..says innovations in oil sector introduced new legal regimes
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Tuesday, asked Judges across the federation to expedite hearing of cases pending in their courts.
The CJN equally enjoined judges to always encourage litigants to explore Alternative Dispute Resolution methods, such as Arbitration and Mediation.
Justice Onnoghen spoke at the opening ceremony of a workshop on Nigerian Local Content Development and Monitoring (Law & Policy) for Justices and Judges, organised by the Nigerian Content Development and Management Board in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute, NJI.
He maintained that speedy resolution of disputes would assure investors and other major players in the Oil and Gas industry that their investments are safe.
However, the CJN noted that recent innovations in the oil and gas sector introduced new legal regimes he said made it necessary for judges to be brought up to date with emerging developments and trends in jurisprudence within the sector.
According to the CJN, “The Workshop is organised with the objective of keeping our Justices and Judges abreast with the role of the Judiciary in ensuring mastery of the dealings in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria
“Indeed, the adjudicatory duty of a Judge can only be performed optimally when he remains up to date with the emerging developments and trends in jurisprudence pertaining to the oil and gas sector.
“The theme of this Workshop is “The Role of the Judiciary in the Effective Development of Nigerian Content in the Oil and Gas Industry”.
“This Workshop seeks to highlight matters that are germane and critical to the ongoing reforms being experienced in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
“The recent innovations in the oil and gas industry have inevitably introduced new legal regimes that will impact on the quality of justice delivery. I believe that this forum will be extremely beneficial to you in the performance of your duties and by extension the society at large.
“It is our responsibility as Judicial Officers to sustain the public confidence reposed in the Judiciary. Hence, you must be seen to be knowledgeable in the law and be in charge of your courts to ensure speedy resolution of disputes which in turn serves to assure investors and other major players in the Oil and Gas industry that their investments are safe.
“It is on record, My Lords, that the timely interventions of the court at critical points in this country have certainly contributed in no small measure to the peace and stability of the country today.
“I make bold to say, without any fear of contradiction, that the Nigerian Judiciary is a key partner in ensuring stability in the oil and gas sector by interpretation of the relevant laws to the industry.
“In this regard, I must not fail to emphasize that you must have recourse to the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010 when adjudicating over disputes related to Oil and Gas Servicing and Exploration Contracts as the clauses contained in such agreements must respect the stipulation of the Act with regard to deployment of local expertise and manpower in the downstream sector.
“In addition, permit me to say that as Judicial Officers, you are expected to encourage the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution methods, such as Arbitration and Mediation, which will engender the expeditious resolution of cases in the industry. You must therefore adhere to my directive on invocation of arbitration clauses in commercial agreements prior to institution of actions allegedly arising from breach of such contracts.
“My Lords, it is my expectation that participants will be enlightened on global best practices and measures adopted by regulators in resolving disputes arising in this sphere of the economy”.
In her remarks, the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute, NJI, Justice Rosaline Bozimo, said the workshop was aimed at exposing judicial officers to legal and technical aspects of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.
On his part, the Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Wobote, solicited the support of the judiciary to achieve the board’s drive to create wealth for local businesses.
Wobote stressed that an enabling regulatory framework backed with the appropriate legislation was fundamental for sustainable local content practice.