Introduction to Commercial Arbitration
Conventionally, litigation was almost the sole means of resolving disputes, whether commercial or otherwise. Historically, however, conciliation, mediation and arbitration had major roles to play in resolving disputes in Nigeria and indeed globally.
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 “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 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 arbitration2 evolved from customary jurisprudence in Africa and the practices of the law merchant in the United Kingdom.The problems of delay, technicality, corruption, formality and absence of privacy associated with litigation are well known. This has generated interest in arbitration and
the other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes. Generally, arbitration, on its part, has significant features. They include:
Agreement to arbitrate – is the foundation stone of modern commercial arbitration3 . This distinguishes arbitration from litigation. Such agreement must be valid. The need for the agreement to be valid is recognized by national laws4 and international treaties5.