*Says The AfCFTA Provides Another Opportunity To Arbitration And Other ADR Practitioners For Seamless Disputes Resolution
*Says Lagos Govt Has Intensified Efforts To Make Lagos A Hub For Arbitration

The Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators, NICArb, has said that the social distancing necessitated by the outbreak of Covid-19 has provided an opportunity for arbitration to thrive

This is contained in a communique of the Institution after its Annual Conference and Investiture which was held from November 18-19, 2021 made available to TheNigeriaLawyer.

NICArb noted further that the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) has, despite the complexity of its cases, provided another opportunity for arbitration and other ADR Practitioners to have seamless disputes resolution adding that Lagos State Government has Intensified efforts to make Lagos a hub for arbitration.

Read the Communique below

COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE NIGERIAN INSTITUTE OF CHARTERED ARBITRATORS ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND INVESTITURE AWARD CEREMONY

The Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators (NICArb) held her 2021 Annual Conference from the 18th to 19th of November 2021. It was themed: Disruption and The New Normal in Arbitration/ADR- A Way Forward.

The focus of the Conference was to provide a forum for users, experts, and practitioners in arbitration and other ADRs across sectors in the African Continent and beyond, to discuss, share knowledge and proffer solutions from the aftermath of COVID 19 disruptions. Although the impact is felt differently among nations, the consequential effect on arbitration and other forms of ADR remains a thing of great concern. The presentations therefore showed that practitioners must continue to evolve ways of surmounting them and move the arbitration practice forward, despite the limitations. The disruption has created a new narrative and a new normal and the expectation is for a the more pragmatic approach of fashioning a way forward to adapt to the disruption and harness the benefits of the resultant changes.

This 2021 hybrid conference sought to, amongst other things, propose a viable way forward in harnessing the benefits of the new normal for the arbitration and ADR community, with particular focus on the challenges of the African continent.

The conference had over 200 delegates physically and over 100 delegates online with about 50 speakers from all over the world who participated in the annual conference. The Conference commenced with the welcome remarks by Sir Oladipo Opeseyi, SAN, FCArb, Chairman, 2021 Annual Conference Planning Committee, while the welcome address was delivered by Professor Fabian Ajogwu, SAN, incoming President and Chairman of Governing Council of the institute. The opening ceremony was graced by H.E. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, the Executive Governor of Lagos State, ably represented by the Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN and Honourable Justice Rita N. Pemu, Justice of the Court of Appeal, the keynote address speaker. In total there were nine plenary sessions and 2 opening sessions.

The highlights of discussions surrounding the presentations in the various sessions were as follows:

1. The Covid 19 social distancing world has brought virtual meetings to the fore for many businesses and government organs including courts. The arbitration community and the ADR community in general is better equipped to take the stage and lead in the resolution of issues between disputing parties who are confined to their rooms because of the ban on international travels.

2. The arbitration community and the ADR community in general is also better equipped to lead in the resolution of commercial issues with its more efficient procedures and ease with which its procedures can be adopted to the virtual environment limited only by the consent of the parties.

3. The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement provides another opportunity and huge prospect for arbitration and other ADR practitioners to take the centre stage and ensure dispute settlement among state parties are resolved with efficient, rule based transparent approach and promoting virtual proceedings is definitely the way to go despite the complexities of such cases.

5. NICArb’s global network and indeed that of other African countries means that it can develop and implement localised strategies for meeting these goals. Working collectively these countries can accomplish each of these strategies, aims and continue its rightful place as the world class certification and professional body for dispute avoidance and management.

4. The Lagos State Government has intensified efforts to make Lagos State a hub for arbitration processes both internationally and domestic. This will assist to guarantee investors that their investments are safe and guided by the rule of law and by so doing, boost investment and investor’s confidence.

7. Unlike litigation, arbitration presents a new frontier in today’s evolving world, and this represents the future which Lagos State has embraced and as theme of the Conference shows, we are in the new normal which shows that potential technology is not destructive to the rule of law but an enabler to increase access to justice.

8. There is a need to understand the underlying concept of the digital economy and there are certain types of technology that go beyond the digital technology such as artificial intelligence, block chain, cloud computing and peak data. Those four things are changing the dynamics of the economy and dispute resolution must adapt to this change.

9. The future of Arbitration and the future of the world is remote, decentralised, and digital. This means there is a fusion for in person and virtual experience referred to as a hybrid and that is the future of Arbitration proceedings.

10. The Rules applicable to arbitration in Nigeria needs to pay attention to digital evidence itself because when platforms for commercial activity changes and everything literally becomes digital, it would shape the future. From this point on, evidence and all that comes to the arbitration platform will change such as how to gather evidence, preserve evidence and present evidence.

11. The digital economy in Nigeria is underpinned by pillars, three of which are,
a) Developmental realities- the rules that must be adapted to fit into the digital realities.
b) Digital infrastructure – connectivity and apps which must be secure, and this includes soft infrastructure such as digital identity.
c) Digital capacity-ability to maximise the use of the digital infrastructure.

12. A comprehensive cybersecurity and data protection protocol is important for the proper use of Online Dispute Resolution. Parties must agree on what will be done with the data used during and after the arbitration proceedings. This agreement must also include what would happen if there is a security breach or a hack during the arbitration proceeding.

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