found themselves in high demand as a result and this is reflected in our research, where 20 individuals are singled out for their skills and experience in this field.
International hotel brands are opening up in Nigeria to take advantage of the country’s growing tourism industry, while the real estate market continues to see new investment as investors turn away from traditional banking in search of a good return on their capital. Four individuals stand out in this sector for their impressive depth of knowledge.
The Nigerian market is of increasing interest for foreign companies and investors and as a result corporate immigration lawyers are in high demand as companies seek to bring in specialised expatriate workers. Seven individuals are singled out for their expertise.
Environmental law continues to develop at a fast pace in Nigeria and three lawyers stand out for their “superior knowledge” in this sector.
This year we feature 13 “top-notch” insolvency and restructuring lawyers. These outstanding individuals have exceptional experience in the area and have risen to the top of the field through demonstrating excellent legal understanding, intellectual creativity and dedication to their clients.
As the areas of trademarks and patent continue to expand, there is increasing demand from stakeholders for firmer intellectual property protection. Counterfeiting remains a problematic issue, and lawyers are relentlessly arguing for improved regulation of IP protection and enforcement. Such reforms would reassure international corporations of the opportunities for growth that exist in the region. Our research recognises 19 practitioners who are leaders in their field.
Nigeria saw a surge in M&A deals in 2012, with the total financial value of deals increasing by 379 per cent since 2011 (according to KPMG). Nigeria’s legal market has continued to rise to the challenge and, this year, we feature 15 outstanding practitioners in the field.
Management labour and employment is a burgeoning area in the jurisdiction, as precedent regarding the complexities of the employer-employee relationship continues to develop. We identify three lawyers from three firms who are established specialists in the discipline.
Nigeria is a country rich with natural resources; a recent Revenue Watch Institute report estimates that in terms of oil alone it is the world’s “10th largest producer”. Furthermore, the ongoing debate over the Petroleum Industry Bill concerning the legalities surrounding the countries’ resources will continue to make it one of the busiest practice areas in the Nigerian legal marketplace. From our research, we identify 24 leaders in this field.
The continued growth of the Nigerian economy has made it a hotbed for local and foreign investment. With Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics predicting further growth of 6.75 per cent in 2013 and 7.27 per cent in 2014, legal advice in project financing will continue to be sought after. The following 19 lawyers exemplify the quality of Nigeria’s legal marketplace in this area.
Shipping and maritime and its related industries play a key role in Nigeria’s economic standing and its major ports continue to be a hub of activity. Lawyers who specialising in this sector are in constant demand and in this chapter we single out eight leading practitioners.
In the midst of extensive technological change across the region, multinational media and telecommunications companies are facing critical legal issues in terms of new product protection, systems licensing and regulatory compliance. The following 14 lawyers, representing 10 firms, stand out for their market-leading expertise in this rapidly developing area.
Established in 2004 by a four-way merger, AELEX has grown from strength to strength and continues to impress with its diverse legal practice and the long-standing experience of its lawyers. The firm attracts clients of the highest calibre including multinational companies, financial institutions, foreign embassies and multilateral agencies. The firm achieves a total of 18 listings across 14 practice areas.
Aluko & Oyebode is the leading firm in our research with more listings than any other firm. The dynamic firm continues to be strong in finance and also boasts growing practices in construction and dispute resolution, alongside a significant expansion into international work. In this year’s edition, Aluko & Oyebode garners 25 inclusions across 11 practice areas.
Established in 1991, Banwo & Ighodalo is one of the country’s leading full-service commercial firms, achieving 11 listings across five different practice areas.
Olaniwun Ajayi bosts 12 listings in this edition. One of the best-established and best-respected Nigerian firms, it has made even greater strides this year achieving an overall increase in total listings across six practice areas.
Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie is one of the largest and most successful commercial firms in the region, a status which is reflected in our research for this year’s edition. The firm can boast an exceptional 22 listings across nine practice areas, demonstrating its “impressive range of expertise”.
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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.