A leading Nigerian firm for oil and gas
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One of the largest law firms in West Africa, AELEX began in 2004 when four commercial firms in the region merged. One of those firms was a disputes boutique led by Funke Adekoya SAN, one of the first women to be appointed a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who gained a reputation for her advocacy skills before Nigeria’s high and appellate courts.
Adekoya, who is based in Lagos, now leads AELEX’s international arbitration practice. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), a vice president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and a member of the governing board of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration. Adekoya is also vice chair of the LCIA’s African Users’ Council and a member of the board of the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration.
Disputes partners Adedapo Tunde-Olowu and Olanipekun Orewale are also members of CIArb.
Headquartered in Lagos, the firm has two other Nigerian offices in Port Harcourt and Abuja, and another in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
Who uses it?
Energy, construction and financial services companies make up the bulk of the firm’s clients, particularly in the upstream and downstream oil and gas sector. Well-known clients include Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Eni, Petrobras, Ivory Coast’s national oil company Petroci and South Africa’s Sacoil.
As co-counsel with Clifford Chance, the firm helped a Shell-led consortium win a partial award worth US$1.4 billion against Nigeria’s state oil company NNPC in 2013. The dispute is reported to be worth more than US$3 billion. But the proceedings were delayed after Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service obtained a local court injunction preventing the consortium from taking further steps in the arbitration. The Nigerian Court of Appeal upheld that finding in 2016 and the consortium has since lodged a further appeal.
AELEX represented a Brazilian-Nigerian energy consortium in a dispute over a stake in an oil field. The firm prevailed in the arbitration and successfully defended the award before the Federal High Court.
Adekoya was added to the ICSID panel of arbitrators by World Bank president Jim Yong Kim with effect from September 2017. Soon after she was appointed by the government of Grenada to hear a contractual claim filed at ICSID by a Florida-based energy company.
She was also appointed to hear a US$22 million dispute between a Nigerian state government on one hand and international and local companies. Other arbitral appointments came in a dispute between a UK-based port pre-inspection provider and Nigeria’s federal government; and an US$8 million dispute between a haulage firm and an international drinks conglomerate.
Chinyerugo Ugoji and Davidson Oturu became partners in February 2017.
An oil and gas client praised AELEX’s “attention to detail”, singling out Adekoya and Tunde-Olowu for their “exceptional and prompt service”.
Ashurst partner Tim Reid worked alongside AELEX in a US$1 billion arbitration for a multinational oil company that ended in the client’s favour. He calls Adekoya “a considerable advocate who is widely respected for her very sound advice” and describes Otolowu as “her trusted and able lieutenant”.