Arbitration important to socio-development agenda of West Africa, says Malami
For peaceful resolution of commercial disputes and other bilateral disagreements, the Federal Government has said arbitration must be embraced as a policy in the West Africa sub-region, especially in Nigeria.
In view of this, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) reiterated that there is a need to establish more arbitration institutions as well as develop the few existing ones to have global appeal and capacity to administer diverse oil and gas related disputes.
He disclosed this, in a keynote address delivered at the 2022 yearly conference of the Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators (NICArb) held at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos.
The conference was tagged “The Future of Arbitration and ADR in Africa: Developments and Sustainability.” He said this will not only promote arbitration practice in Nigeria but also enhance tourism and create a notable surge in foreign direct investment, which would in turn boost the nation’s economy.
To achieve the objective of making the country become an international arbitration centre, Malami promised that government would encourage autonomy of arbitration organisations.
The minister, who was represented by a director in his ministry, Larry Nwudu, however, stressed the need for a legal framework that meets international best practices.
“To attain this, there is need to ensure the continuous training and re-training of judges, lawyers and arbitration practitioners to enhance effective dispute resolution and administration of justice.
“There should be an inclusion of arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution in schools curricula, especially at the tertiary level and establishment of more arbitration institutions, as well as, develop the few existing ones to have global and capacity to administer diverse oil and gas disputes,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Chima Nweze, in a keynote address, titled, “Arbitration, Justice and the Rule of Law” remarked that a number of factors are working together to elevate arbitrators to a quasi-judicial status.
Justice Nweze said that arbitrators, like Judges, have a duty to act judicially, and that this duty is not merely owed to the parties, but also owed to the public.
He urged members of the institute to always uphold the vital standards of independence and competence throughout the country and give effect to contractual rights in accordance with substantive and procedural legal principles, thereby helping to ensure the rule of law and effective delivery of justice.
He also said that it is safe to conclude that Africa has achieved reasonable strides towards becoming an investment-friendly and resolution environment with the available arbitration laws and institutions in Africa. He added that what remains is for the sincere application of these laws within the institutional framework to promote greater efficiency.
“The role of the national courts and their disposition to support, rather than interfere in the application of other dispute resolution mechanisms, will go a long way in promoting Africa as a destination for investment,” he said.
Justice Nweze, therefore, said there is need for African governments to conscientiously drive infrastructural development that provides safe and efficient cities for arbitration.
The President and Chairman of council, NICArb, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, contended that there is a future for arbitration and ADR in Africa.
According to him, it is commendable that Nigerian government heeded the call by arbitration and ADR practitioners on the need to update arbitration laws.