In an effort to drive the development of arbitration practice in Nigeria, the Federal Government has urged legal practitioners to make Nigeria the seat of arbitration by suggesting that the nation be the venue of arbitration, especially where the subject-matter of the dispute involves the country.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN stated this on Thursday in a keynote address delivered at the 2022 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators (NICArb) held at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos.
Speaking on the theme of the conference which was “The Future of Arbitration and ADR in Africa: Developments and Sustainability”, Malami noted that 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.
He further said that this will help to achieve the objective of making Nigeria become an international arbitration centre, and towards achieving this goal, the Justice Minister promised that the government on its part would ensure the growth of arbitration by encouraging autonomy of arbitration organisation.
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, he said there is a need to ensure the continuous training and re-training of Judges, Lawyers and arbitration practitioners, to enhance effective dispute resolution and administration of justice.
Similarly, he stressed the inclusion of arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution in school curricula, especially at the tertiary level and the establishment of more arbitration institutions.
Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Chima Nweze, in a keynote address titled, “Arbitration, Justice and the Rule of Law”, remarked that several factors are working together to elevate arbitrators to a quasi-judicial status. He 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.
Justice Nweze urged members of the Institute to always uphold the vital standards of independence and competence throughout the country, and give effect to contractual rights following substantive and procedural legal principles, thereby helping to ensure the rule of law and effective delivery of justice.
He remarked 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 said what remains, are 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 further stated.
Justice Nweze stressed the need for African governments to conscientiously drive infrastructural development, that provides safe and efficient cities for arbitration.
The President and Chairman of the council, NICArb, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, SAN, in his remarks contended that there is a future for arbitration and ADR in Africa. Prof Ajogwu said it was commendable that the Nigerian Governmental has heeded the call by arbitration and ADR practitioners and the need to update arbitration laws.