A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba SAN has said that inefficient judicial system is costing Nigeria a lot in the Arbitration space. He stated this during the 2023 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law. He noted that people are reluctant to choose Nigeria as a seat of Arbitration because of situations where the losing party often challenges Arbitration Awards in court. He further noted that the Court must be efficient and provide an enabling environment for Arbitration to thrive. He advocated for an African Arbitration centre as the best way of drawing Arbitration to Africa.

The panel which dissected the topic: “Forging a Path to Effective Commercial Dispute Resolution in Africa: Exploring the Need for an African Arbitration Centre” included Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN (Senior Partner and Head of the Arbitration and ADR, Olisa Agbakoba Legal), Mr Chukwuka Ikwuazom, SAN (Partner, Aluko & Oyebode), Mrs Folashade Alli (Principal Partner, Folashade Alli & Associates), Mr Jide Adesokan (Partner, Stephenson Harwood), Mazi Afam Osigwe, SAN (Managing Partner, Law Forte), Prof. Wale Olawoyin, SAN (President, Lagos Court Of Arbitration). The session analyzed the significance of resolving disputes and the level of trust that investors place in a nation’s legal system. It explored how this trust plays a vital role in attracting foreign investment and promoting long-term sustainable development.

On forging the way to effective dispute resolution, Mrs Alli stated that the new Arbitration and Mediation Act 2023 makes it compulsory (save for exceptional reasons) to enforce an award. She noted that under the Act, an Award Review Tribunal can review an award (based on the grounds in the New York Convention) within 6 months and that an emergency Arbitrator can now be appointed to deal with interim issues before the panel is constituted.

Jide Adesokan stated that Arbitration drives investment, and enumerated the expectation of foreign investors in Arbitration such as general reputation of seat of Arbitration, impartiality of Court, National Arbitration law, and ease of enforcement track record of the court. He proposed the creation of a specialized Arbitration Court to be manned by Commercial Court Judges which will allow for predictability and stability; and indemnity cost to serve as a deterrent.

Ikwuazom SAN stated that Lawyers are to be blamed for the challenges in enforcing Arbitral Awards. He stressed the need to train judges in Arbitration.

Speaking on the need for an African Arbitration centre, Afam Osigwe SAN noted that with the AfCFTA Agreement and the rising case of Arbitration matters, there should be an Arbitration centre which African member countries can join, creating rules for its operations which can build credibility in due course.

Professor Olawoyin SAN, the Panel Moderator talked about the ongoing plans for collaborations among about 70 Arbitration centres in Africa which he termed the ACCORD.

The Session explored strategies for turning Lagos, and indeed the entire nation into a hub for commercial dispute resolution for the African continent.