Has cultivated an impressive reputation in the Nigerian market, representing clients in a range of oil and gas and energy-related disputes, handling several disputes in the wake of high-profile corporate insolvenciesChambers Global 2020
"He's very sound, he's very good on his feet. It's one thing to know the law but another to put it across in a way that is appealing to the judges - he's a good advocate."Chambers Global 2018
His ability goes beyond being a very intellectual lawyer - he is capable of dealing with complex technical aspects outside his area and works as a truly international lawyerChambers Global
Regarded as a leading practitioner in the UK and Nigeria, Oba Nsugbe QC, SAN has a broad international practice focussing on Africa related litigation and dispute resolution. He provides high-level advice and representation for individuals, corporate clients and other organisations, (including NGOs), in matters ranging from business crime and corrupt practices to contractual and corporate disputes. His ongoing international work includes advising the Swiss Government in its case against Nigeria before ITLOS, acting as joint lead Counsel for two US companies in only Nigeria’s second case at ICSID, and Counsel in a multi-jurisdictional claim for families of multiple victims of the Dana Air Crash in Lagos in 2012. He advised and appeared for the Lagos State Government in arbitral proceedings instituted against it following the collapse of Enron and the termination of various related contracts entered into by the State. Oba has also provided expert advice and evidence on issues of Nigerian law to a wide range of institutional, corporate and individual clients ranging from the Treasury Solicitors to leading City firms and business entrepreneurs.
Called to the Bar in 1985, when Oba took silk in 2002 aged only 39, he was described in a leading law commentary as “a rising star of the Bar of England and Wales”. He commands considerable respect from both clients and peers. Numerous entries in Chambers and Partners over the years have described him as “a first-class advocate” as well as “a true gentleman who deserves his fabulous reputation”, adding that he has a “fine forensic mind” and is admired for his “technical excellence”. Contributors to the directory have also remarked that he is “fabulously personable, easy-going, and adored by judges and juries”, “works extremely well in a team” and “impresses interviewees with his calm and genial manner”. In February 2021, he was recognised as one of Africa’s top 30 arbitrators in Africa’s Arbitration Powerlist Awards administered by the Africa Arbitration Academy.
He is qualified in both the UK and Nigeria and over time has built up extensive knowledge and experience of both jurisdictions. He specialises in arbitration and complex commercial disputes acting for companies and individuals working in Africa, in particular Nigeria. He has substantial experience of institutional and ad hoc arbitration. He is also experienced in fraud and Asset recovery work. Instructed in some of the most significant and high profile ongoing and past cases in Nigeria, (including acting for families affected by the Dana Air Crash in product liability and Montreal Convention claims, the constitutional challenge to Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, and the successful defence of individuals said to have aided and abetted former Governor James Ibori in the large scale money laundering trials conducted in the UK), Oba provides high level advocacy and advisory services to a wide range of local and international clients. He is frequently involved in multi-jurisdictional cases.
He has also provided expert advice and appeared as an expert witness in a significant number of UK cases involving issues of Nigerian matrimonial and customary law, particularly disputes relating to the validity of the marriage, financial relief and custody of the children. He gave expert evidence in the reported case of Howard v. Shirlstar in which he testified about the Nigerian aviation laws and regulations contravened by Howard, a British pilot, who was contracted to recover a plane owned by Shirlstar Container Ltd, which he flew to Ivory Coast, evading MIG fighter jets in the process. In addition, he routinely works with lawyers from other overseas jurisdictions such as the US, Switzerland, Germany, the Cayman Islands, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Oba is able to provide expert regulatory guidance to businesses needing to comply with the legal framework in Nigeria. Furthermore, through a close network of established and highly specialist partner firms, he is able to cover other African jurisdictions as well. He is regularly called upon to advise on the drafting of contracts and commercial agreements, as well handling contentious contractual issues and other litigation, for some of the world’s largest companies in the oil and gas, leisure, banking, financial and publishing sectors. In the Cayman Islands his cases typically involve offshore trusts or insolvency, often with criminal recovery aspects. In addition, he has considerable alternative dispute resolution experience as both an Arbitrator and Counsel instructed in international arbitrations.
Successful defence of wife of a former Chief of Staff charged with money laundering offences.
Leading case on mens rea of officer of a body corporate under s.37 HSWA 1974.
Leading case on reverse burden in health and safety cases and impact of Human Rights Act.
Leading case on sentencing in health and safety cases.
Contract involving illegal performance – effect
In addition he has both prosecuted and defended a number of high profile criminal cases in the UK.
Competency of child’s evidence in sexual cases.
Sentencing in Manslaughter cases
Public Order Act 1986
Experienced Arbitrator and Dispute Resolution practitioner.
Legal Assessor to the General Medical Council.
Legal Assessor to the General Pharmaceutical Council.
Legal Assessor to the General Osteopathic Council.
Selected ongoing and recent cases include:
Advising multinational bank seeking to establish card services in Nigeria – compliance with applicable regulatory and banking regulations.
Advising large Nigerian construction company over contractual dispute with local company constructing a hotel in Lagos.
Advising local Nigerian company on complex construction dispute with developer re: Lekki Expressway construction.
Acting for Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation on validity of asset disposal in UK by failed Nigerian Bank.
Acting for UK pilot suing Virgin Nigeria for breach of contract in the Lagos High Court.
Acting as expert witness on Nigerian Law for the largest African Hotel Group in arbitral dispute with leading Nigerian company in which a multi-million dollar claim for damages made for alleged breaches of agency and marketing agreements in establishment of 5 star hotel in Nigeria.
Oba has extensive international arbitration experience both as an arbitrator and as counsel. A selection of ongoing and recent arbitration cases include:
Co-arbitrator with Dominic Spenser Underhill and Charles Debattista QC: Contractual dispute between two Sierra Leonian companies in relation to damage caused to Claimant’s plant, machinery and equipment by allegedly defective petroleum products purchased from the Respondent – breach of Settlement Agreement; damages; causation; expert evidence.
LCIA No. 204945
Chair of Tribunal with Kabir Duggal and Anibal Sabater co-arbitrators: Alleged failure to pay oil and gas services invoices by Ghanian oil and gas services company under terms of Rig Share Deed and ASSA agreement. Whether breach. Whether Early Determination appropriate.
International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”)
Interocean v the Federal Republic of Nigeria – Lead Counsel with Supo Shasore SAN for the Interocean companies in multi-million dollar arbitration investor protection claim against the Nigerian Government; whether oil and gas investment directly or indirectly expropriated
LCIA No 153160 (with Dr Tunde Ogowewo and Alain Choo Choy QC)
Commercial dispute between Zambian power utility company and Nigerian electricity distribution company following successful prequalification and registration with the Nigerian Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE); whether Shareholders and Funding and Agreements breached; nature and effect of alleged misrepresentations; whether shares validly transferred; status of escrow agreement and further equity commitment; whether Zambian company entitled to declaratory relief and damages.
LCIA No 173709 (Sole arbitrator)
Sole arbitrator in substantial sale of business and share purchase agreement dispute of established Kenyan confectionaries company to P.E; claim for alleged breaches of Business Transfer and Share Purchase Agreements; whether performance of the business overstated; misrepresentation and/or breach of warranties; whether sellers entitled to the “Retention Amount”; measurement of damages in breach of warranty and/or misrepresentation case.
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (“ITLOS”)
Counsel for Switzerland in arbitration against Nigeria before ITLOS under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; arrest and detention of Swiss ship and crew in Nigeria EEZ; whether Nigeria in breach of convention duties; provisional measures application; effect of proceedings in domestic court for alleged offences by ship owner, charterers and crew.
London Maritime Arbitrators Association – 2020.1578AEV
Co-arbitrator – Norwegian Owners of vessels sue for alleged breach of time charter party by Nigerian offshore service vessel operator; claim for alleged unpaid hires fees and damages; whether repudiatory breach by charterers; whether force majeure clauses properly triggered; effect of COVID-19.
Co-arbitrator with Olufunke Adekoya SAN C.Arb and Chikwendu Madumere C.Arb (Chair ); dispute in relation to agreement for sale of Tank Farms between AMCON and Nigerian companies; whether breach of contractual warranties; whether condition precedent incorporated into agreement; whether deposit wrongfully retained; whether entitled to damages for breach of contract.
Sole Arbitrator; contractual dispute between US owned multinational and Nigerian company over alleged breach of Strategic Cooperation Agreement for Special Presidential Intervention Project in the Tertiary Health Sector; whether SCA gave rise to binding legal obligations; whether breach.
Chair of the Tribunal with Lady Elizabeth Gloster and Sir Bernard Eder as co-arbitrators. Substantial and complex parent and subsidiary shareholders dispute of large African telecommunications company; interpretation of related party contracts; share repurchase schemes, transfer pricing and provision of services; whether breach, whether arms-length agreements.
Co- arbitrator with Mr Michael Tselentis QC (Chair) and Mr Vinayak Pradhan in tripartite engineering project dispute over design and upgrade of operations and security complex at OML58 in Nigeria.
Counsel for multinational steel construction companies in arbitration claim against Nigerian Government alleging expropriation of investments and wrongful termination of concessions. Case presently stayed for mediation.
Acting as Counsel for one of Nigeria’s largest insurance companies defending a claim for breach of reinsurance agreements – effect of non-payment of premiums.
Counsel for UK based private equity in claim against Investment Manager and one of its Directors for alleged fiduciary and contractual breaches of senior loan note subscription agreement.
Advising UK company on contractual dispute involving supply of security equipment to African country.
Acting for Nigerian Oil services company defending claim for alleged breaches of joint bidding and tender for lifeboat services brought by multinational company.
Acting for Nigerian company in claims against Chinese multinational for alleged payment failures under Zungeru Power Project bidding and services agreements law.
ICC Case No.14417/EBS/VRO/AGF
Acting for Lagos State in large scale arbitration involving Enron. Defending Lagos State against substantial claims for damages for alleged breaches of power supply projects.
LCIA No. UN 81038 :
Acting as arbitrator with in substantial arbitration involving a multinational oil company and its Nigerian oil services party where breaches of contracts and bailment alleged.
LCIA Arbitration No. 184113 C
Co-arbitrator with Professor Zachary Douglas (Chair)and Claire Ambrose. Dispute over electricity sale and supply contract. Whether one party had power to suspend contract over alleged non-payment. Effect of Italian Government regulatory changes on General Agreement.
LCIA Arbitration No. 153195:
Co-arbitrator with Makhdoom Ali Khan SC and Jonathan Hirst QC in ongoing international arbitration. Oil and Gas Dispute – disagreement over effect of performance guarantees and “Crude Swap”contract.
ICC Case No. 203331/TO :
President (with co-arbitrators Mrs Dorothy Ufot SAN and Mrs Doyin Rhodes-Vivour) in arbitration at the Lagos Court of Arbitration involving dispute between a multinational and indigenous gas processing operator over alleged breached of a Gas Production Agreement in which multinational was to supply domestic company with rich gas for processing to natural gas liquid.
Acting for Norwegian based insurers and marine geophysical company in arbitration pursuant to Arbitration and Conciliation Act(Cap A18) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria involving collision between vessel and offshore platform in Nigerian coastal waters.
Arbitrator in ad hoc arbitration under Arbitration Act 1996 with Christopher Symons QC and Anthony Marks. UK company claiming substantial damages against Nigerian Bank for failure to make payments under services agreement to design a prepaid card programme under Visa and Mastercard brands.