By Onozure Dania
STAKEHOLDERS in the judiciary sector have been advised to make sure that law students are not only taught how to litigate but also how to resolve disputes through the Alternative Dispute Resolution ADR. A United States District Court, Northern District of California Judge, James Ware, said for Nigeria to make ADR part of societal norms that is embraced by all, it has to change its perspective.
Judge James disclosed this during the 2015 Chief G. O. Sodipo annual memorial lecture that was held at the Regional Centre for Commercial Arbitration, Alfred Rewane Road, Ikoyi, Lagos Titled: ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution At a Glance’, where the retired jurist was a guest speaker and delivered a paper titled: ‘Five Principles That Led U.S. Courts To Adopt ADR.’
He urged the Nigerian judiciary to emulate the justice system of the United States whose mission of system of justice is the just, speedy and inexpensive resolution of disputes. In his words: ‘Teach them to litigate, effective rules of evidence, legal logic but also teach them to negotiate; to mediate; the miracle of dialogue; that compromise to not defeat; because by definition it involves give and take; introduce them to the bar as new litigators and solicitors but also as skilled at figuring out what is necessary to resolve disputes.’
Also speaking on: ‘Arbitration and Mediation in Nigeria How it Works’, Mrs. Olusola Adegbonmire, said that arbitration and mediation were two Alternative Dispute Resolution procedures that are just beginning to gain ground in Nigeria although they have been in existence in different forms for many years.
Delivering her paper entitled: “Arbitration Clauses”, Mrs. Obosa Akpata, said that for any arbitration to become enforceable by the court, parties involved must have consented to resolve their dispute by arbitration which must state clearly that parties have agreed to a binding arbitration.
She said that parties must consider a number of factors when drafting their arbitration agreement which include: number of arbitrators to be appointed; method of selecting the arbitrators; where parties decide on an institutional arbitration, the proper name of the institution must be inserted; language of the arbitration; applicable arbitration law and arbitration rules; choice of arbitrator; confidentiality and the seat of the arbitration.
She also stated that where the arbitration agreement is silent on any of these factors, the rules of the applicable law would apply. “One of the advantages of arbitration is the autonomy enjoyed by the parties in deciding how they want their arbitration conducted. The parties can exercise this autonomy when drafting their arbitration agreement to ensure that they derive the utmost benefit from the process.
“Considering the effect (positive or negative) an arbitration agreement could have on the process and outcome of the arbitration proceedings, parties owe an obligation to themselves to ensure that they carefully tailor their arbitration agreement to suit their peculiar needs while ensuring that the essential requirements of a valid arbitration are satisfied.”
Also speaking at the event, Chief Akingbola Akinola, in his paper titled: ‘Enforcement of Arbitral Awards’, noted that arbitration as an alternative to litigation must not lose its primary benefit of speedy dispensation of justice. He urged the judiciary, parties and indeed stakeholders to err on the side of caution when it comes to recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards so as to avoid relegating the arbitration to the level of litigation. He said: “If parties who have agreed on going through with arbitration would after the conclusion of arbitration process be subjected to a cumbersome and time consuming process of enforcement of award, then, it will appear that they would have been better off with litigation.”
In his welcome address, former Dean, School of Law and Security Studies, Babcock University, Professor Bankole Sodipo, while listing past speakers and chairmen since inception of the annual lecture 15 years ago, said he made no attempt to deal with the issues because lecture aims at stimulating discussion; identifying challenges; influencing formulation and execution of policy.