Why Nigeria needs a National Policy on Arbitration

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic, Research, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships (ARISP) of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Professor Damilola  Olawuyi, has urged  stakeholders in the justice sector to develop a  national policy that will maximise the value of arbitration practice.

Olawuyi, Vice Chair of the International Law Association (ILA) Worldwide, spoke during an online workshop organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS).

The event was hosted and moderated by NIALS Director-General, Prof Muhammad Tawfiq Ladan, and featured  Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Prof Paul O. Idornigie (SAN), Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), Prof. Wahab Egbewole (SAN), Mr. Etigwe Uwa (SAN),  Mrs. Maimuna Lami Shiru of the Federal Ministry of Justice, and Associate Professor Franscisca Nlerum of NIALS.

The workshop was chaired and declared open by Prof Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka.

In his lead presentation, Prof Olawuyi stated that although arbitration has come to stay as a less adversarial, flexible and effective means of achieving the fair and timely resolution of disputes in Nigeria, its real potential and value is yet to be fully maximised in Nigeria.

“When you look at the sheer volume of arbitration that could have been conducted in Nigeria but are still being conducted in London, New York and Geneva by Nigerian disputants and by Nigerian arbitrators, then you realize the urgent need for a coherent national policy that will create the right environment and incentives for us to achieve more Nigerian content in the practice of arbitration”, he said.

The don emphasised that there is also a need to update the 32-year-old Arbitration and Conciliation Act to reflect contemporary realities, especially to widen the excessively narrow scope of the Act which currently excludes non-commercial disputes in key sectors, address perennial issues of undue judicial intervention in arbitration, establish clear deadlines for stay of proceedings applications, introduce an award review tribunal, and most importantly integrate the use of efficient and modern technology for evidence and arbitral proceedings.

Olawuyi urged  arbitral institutes in Nigeria to develop tailored mentoring and pupilage programs to equip young arbitrators with practical knowledge and skills on the rudiments of building a successful arbitration client base and practice.

Discussing the need for stakeholder engagement in drafting a national policy on arbitration, Idornigie also suggested the establishment of a national commission on arbitration that can promote regulatory coherence, professional ethics and standard setting for the practice of arbitration in Nigeria.

Also speaking, Uwa, reflected on a wide range of challenges that must be addressed if Nigeria is to be perceived as an attractive seat and venue for arbitration.

The issues ranged from “respect for the sanctity of the judiciary and quasi-judicial processes, reducing judicial interventions in arbitration, having the necessary infrastructure and facilities for arbitration, as well as increasing opportunities for capacity development and training for arbitrators that can handle the volume of disputes that may require resolution.”

Nlerum  noted that a coherent national policy and strategy must be understood as the needed foundation and pre-cursor to any legislative act.

According to her, some of the country’s challenges with arbitration are traceable to the absence of a national policy that could have provided the foundation for its maturity and development.

She maintained that ongoing efforts to develop a national policy will go a long way in addressing the challenges, while also promoting greater synergy and cooperation between all arbitration centers and practitioners in Nigeria.

Osipitan appreciated NIALS’ exceptional leadership roles in spearheading innovative research, capacity development and stakeholder dialogue on issues of national importance.

He noted that improving the attractiveness of the practice of arbitration in Nigeria can significantly contribute to Government’s ongoing economic diversification efforts.

 

Source : The Nation Online



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