New Developments in Arbitration Law and Practice in Nigeria (Final)
Conventionally, litigation was almost the sole means of resolving disputes judicially whether commercial or otherwise. This was in the western world. Historically, however, settlement, conciliation, mediation and arbitration had major roles to play in resolving disputes in Africa and indeed globally.
According to Akpata “Arbitration or mediation was used for resolving conflicts because of their emphasis on moral persuasion and their ability to maintain harmony in human relationship”.1 Arbitration is a means of resolving disputes. It starts by way of private negotiations between the parties to the effect that if in their commercial relationship a dispute arises, it will be resolved by persons (arbitral tribunal) appointed by the parties; conducted under the rules expressly or impliedly agreed upon by the parties and results in an award which is binding on the parties. Although the negotiations and arbitral proceedings are private, the award has public consequences as the award is recognized by states as binding and enforceable.
Indeed, in traditional African societies, any conflict or dispute was seen as social disequilibrium and any dispute resolution process adopted was an attempt to restore equilibrium. In such societies, we had various processes for resolving disputes. Sometimes it is difficult to ascribe a particular word like “settlement”, “mediation”, “conciliation”, “reconciliation”, “early neutral evaluation” or arbitration” to the process as they can be variants or an amalgam of all these processes.
For instance, when a traditional ruler is sitting over a matter, he may be settling, mediating, reconciling or arbitrating. In rural and some modern communities, these processes for resolving disputes still play a prominent role. Depending on the perspective adopted – whether Afrocentric or Eurocentric, what has emerged today as modern commercial arbitration evolved from customary jurisprudence in Africa and the practices of the law merchant in the United Kingdom.
In examining new developments in Arbitration Law and Practice in Nigeria, this chapter will trace the evolution of arbitration generally and specifically in Nigeria to determine what are the new developments.2
Historical Perspective Commercial arbitration must have existed since the dawn of commerce. All trade potentially involves disputes, and successful trade must have a means of dispute