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The London office of Nigerian law firm Olaniwun Ajayi LP announces strategic growth and expansion plans to support clients across Africa

OALP is the first African law firm to develop a London presence offering high end English law capability

The London office of top Nigerian law firm Olaniwun Ajayi LP (OALP) announces its strategy to support both African and international clients with cross border investment and trade throughout Africa.

Launched in December 2021 as a standalone entity, OALP’s London office, Olaniwun Ajayi (UK) LLP, is the first time a leading African law firm has opened in London with English qualified lawyers with high-end expertise in doing business in Africa. It is OALP’s first international presence outside Nigeria.

The London office opened with three partners: senior partner Howard Barrie, Chair of Finance & Project Development Dr Gabriel Onagoruwa and Corporate Finance Chair Chuks Ibechukwu.

The London office’s core focus is Corporate Finance, Energy & Infrastructure and Project Finance offering clients integrated, cross border legal services for investments, projects and initiatives across Africa. The London office will also support the firm’s existing transactional capabilities in corporate finance, project development, corporate, M&A and private equity, supporting financial institutions, project sponsors, private and institutional investors, governments and government agencies with specialised English law capability which is key in many overseas investments across Africa.

Commenting on the London office strategy, managing partner Howard Barrie said: “Olaniwun Ajayi, London is OALP’s first international presence outside Nigeria with plans to extend its office network throughout Africa. Its unique approach will be to build on the firm’s market leading reputation for high end legal services across the key industrial and commercial sectors in Africa including power & renewable energy, infrastructure & utilities, oil & gas, mining & metals, manufacturing, healthcare, agribusiness and fintech. We are ideally placed to offer African and international clients an English law capability with a focus on corporate & project financing, infrastructure & energy.”

He added: “There have been significant changes in the requirements of international and domestic investors in and from Africa due to the multi-jurisdictional and cross-border nature of financing business, trade and infrastructure, frequently governed by English law. In the past, these investors and financial institutions have looked to international law firms based in London or Paris which have then in turn needed to work with a local law firm to provide relevant domestic legal advice. This model may not fully take into account the regulatory and cultural sensitivities that an Africa-centric approach provides. Olaniwun Ajayi is now able to fill this gap and provide clients with significant alternative options in investment or corporate and finance transactions.  It is clear that clients recognise the value of our proposition, the depth of experience within our team, and the efficiencies our strategy offers in terms of deal execution, which translates into better cost management and is critical given the macroeconomic headwinds in Nigeria and other African economies.”

Olaniwun Ajayi is planning additional recruitment in London and to extend their service offering in line with client requirements. The overriding aim is to develop a pan African structure where the firm’s services can be accessed throughout Africa and other key jurisdictions more closely integrated with the needs of the law where the transaction is taking place.

Howard Barrie advises on international project and structured trade finance and cross-border lending. He has advised governments, development finance institutions, project developers and commercial banks on financings including public-private partnerships. He has worked on transactions in more than 16 African countries.  Prior to launching OALP London, Howard was a partner in major international law firms for 29 years and is recognised as an Africa specialist in energy and infrastructure, oil and gas and mining sectors. He has been shortlisted by the Financial Times for its Legal Innovator of the Year award and recognised as one of The Lawyer’s Hot100 for his work in Africa.

Before joining Olaniwun Ajayi in London, Chuks Ibechukwu was Senior Counsel and Africa Regional Lead for Advisory Services, Private Equity and Funds at the International Finance Corporation and worked for over a decade at UK and US international law firms, including Latham & Watkins and Allen & Overy. He specialises in corporate, project and infrastructure finance, asset, leveraged and acquisition finance and debt capital markets, with a particular interest on impact investing and development finance, and he has advised on more than 50 project, corporate and structured finance deals contributing over US$40 billion of committed capital in 20 emerging markets.

Dr Gabriel Onagoruwa is a highly experienced transactional lawyer who specialises in energy and infrastructure projects in Africa. He was previously at White & Case and his practice focuses on advising development finance institutions, national and international oil companies, commercial banks, multilateral lending agencies, sponsors and developers on large-scale project financings, structured finance, investments and acquisitions across the energy, power, renewables, oil and gas including LNG, petrochemical, mining and real estate sectors. He regularly advises on market leading cross-border transactions in these sectors in Nigeria and across Africa.

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