Lawyers in the practice of dispute resolution have been urged to make Nigeria the seat of arbitration.
This charge to legal practitioners in the country is coming from the federal government through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, on Thursday.
Malami in a keynote address delivered at the 2022 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators, NICArb, titled: “The Future of Arbitration and ADR in Africa: Developments and Sustainability,” held at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos said 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.
Malami pledged that government on its part would ensure the growth of arbitration by encouraging autonomy of arbitration organisation in order to achieve the objective of making the country to become an international arbitration centre.
The Minister who was represented by a director in his ministry, Larry Nwudu, stressed the need for a legal framework that meets international best practices.
According to him, there is need to ensure the continuous training and re-training of judges, lawyers and arbitration practitioners in order to enhance effective dispute resolution and administration of justice.
In the same vein, he stressed the inclusion of arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution in schools curricular especially at the tertiary level and establishment of more arbitration institutions.
Also, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Chima Nweze, in a keynote address titled, “Arbitration, Justice and the Rule of Law” expressed that a number of 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.
The judge also urged members of the institute to always uphold the vital standards of independence and competence throughout the country and give effect to contractual rights in accordance with substantive and procedural legal principles, thereby helping to ensure the rule of law and effective delivery of justice.
Justice Nweze said 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 is for the sincere application of these laws within the institutional framework to promote greater efficiency.
In his words, “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 also harped on the need for African governments to conscientiously drive infrastructural development that provides safe and efficient cities for arbitration.
The President and Chairman of Council, NICArb, Professor Fabian Ajogwu, in his remarks contended that there is a future for arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR, in Africa.
Prof Ajogwu praised the Nigerian government for heeding the call by arbitration and ADR practitioners and acknowledging the need to update arbitration laws.