This Special Report covers 17 practice areas.

This will search all specialists in Nigeria.

Nigeria In Brief

The past 12 months have seen volatility in the international energy market, continued instability in West Africa and a drive towards major legal reforms in Nigeria. In addition, with an election now less than a year away, Nigeria is in a state of added uncertainty. This has created a difficult business climate for the 154 commercial lawyers listed in our guide this year. There have been positive signs, however. Regulatory concerns regarding data usage are providing new avenues through which lawyers in the space are expanding their practices. In Nigeria’s all-important energy space, domestic demand for gas continues to grow which is fuelling a race among investors for both generation and distribution capacity. With such varied trends in the jurisdiction, high-quality legal advice continues to be essential for anyone looking to do business in the market.

Nigeria came out of recession in 2017, largely due to an increase in oil prices. The fall in oil prices had left investors shaken, with a number of questions being raised over corporations’ abilities to pay their debts. This caused a rush to restructure firms’ asset holdings, a stream of work that continues to see a number of firms kept busy. The most serious concerns appear to have abated in recent months with an uptick in oil prices leading to greater market confidence. The major question for investors now will be the coming elections in February 2019. As in any election, the uncertainty of the outcome will likely cause a short-term downturn in investment as corporations wait to see how Nigerians will vote.

Investment in the jurisdiction has been inconsistent over recent months. Sources in the immigration and labour and employment spaces highlight both the instability in the region and tough immigration laws as issues hampering foreign investment. Attempts to suppress the violence of militias in Nigeria have been frustrated by underfunding and poor coordination. Ethnic divides have intensified the issue – in June, 86 people were killed in central Nigeria over a farming dispute. Events such as these have caused hesitation among companies looking to invest in the country.

Compounding the issue, tough rules abound on the ability of foreign nationals to work in the jurisdiction. Since 2015, unemployment has doubled in the country and what one source describes as “Trump syndrome” has taken hold. Under President Buhari, companies will be prohibited from hiring foreign workers in instances where there is domestic labour available. One notable exception to this rule is in the data space where the government appears keen to increase the pool of knowledge and foster new businesses. Nigeria currently spends only 0.2 per cent of GDP on research and development and has fallen behind to international rivals for market share of a number of key industries. Lawyers working in the immigration space continue to have their work cut out for them as they navigate the myriad and at times contradictory employment policies.

Investment has been further hampered over recent years by the inability of a series of governments to pass a review of the Nigerian Petroleum Act. This has led to the underdevelopment of greenfield oil projects, and caused greater focus on existing fields. The delay in signing a new bill has, by one estimate, cost Nigeria 3 trillion naira a year. The governmental delays and low oil prices have not put off some investors from the jurisdiction. Representatives from the China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) recently announced their plan to increase investment in their existing site by an additional $3 billion. Navigating investments such as these at a time of political reform is a difficult task for companies, with lawyers likely to see a significant increase in advisory work in the coming months.

Nigeria’s economy continues to be highly responsive to global trends. With the demand for cleaner alternatives to oil and coal increasing, gas has become ever-more popular according to sources. Liquified natural gas (LNG) is being used to unlock Nigeria’s role as a global distributor while domestic demand is also growing. According to sources, although investors have been heavily focused on the generation side of production, little focus has so far been given to distribution. This is now creating serious supply issue, with a large oversupply of gas that is unable to reach Nigerians in other parts of the country. Sources note that the “regulator is currently very active in passing subsidy legislation aimed at diversifying the distribution network”. The mini-grid market continues to receive interest from investors who want to tap into domestic demand. Lawyers can expect to see a rise in regulatory advice requests over the coming months as the such networks increase in complexity and scale.

The legal market in the Nigeria continues to be a competitive one. The contraction in the economy caused many firms to cut fees in response, although this appears to be steadying now. Specialism is increasing, with a number of firms honing their expertise in niche areas such as corporate immigration. Domestic firms have seen more interest in the region from the Big Four accounting firms, who are combining a number of services to provide high-quality services for clients. International firms such as DLA Piper have also recently opened Nigerian offices, further adding to the competitiveness of the space.

The recent economic crisis, the upcoming presidential election and ongoing instability in the region create a difficult legal environmental in which to operate. Nonetheless, our research highlights the resilience of the Nigerian bar, with a number of practitioners receiving outstanding praise in our research from colleagues and clients alike. As oil prices continue to rise and the economy diversifies, practitioners in the jurisdiction can expect to see their workloads increase over coming months. Nigeria is set to remain an exciting place to do business and to practise law.

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Analysis: Nigeria

Nigeria: Arbitration 2018

In this chapter we recognise 23 practitioners for their work and expertise handling both domestic and international arbitration proceedings.

Nigeria: Aviation 2018

In this chapter we highlight 13 impressive aviation lawyers in the Nigerian market who are recognised for their work handling contentious, finance and regulatory matters.

Nigeria: Banking 2018

This year’s research recognises 14 leading banking and finance lawyers. The practitioners listed here come highly recommended for their expertise in a wide range of matters, from banking and finance transactions to regulatory advice and compliance. 

Nigeria: Capital Markets 2018

This year’s research identifies 18 practitioners who stand out for their excellent work representing and advising issuers, underwriters, investment banks, funds, REITs and other market participants on all aspects of capital markets transactions.

Nigeria: Construction & Real Estate 2018

In this chapter, we recognise three leading lawyers who boast an impressive track record advising domestic and international clients on construction and real estate matters.

Nigeria: Corporate Immigration 2018

Our research into the corporate immigration space sees eight impressive practitioners nominated for their work in the field this year. They excel on a range of matters including citizenship, work permits and compliance matters, with practitioners assisting clients across a broad range of industries.

Nigeria: Corporate Tax 2018

In this section, we highlight six top-tier practitioners who stand out as the leading corporate tax specialists in the Nigerian market.

Nigeria: Data 2018

Here we highlight six highly regarded practitioners who have been recommended for their experience encompassing IT, data protection, data security and TMT matters.

Nigeria: Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 2018

This year’s research shines the spotlight on 39 highly regarded experts in energy and mining related transactions, regulatory matters and disputes. With expertise spanning projects in the oil and gas, mineral, coal and electricity sectors, the market has identified these individuals as the leading players in the space.

Nigeria: Intellectual Property 2018

In this chapter we feature 23 leading lights in the Nigerian market who stand out as country’s foremost experts in intellectual property law.

Nigeria: Labour & Employment 2018

This chapter sees nine of the country’s top practitioners highlighted for their work in the field of labour and employment. These practitioners excel in a range of areas, including regulatory matters, expatriate work permits and post-merger integration.

Nigeria: Litigation 2018

This chapter sees 29 litigators highlighted for their outstanding work in the field handling disputes across a range of industries such as energy and infrastructure.

Nigeria: M&A and Governance 2018

In this chapter we highlight 27 individuals for their outstanding work handling a wide array of corporate matters including foreign investment, privatisations, joint ventures and governance issues.

Nigeria: Project Finance 2018

In this chapter we highlight 21 impressive lawyers who stand out in the Nigerian market for their expertise handling major public infrastructure projects, as well as enterprises across a range of sectors.

Nigeria: Restructuring & Insolvency 2018

Here we highlight three impressive lawyers who stand out for their strong expertise in restructuring and insolvency law.

Nigeria: Shipping & Maritime 2018

Here we recognise 14 top-tier lawyers for their excellent work across the Nigerian shipping market.

Restructuring & Insolvency In Nigeria


Etigwe Uwa SAN, Streamsowers & Köhn

Until recently, the commencement of winding-up proceedings was the first recourse taken by creditors to recover bad debts, without exploring other alternatives by which debtors could achieve business recovery as a route to repayment of debts. However, in Nigeria, there is an increasing trend for companies to restructure with the objective of averting insolvency, as well as expanding operations and increasing their market share. We believe that these changes are driven by an evolving financial environment, the rising numbers of involved parties and more confidence in the prospects of the Nigerian economy strengthened by its strategic position in Africa.

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Firm Profiles: Nigeria

Leading Firms 2018

In this edition of Who’s Who Legal: Nigeria we list practitioners from over 70 law firms, from full-service outfits to specialised boutiques; however, over 40 per cent of the listings in the guide are earned by lawyers from just six standout national firms. Here we profile the individual outfits dominating the Nigerian legal market.

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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.

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