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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Aluko & Oyebode

01 March 2017

Successes in three major cases against Nigeria’s state oil company

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 5
Value of pending counsel work US$3.8 billion+
Treaty cases 0

Founded in Lagos in 1993, this full-service firm first appeared in the GAR 100 in 2014. The disputes group is led by Babatunde Fagbohunlu SAN, who is well known in the market internationally and chairs the arbitration centre at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce International Arbitration Centre, which launched in November this year. He became a member of the LCIA Court in 2014.

Oil and gas, banking and telecoms clients provide the bulk of the disputes work. Most notably, the firm has teamed up with the likes of Hogan Lovells and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to advise various international oil consortiums in three high-value arbitrations against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Statoil, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Eni and Total are among the consortium members. These cases, which are all seated in Nigeria, have generated some important arbitration-related court decisions in the country, as well as final awards in two cases in the US$500 million to US$1 billion range.

The firm also has offices in Abuja and Port Harcourt, but the arbitration team is based in Lagos. Other partners to know are Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN, Mark Mordi, Chukwuka Ikwuazom (now a member of the LCCIAC Court), Joke Aliu and Shehu Mustafa, now the regional representative for the Nigerian branch of LCIA YIAG.

Track record

Aluko & Oyebode won a landmark decision in the Nigerian Court of Appeal in 2013, overturning an injunction that had prevented consortium partners Chevron and Statoil from pursuing a multibillion-dollar claim against NNPC relating to the Agbami oil field. The decision confirmed the limited power of the Nigerian courts to interfere in the arbitral process, and allowed the arbitration to proceed to a final award worth US$1 billion. Hogan Lovells worked with the firm on that matter. Aluko & Oyebode is currently assisting the consortium partners in enforcement and set-aside proceedings in Nigeria.

In another of the arbitrations against NNPC, the firm helped a consortium led by Italy’s Eni win a final award worth US$573 million in 2014. That came after Aluko & Oyebode lawyers persuaded the Federal Court of Appeal in Abuja to lift an injunction that had prevented the arbitration from going ahead because it allegedly infringed the tax assessment powers of the country’s revenue service. Hogan Lovells are again co-counsel in the arbitration.

In the third NNPC case, the firm helped a consortium led by Total obtain a partial award in 2013 requiring the state entity to execute a production sharing contract relating to a deepwater oil field. The dispute settled in May 2015 after a hearing on quantum. Freshfields acted as co-counsel in that matter.

One of the firm’s historic successes was helping Hong Kong infrastructure group IPCO secure a US$152 million award in 2004 in a dispute over the construction of the Bonny oil export terminal. An English court permitted IPCO to enforce a US$53 million portion of the award in 2008, but enforcement of the rest has been held up by a challenge to the award in Nigeria.

Recent events

The firm recently had hearings in two ICC cases. In one case worth more than US$2500 million, it is defending an oil company accused of breaching a gas processing agreement. In another, it is acting for a claimant that alleges breaches of an agreement to construct and test facilities for conveying crude oil.

The firm also helped Frontier Oil thwart an attempt by an energy services company to obtain a court stay of an ICC arbitration.

Client comment

Olatowun Candide-Johnson, general counsel of Total in Nigeria, has described the firm as “capable and well resourced”. She praised Babatunde Fagbohunlu SAN in particular for “seamlessly” taking over the conduct of an arbitration after the opposing side objected to foreign counsel’s participation in the proceedings.