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Olawuyi seeks national policy on arbitration 

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The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic, Research, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships (ARISP), Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Prof. Damilola Olawuyi, has called on stakeholders in the justice sector to urgently develop a national policy that would maximise the full value of the practice of arbitration in the country.

Olawuyi, a professor of law and Vice-Chair of the International Law Association (ILA) disclosed this in an online workshop organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS). 

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The event was hosted and moderated by NIALS Director-General, Prof Muhammad Tawfiq Ladan and featured the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Prof Paul 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 Francisca Nlerum of NIALS.

Prof Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG), chaired the event.

In his remarks, Prof. Olawuyi said even though arbitration has come to stay as a less adversarial, flexible, and effective means of achieving fair and timely resolution of disputes, its real potential and value is yet to be fully maximized in Nigeria.

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“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.

He emphasized the 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. According to him, the Act currently excludes non-commercial disputes in key sectors

The new amendment, he said, would address the perennial issue of undue judicial intervention in arbitration, establish clear deadlines for a stay of proceeding applications, introduce an award review tribunal, and most importantly integrate the use of efficient and modern technology for evidence and arbitral proceedings.

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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, Prof 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.

In his contributions, Uwa called for “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.”

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

She remarked that some of the challenges with the arbitration in Nigeria today are traceable to the absence of a national policy that could have provided the foundation for its maturity and development.

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

Prof Osipitan (SAN) appreciated the exceptional leadership roles of NIALS 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 could significantly contribute to the government’s ongoing economic diversification efforts.

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