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Assenting To Arbitration, Mediation Act 2023 Best Thing To Happen To Nigeria – Ikwueto


…As College Pardons Buhari of All Sins for signing the Bill into law

By Chibuike Nwabuko

Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The Faculty President of the College of Arbitrators, Mr Patrick Ikwueto (SAN), has said that one of the best things to have happened to arbitration in Nigeria is assenting to Arbitration, Mediation Act 2023 and therefore tasked lawyers to see how they can exploit it to their advantage.

This is coming as lawyers in the country including Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) took turn to shower praises on former President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Arbitration and Mediation Act, 2023.

The singular act, according to them, is not only worth celebrating but also compelling to forgive the former president of any “sins” he might have committed.

The lawyers stated this at a seminar organised by the College of Arbitrators, Nigeria, on the theme: ‘The New Arbitration and Mediation Act, 2023: Prospects and Challenges which held in Abuja on Monday.

According to the senior lawyers, the signing of the bill into law on the eve of Buhari’s departure from office did not only repel the 35-year-old obsolete Arbitration and Conciliation Act, but has put the country on a sound pedestal to compete in international commerce and trade.

In an overview, a member of the college and erudite scholar, Prof. Paul Idornigie (SAN), stated that the new law has changed the landscape of arbitration and conciliation in the country.

Tracing efforts at making arbitration effective and efficient to the first bill sent to the National Assembly in 2006, Idornigie disclosed that he was overwhelmed with joy when the administration of President Buhari finally signed the bill into law, bringing results to a journey of nearly two decades.

“When I got the news that the president had signed the bill, I was so happy, I started texting, I started sharing” he said, “If the president committed any sin at all, we forgive him.”

Amongst some of the benefits of the new Act, he said is the right of an Arbitrator to step down or not when challenged by any party, adding that arbitrators now enjoy the immunity of judges in the regular courts.

He also applauded the section, which provides for the court to appoint arbitrators within 30 days if parties agree to go on arbitration.

Also speaking, another senior lawyer and International Arbitrator, Mrs Dorothy Ufot (SAN), observed that Nigeria will continue to be at the receiving end in international commerce unless conscious efforts are made to make our laws to not only conform with international best practices but must represent the daily changes in the political cum business world.

Ufot pointed out that one area Nigeria must get it right if the country must become a preferred seat for arbitration is the area of enforcement.

While observing that the length of time for bringing arbitration is one of the major constraints of arbitration and conciliation in Nigeria, she faulted the position of the Supreme Court which holds that in the event of an award enforcement starts from the day of the contract breach rather than from the day the award was made.

Ufot, however counselled lawyers to change the mindset and habit of fighting to the last “when it is obvious that they are losing the case”, adding that she had failed twice to enforce awards in favour of her clients in Nigeria.

Others however identified infrastructure and insecurity as a major bane in the practice of arbitration and conciliation in the country.

Sundiata Post recalls thst the seminar attracted huge participation from lawyers especially those with a bias for commercial law.

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