1. Was Taxation a conscious career choice for you or did it ‘call’ you?

Taxation was not a conscious career choice. Whilst at Shell Petroleum Nigeria Development company, (SPDC) Nigeria, as a Legal adviser and contracts draftsman, I was required to advise on all kinds of matters, including taxation and commercial /contractual, as well as preparing materials and working with external counsel on taxation in the then Board of Appeal Commissioners. This meant that I had to practically pick up taxation competencies on the job. This culminated in my being appointed as the pioneer head of Tax for SPDC. This meant that, aside from acquiring tax skills on the job, I had to manage the setting up of the tax function of SPDC, which was to later translate into a tax function for all Shell companies in Nigeria.

2. What challenges did you face on your career path?

Being a lawyer meant working with Finance people and accountants in a field that was practically dominated by accountants and finance persons. I needed to understand the numbers language of the finance world. This was clearly a challenge.

There was also initial resistance from the finance and accounting staff as I was perhaps seen as an interloper because taxation in Nigeria was more of an exclusive reserve for accountants.

Taxation in Shell resided in the commercial and finance function, and it was not unthinkable that some persons may have felt threatened by the presence of a lawyer, who in their view knew next to nothing about taxation. It was then not conceived that taxation is first a matter of law which imposes the compulsory levy or charge, and then so much more. Even amongst lawyers, taxation has not always been an area of primary professional expertise or practice. I recall that back then, not many Law faculties taught Revenue Law or Law of Taxation. 

3. Are they over now or are there still challenges?

Except perhaps for the first 9-10 years of my legal career when I practiced law, I have spent close to 30 years in taxation. I still do not see that many lawyers taking careers in taxation.

The perception, is that taxation is for the finance people, and that it has more to do with accounting for tax liability and numbers. Every opportunity, I have had to interact with young lawyers, for me, is an opportunity to let them fully appreciate the role of taxation law, and the impact of tax to business bottom line. I try to make them understand that legal advisers should always be aware of the potential tax implications of their legal advice.

4. In the era of seeming specialization, what advice do you have for people looking towards starting a career in Taxation?

A good understanding of legal principles and a fairly broad or early acquaintance with various aspects of business law, is essential before specializing in taxation. Also, training on accounting principles is recommended for intending tax specialization. Tax lawyers should be able to combine several skill sets. Taxation is a subject or an area for any professional who is able to think clearly.

5. What has been your wildest/craziest experience as a Tax Practitioner?

There were common threats of detention and imprisonment which, thank God, were not effected. This stemmed from arbitrary tax assessments and collection of Pay as You Earn (PAYE) particularly in the oil producing states. The states could not just understand why oil and gas personnel that practically operated in their jurisdiction, paid their personal income taxes to other states where they resided. This was an ugly aspect of multiple taxation and levies collection. 

6. If there was anything in the tax space you wish you did, or didn’t do, what would it be?

I have for close to 30 years worked in the tax space. I have had the opportunity to advise on domestic and international tax issues. In this period, I have been inside tax counsel for some of the big oil and gas majors. I have also consulted as a tax partner in a Big-4 firm and as a Tax partner in a Tier -1 Commercial Law Firm. I have not contributed as much I would have wanted to thought leadership and published as much as I would have wanted. I hope I can still continue to research key policy and tax issues and engage on taxation and legal matters, and participate in tax training and consulting as opportunities arise.

Edem Andah


Mr Andah started his legal career as state counsel, rising early to become Assistant Director of criminal prosecutions and Litigations. He joined Shell Nigeria Development and production company (SPDC) as legal adviser and contracts draftsman in 1989. He was the pioneer, head of tax, in SPDC. He did his first expatriation to Shell Expro, UK and Shell International (SIPM) in the Hague in The Netherlands, in 1995 to returning to Nigeria in 1997. Mr Andah was also head of Shell Africa Oil Products Tax from 2004 to 2007, based in Nairobi Kenya, responsible for Shell downstream africa tax in 30 African countries. On leaving Shell, Mr Andah relocated to London, as the International Tax manager for Sub -Sahara Africa, with Baker Hughes UK Limited. He returned to Nigeria as Partner, with Ernst Young (EY) responsible for oil and gas tax services. In 2016, Mr Andah became Tax partner with the tier 1 commercial law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP. 

Mr Andah’s legal and Tax journey has seen work in the public and private sectors in Nigeria and other jurisdictions. He has pioneered the setting up of tax practices and has coached and mentored several tax persons and practitioners, who occupy strategic tax positions in multinational companies as well as with the Big- 4/5 consulting firms globally. Mr Andah continues to encourage and engage with young and aspiring lawyers and accountants who are interested in taxation. He has and continues to engage in thought leadership and is an Examiner of a UK based taxation body. He belongs to several fiscal study groups and is a member of UK based Chatham House.

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