A legal luminary has stressed the impor tance of arbitration as a complementary process to litigation in Nigeria.
Chief Magistrate Ekaete Efobi stated this in a magazine publication during the 2019/2020 legal year organized by the Akwa Ibom Judiciary at the Multi-purpose Hall, Judiciary Headquarters Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo, recently.
Efobi noted that arbitration in Nigeria is quickly developing as many people resort to arbitration as a means of resolving disputes among themselves arbitration attracting patronage basically because it is quicker than litigation, cheap, devoid of technicalities and conciliatory in nature. One of the ways and most civilized method of settling dispute is arbitration, whereby those concerned agree to submit the dispute to a third party in whom both have confidence and undertake to abide by the decision of the said party.
The chief magistrate maintained that arbitration is a mechanism for the resolution of disputes which takes place usually in private, pursuant to an agreement between two or more parties, under which the parties agree to be bound by the decision to be given by the arbitrator according to law or, if so agreed, other considerations after a few hearing such decisions being enforceable at law.
She said in Nigeria arbitration is principally governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The act in section I demands that every arbitration agreement shall be in writing.
The implication of this is that any agreement targeted at resolution of dispute through arbitration that is not in writing cannot be subjected to the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
Efobi said other types of arbitration, like customary arbitration, are thus left unregulated save for the court's pronouncements on them which are replete with contradictions and incoherencies. Even where there is already a written agreement to submit to arbitration in line with the dictates of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, some sections of the Act are conflicting with other sections while some other sections are replete with errors. The concomitant effect of the foregoing is that commercial arbitration practice in Nigeria is heavily hampered.
She explained that party autonomy in arbitration means the right of the parties to an arbitration agreement to determine the way and manner an arbitral proceeding shall be conducted subjected to any statutory mandatory provision. It is an indispensable hub of the arbitral process without it arbitration will be deprived of its essence.
Besides, excess of it may likewise render arbitration as an unattractive adjudication process repugnant to natural justice and public policy. "So it must be balance, she added.