OPPORTUNITIES AWAIT

Nigeria 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Given the exciting developments globally and in Nigeria,ÆLEX sees new opportunities for its practice areas.

Theophilus Emuwa
BIOGRAPHY
Theophilus Emuwa is the Managing Partner and head of the tax and corporate and commercial practice groups at ÆLEX. His practice is focused on M&A, taxation, and infrastructure. He has accumulated over 30 years’ experience in these fields. He studied engineering at Imperial College, London, obtaining a bachelor of science degree and a master’s of science degree before qualifying as a barrister in England, Nigeria, and Ghana. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria and was the Vice-Chair of the Tax Law Review Committee of the Institute. He is also a member of the Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, Nigeria.

How has ÆLEX established its reputation as one of the country's leading law firms in a competitive environment?

We realized from the onset it was important to employ excellent lawyers and train them. We start with a recruitment process that enables us to identify talented lawyers for employment. After employment, we have senior lawyers mentor them, and we also engage them in formal training programs. On top of this, we have a secondment program that places associates in client companies for periods of up to 18 months in industries as diverse as banking, oil and gas (upstream and downstream), and beverage manufacturing. We have not rested on our achievements of the past as we always look to improve on our strengths while taking steps to eliminate our weaknesses.

What are your main areas of expertise?

The firm's practice areas include taxation; dispute resolution—litigation and arbitration; corporate/commercial; mergers and acquisition; energy and power; business reorganization and insolvency; intellectual property; regulatory compliance; technology, media, and telecommunications; banking, finance, and Fintech; transportation—aviation, maritime, and rail; and infrastructure.

In which areas do you see the biggest opportunities for the firm's growth in the future?

Areas such as the new focus on gas, the booming of the entertainment industry, IP, and ICT are growing and will increasingly demand high-value legal services. I would also include the power, infrastructure, and agriculture sectors. In view of our population, Fintech and healthcare should also be considered growth areas, though their demand for legal services will not be as high.

What trends do you observe in the sectors you are most involved in, such as consolidation and increased M&A activity?

I want to focus on trends in legal services. There are many trends that are technology driven, especially in banking and Fintech; however, these do not always impact the demand for legal services. On the other hand, the increasing attention being paid by governments at all levels to increased tax collection has led to a rise in tax litigation—an area in which we are renowned. Also, the use of arbitration as the preferred method of resolving commercial disputes continues to grow—that is another area in which we are strong. Our M&A team continues to grow from strength to strength. It recently concluded a large acquisition on behalf of a global beverage company, amongst other deals.

What message would you send to the international investor community about doing business in Nigeria?

Despite being full of unique opportunities, it can be a challenging environment, though the government has made some strides in improving the ease of business in Nigeria. We are slowly but surely climbing up the rankings as seen in our improved 2019 ranking of 146 out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index, up from 169 in 2017. Admittedly, there is a great deal of work to be done in Nigeria with the challenges faced with doing business in-country. However, Nigeria remains determined to overcome these hurdles.

What is your outlook for the legal landscape in Nigeria and for ÆLEX in particular in 2019?

I look forward to an interesting year, bearing in mind Brexit in the UK and the general elections in Nigeria. It will be interesting to watch how the legal landscape and investor community in Nigeria will be impacted. ÆLEX is also looking to explore new opportunities; in this regard, we are expanding our practice areas to reach a wider client base. We are confident that as the economy grows, the demand for legal services will grow.