Mr Olatunde Busari, Chairman, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Nigeria, has said that there is the need for the Federal Government to formulate a national arbitration policy to prevent judgement debts and boost foreign exchange.
He made the comment at the two-day annual conference of the body with the theme “Positioning Africa: The Changing Landscape in Alternative Dispute Resolution” which took place at Landmark Hotels, Lagos.
The conference had more than 600 delegates from 12 countries in five continents across the world.
He said that the theme was focused on the number of changes currently taking place at the global and regional scenes, which would in no small measure impact alternative dispute resolution
“The theme is so apt for this period because so many contemporary issues are coming to the fore and a conference like this is required and also a good opportunity for us to have an intellectual discuss o these issues.
“It is imperative to improve the capacity of dispute resolvers in African countries as Africa embarks on the road to greater intra-Africa trade as well as increase trade with countries outside the continent.
“The instrument is regarded as a long-sought mechanism to give cross-border disputants the confidence that, if they engage in mediation of international commercial disputes, any resulting agreement will be enforceable by its terms.
“As mediation takes centre-stage in the new UN treaty on mediation, it has become necessary to undertake an in-depth study of the Singapore Convention and its implication for cross-border settlement in Nigeria.
“Arbitrability and the enforcement of arbitral awards are at the centre of any arbitration process.
“It touches on the capacity and jurisdiction of the arbitrator or the arbitral tribunal to embark on arbitration with respect to any matter referred to them.
“The public policy reason for non-arbitrability of certain disputes is borne out of public desire to protect the state and public interest.
“Enforcement and enforceability of arbitral awards give credence to the process resulting in the expansion and increasing use of arbitration.
“For this reason, arbitrability and public policy considerations have become a recurrent issue faced by arbitrators, judges, contract drafters and other stakeholders.
“With the increasing use of arbitration as a mechanism for dispute resolution in various industries, there is a rise of specialist arbitrations such as Sport Arbitration, Islamic Finance Arbitration and Energy Arbitration,” he said.
Busari said that the conference would provide the opportunity to discuss, identify challenges and proffer ways to advance arbitration in Africa in terms of standard and quality of services and support infrastructure.
The purpose of adopting a code of ethics for ADR practitioners in alternative dispute resolution is to serve not only as a guide but as a point of reference for users of the process in promoting public confidence in dispute resolution techniques.
“Indeed, several initiatives are being put in place to address some of the concerns militating against the optimization of the benefits of ADR in African countries.
“We hope that we can all together place Africa on the world map by making Africa an arbitration and ADR destination for users,” he said.
Mr Kariuki Muigua, chartered arbitrator, Africa Trustee, said that ADR is not a new concept in Africa but is a way of life.
According to him, Africans have been known for hundreds of years that they can sit down and negotiate, meditate and arbitrate. Good neighbourliness, harmony and peace have been a key pillar of African societies.
“ADR is known for its attributes of informality, cost-effectiveness and its capacity to ensure relations between individuals and communities remain intact.
“Arbitration has been used to settle disputes in the commercial and other sectors. Arbitration has the effect of building bridges across legal jurisdictions.
“Africa was the leader in ADR. It should aim to re-position itself as the leader in this modern world.
“Africa should be at the forefront in the ADR sphere. ADR practitioners and the practice itself face many challenges like insufficient infrastructure.
“Low uptake of arbitration and ADR, unsupportive legal systems, travel restrictions, insufficient use of technology; and huge costs associated with arbitration.
“We must find a way to surmount these challenges and take our rightful place with the eagles of the top of the mountain,” he said.