PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Nigeria 2015 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Theophilus Ifeanyichukwu Emuwa, Chair of the Corporate and Commercial Practice Group of ǼLEX on keeping pace with the legal universe to best serve clients and the new commercial landscape.

Theophilus Ifeanyichukwu Emuwa
BIOGRAPHY
Theo is both a lawyer and qualified engineer. He is the Chair of the Corporate and Commercial Practice Group of the Firm. His practice is focused on Corporate and Commercial law and Taxation. Theo draws on his joint professional training to provide insightful advice to the Firm’s clients on various projects and transactions. He is widely acknowledged as one of Nigeria’s leading tax practitioners. He regularly advises on Nigerian companies’ income and petroleum profit tax issues, corporate structures, shareholder rights and other corporate governance issues. Among other senior and prestigious positions held, he is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation Nigeria (CITN).

ǼLEX was established in 2004 as the result of a merger of four leading commercial law firms. Could you elaborate on the services that ǼLEX provides in different sectors of the economy?

The firm was established by aggregating specialists in various practice areas, featuring aviation, tax, oil & gas, corporate & commercial, litigation, capital markets, and energy, amongst others. We have since been honoured to advise clients across these various disciplines. The Firm's lawyers have also developed specialist skills and gained significant deal experience from their involvement in transactions and projects. Our expertise covers legal, regulatory and policy issues, as well as commercial, fiscal and environmental issues in the sectors we serve. We are committed to keeping abreast of matters affecting the constantly changing business and regulatory environment in which our clients operate. Our local knowledge and our regular interaction with key players in the sectors we operate in allow us to structure our advice on projects and transactions in anticipation of, and consistent with, changes in policy and regulation.

ǼLEX has a proven track record, as confirmed by the number of awards the company has received over the years. What is the essential driver of its success?

Having a problem solving approach to client matters, and attention to detail immediately come to mind.

The firm's clients are predominantly multinational companies. What makes ǼLEX such an attractive partner for these companies?

The attributes earlier mentioned are fundamentally important. In addition there is scale and geographical coverage. Multinational companies also look to take advantage of the scope of practice of a firm. ǼLEX has three offices in three different geopolitical zones of the country and another office in Accra, Ghana. We employ more than 50 lawyers with an amazing aggregate of over three centuries of legal experience.

From a legal perspective, what trends will you keep a close eye on in the Nigerian economy in 2015?

There is, of course, the upcoming general election, which may usher in a new administration. Professionals and investors alike are closely observing the election, not because a new administration will change the national direction, but because the style of administration may vary. Over the past 20 years the country has been moving from state control of the economy and business toward private sector control. Not so long ago government controlled the four largest banks in the country, while today all banks are in private hands, except for development banks. Telecoms, too, was also wholly under government ownership, but now the state controls less than 1% of that industry. The power industry is in the process of being privatized. Air transportation moved from government control to private many years ago and is flourishing. Even infrastructure development is being privatized through the increasing use of PPP arrangements. In all these areas the increase in private sector involvement will mean an increase in the need for legal services.

What is your assessment of the investment climate in Nigeria for the foreign companies in terms of legal and fiscal barriers?

I wouldn't say that there are any significant legal or fiscal barriers. Tax rates are not too high when compared to other jurisdictions. Also, the laws of the land are quite generous to foreign investors. However, when you come to implementation of those laws I believe there to be certain administrative and bureaucratic challenges. The one area where you might speak of a barrier would be the oil industry where local content legislation has been introduced with a view to domesticating more of the expenditure on services in that industry. Nevertheless, with a population in excess of 160 million (the largest in Africa) and a GDP in excess of $510 billion (again the largest in Africa) the country will remain an attractive investment destination for some time to come.

What is ǼLEX's growth strategy for the coming five years?

Given the growth areas that I have identified, we plan to continue expanding our capacity to serve clients in those areas.