The Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators (NICArb) on Thursday appealed to President Mohammadu Buhari to assent to the Arbitration Act already passed by the Senate.
Mrs Shola Oshodi-John, the Acting Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of the institute, made the appeal at a press briefing to kick-start the institute’s 2022 Annual Conference.
The theme of the NICArb 2022 conference is: “The Future of Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Africa: Developments and Sustainability.”
Oshodi-John said the Arbitration Act, if assented to, would put Nigeria on the global map as a dispute resolution friendly country, thereby, attracting investments.
“Without the new Arbitration Act in place, then all that we do in terms of trying to put Nigeria out there as a friendly dispute resolution country, would be more of a rhetoric than reality.
“The truth of the matter is, if we say that Nigeria is doing so well when it comes to arbitration, and mediation and order forms of ADR, and we’re still using a bill that is over two decades old, then we are playing, actually just scratching the surface.
“So, if we want Nigeria to be taken seriously internationally, we must ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari assents to the new arbitration and mediation act before he leaves office,” she said.
Oshodi-John also said if the Act was not urgently assented to, all the efforts put in by the arbitration committee, drafters and policymakers in ensuring that Nigeria was up to speed, would be futile.
Speaking on the conference scheduled to hold between Nov. 24 and 25, the Registrar said: “We are expecting over 50 seasoned national and international professionals to speak on an array of topics including the impact of arbitration in crypto currency and fintech related disputes.
According to her, the world is now a global village, and Africa being a part, has in the last two years had conversations around Africa free trade agreements.
She said Nigeria had a lot of natural and human resources and should not be caught napping, specifically, with the opportunities brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic to measure up with other countries.
The Chairman, Organising Commitee of the conference, Barr Uche Obi, SAN, said the theme of the conference would speak to quite a number of novel issues around arbitration and ADR.
Obi harped on the need for an effective conflict resolution to drive economic growth and how arbitration could reduce dockets in the judicial system.
“The beautiful thing about this is that when a country has an efficient dispute resolution mechanism, such as arbitration, this will attract investment into the country.
“Among other topics for discussions at the conference are issues about digital tools, other things that can make an impression, environmentally friendly, green arbitration,” he said.
According to him, arbitration is an alternative to litigation, but it is not everything that is arbitrable.
“For instance, some of our oil and gas laws have provisions that you have to resort to arbitration before doing certain things and some of our labour laws also have such provisions.
“So apart from those specific legislations that makes arbitral proceedings mandatory in some circumstances, typically it is consensual.
“So the parties will have to agree at the time they are entering the agreement, how their disputes will be resolved through arbitration,” he said.
Obi added that the quest to make arbitration more popular was one of the reasons the conference was being convened, to deepen the process of arbitration and the usage of it in Nigeria and Africa in general.
He also said 1,000 arbitrators would be inducted during the conference while highlighting some of the speakers as; Hon. Justice Centus Nweze, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Amina Augie and Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Others are: Kazeem Alogba, Chief Judge of Lagos State and Severin Quenum, Minister of Justice and Legislation of the Benin Republic.