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Parties in arbitration must abide by errors they made — S/Court

By Henry Ojelu

The Supreme Court has held that since parties in a contract are bound by the terms of their contract, they must also be bound by errors and mistakes they made, condoned and invariably waived.

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The apex court made the pronouncement while delivering a judgement in an appeal emanating from an arbitration dispute between Dr. Charles Mekwunye and Christian Imoukhuede wherein the Court of Appeal had nullified an arbitrary award, a tenancy arbitration agreement between the parties on the basis of an error in the agreement.

Dr. Mekwunye had in 2006 dragged Imoukhuede before an abritration panel over a tenancy dispute between them. After the arbitration panel delivered its judgment in favour of Mekwunye, Imoukhuede approached the High Court of Lagos to nullify the arbitrary award which the High Court refused.

He further approached the Court of Appeal seeking to nullify the decision on several groundings including that there was an error in the arbitration agreement.

Imoukhude through his lawyers contended at the lower court, that while part of the arbitration clause in the tenancy agreement had stipulated that any dispute between parties must be settled by Chartered Institute of Arbitrators London, Nigeria branch, there was no such known body as the only Arbitration body then was Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, UK, Nigeria branch.

In its decision, the Court of Appeal giving a literal meaning to the interpretation of the clause, allowed the appeal and reversed the earlier decision of the arbitration panel affirmed by the High Court.

But the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision by all five Justices held that since parties in a contract are bound by the terms of their contract, they must also be bound by errors and mistakes they have condoned and waived.

In her concurring  judgment, Justice Mary Peter-Odili said: “I agree with the interpretation given by the trial court and I stand by it.”

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