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Stakeholders urge modern arbitration law in Nigeria

By Joseph Onyekwere
05 December 2017   |   4:28 am
Stakeholders have harped on the need to enact modern arbitration law in Nigeria so as to make the country an arbitration hub for the numerous African cases that are heard outside the continent.

Mr. Hamid Abdulkareem, Partner, Aluko & Oyebode (left); Professor Emmanuel Gaillard, Head, International Arbitration, Shearman & Sterling LLP; Mrs Funke Adekoya (SAN), Partner, Aelex and Director, LCA; Mr. Isaiah Bozimo, Partner, Broderick Bozimo and Mr. Adewale Atake, Partner, Templars during the LCA/Shearman & Sterling International Arbitration in Nigeria Conference in Lagos.

Stakeholders have harped on the need to enact modern arbitration law in Nigeria so as to make the country an arbitration hub for the numerous African cases that are heard outside the continent.

This was the consensus opinion of arbitration stakeholders last week during an international arbitration conference held at the Lagos Court of Arbitration (LCA) with the theme: “International Arbitration in Nigeria; current practice under the New York Convention” in conjunction with Shearman and Sterling LLP.

International arbitrator, Professor Emmanuel Gaillard, partner, Shearman and Sterling LLP, who spoke on “The New York Convention: an international perspective” lamented that a lot of arbitration cases which emanates from Africa are heard outside the continent.

He said putting in place good laws, judges and infrastructure would reverse the trend. “There are lots of African parties involved in arbitration and a lot of that goes outside of Africa. That should change. To change that, this country should be serious about it. There should be a tweak to the law to make it more arbitration friendly.

“One idea would be for us to centralize the jurisdiction of certain courts to have competence on arbitration. This would help judges get exposed to arbitration and develop a case law,” he said.

Gaillard, who alongside Prof. George Bermann prepared a guide on the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards under the New York Convention (NYC), said the guide aims to promote the uniform and effective interpretations and application of the NYC with a view to limiting the risk that state practice might diverge from its spirit.

He however, emphasized that the application of the uniform guide must comply with public policy of the arbitral jurisdiction.

Partner, Aelex, Mrs. Olufunke Adekoya (SAN), spoke on the “Procedural requirements for the enforcement of convention awards in Nigeria: what do you need to do?”

She explained that the NYC lays down the principles for the enforcement of arbitration disputes, while the United Nations Commission on International Trade Laws (UNCITRAL) fashions out arbitration law for countries. “It does not include how to enforce it. It states the basis upon which an award can be set aside, but the NYC sets out the procedure where you can have an award in Nigeria and enforce it in London, South Africa, Israel and vice versa. So it is the enforcement across countries that the convention deals with,” she stated.

According to her, Article III of the NYC allows the country of enforcement to establish rules of procedure for recognition and enforcement of Convention awards.

Because Nigerian courts take procedural requirements seriously, it is therefore important, she stressed, for a party requiring the recognition and enforcement of a foreign arbitral award to be aware of the national procedural rules that will apply to its award.

Other speakers were Mr. Adewale Ateke, partner, Templars, who shared his view on “Article 11 (3) of the NYC: Where do Nigerian courts stand?”

Isaiah Bozimo, partner, Broderick Bozimo discussed “NYC’s influence on the enforcement of arbitration agreements in Nigeria” while Hamid Abdulkareem, partner, Aluko Oyebode presented a paper on the “Enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in Nigeria: the influence of the NYC.”