A leading Nigerian firm for oil and gas clients
|People in Who's Who Legal||1|
|Pending cases as counsel||2|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$1.12 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments||6 (2 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||1|
Among the largest law firms in West Africa, AELEX arose from the 2004 merger of four commercial firms in the region. One of those 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, based in Lagos, now leads AELEX’s international arbitration practice. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) and one of the vice presidents 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.
She was added to ICSID’s panel of arbitrators in 2017 and also sits on CIETAC’s panel of arbitrators.
Disputes partners Adedapo Tunde-Olowu is also a CIArb member and sits as arbitrator.
Headquartered in Lagos, the firm has two other Nigerian offices – in Port Harcourt and Abuja – and another in Ghana’s capital, Accra. It is also affiliated to Meritas, a group of some 180 law firms in 90 countries.
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.
Alongside Clifford Chance, the firm helped a consortium led by Shell to win a partial award worth US$1.4 billion against Nigeria’s national petroleum company NNPC in 2013. The overall dispute is reported to be worth more than US$3 billion. However, the proceedings were halted by a Nigerian court injunction. An action to enforce the award in the US courts has been stayed while the consortium pursues an appeal in Nigeria.
AELEX has helped Petrobras prevail in a pair of multiparty arbitrations brought by Norway’s Statoil concerning the allocation of shares in the Agbami oil field. The firm obtained an award in the first case in 2015 which it successfully defended in the Nigerian courts. A favourable award in the second proceeding was issued in 2018.
Adekoya continues to accept ICSID appointments. She was asked to hear Venezuela’s request to annul a US$29 million award, in addition to cases she is already hearing against Grenada and Tanzania.
In 2018, she also joined the council of a newly formed organisation, Alliance, which was set up to promote equality and diversity in dispute resolution.
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 Olowu as “her trusted and able lieutenant”.