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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Aluko & Oyebode

05 April 2019

Major foreign oil companies in Nigeria regularly turn to the firm for high-stakes disputes

People in Who's Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 8
Value of pending counsel work US$10 billion+
Treaty cases 0
Third-party funded cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 2 (0 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

This full-service Nigerian firm was founded in 1993. The disputes group is led by Babatunde Fagbohunlu SAN, who is well known in the market internationally and chairs the Lagos Chamber of Commerce International Arbitration Centre (LACIAC). He became a member of the LCIA Court in 2014 and is the secretary for a national committee examining reform and harmonisation of Nigeria’s arbitration and ADR laws.

The firm also has offices in Abuja and Port Harcourt, but the majority of the arbitration team is based in Lagos, including partners Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN, Mark Mordi, Chukwuka Ikwuazom (a member of the LACIAC Court), Joke Aliu, and Hamid Abdulkareem. Partner Tonye Krukrubo is based in Port Harcourt.

Who uses it?

The firm has successfully acted for various international oil consortiums in multibillion-dollar cases against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), including Statoil, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Eni and Total. It has paired with Hogan Lovells and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on those cases.

Other energy clients include China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and South Atlantic Petroleum.

Track record

Aluko & Oyebode won a landmark decision in the Nigerian Court of Appeal in 2013, overturning an injunction that had prevented Chevron and Statoil from pursuing a multibillion-dollar claim against the NNPC relating to allocation of crude oil from the Agbami 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.

In another case against the 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 a court in Abuja to lift an injunction that had prevented the arbitration from going ahead.

In a third case, the firm helped a consortium led by Total obtain a partial award in 2013 requiring the NNPC to execute a production-sharing contract relating to a deep water oil field. The dispute settled in 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

Aluko & Oyebode helped Shell defeat a US$248 million claim brought by a Nigerian company concerning a gas processing agreement, also winning costs.

It is defending Chevron in an arbitration brought by Chinese-owned oil producer Addax; and Total in a dispute over an offshore drilling contract.

CNOOC and South Atlantic Petroleum are using the firm in separate ad hoc arbitrations against the NNPC to recover costs incurred in petroleum exploration under a deep offshore production-sharing contract. The disputed costs in these cases are estimated at over US$7 billion.

Aluko & Oyebode is representing contractors in another claim against NNPC under a production-sharing contract, where the amount in dispute is worth US$1.5 billion.

Hamid Abdulkareem was promoted to partner in Lagos and was also appointed to the steering committee of IBA Arb40, the under-40 arm of the International Bar Association’s arbitration committee.

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.

Another major client describes Aluko & Oyebode as a “top-tier firm”, working on “high-profile, high-stakes cases.”

“Their responsiveness and analysis distinguish them from their competitors”, she says, and she singles out Fagbohunlu and Abdulkareem as being “very impressive”, in particular, and describes Fagbohunlu as “a senior statesman of the local bar”.

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