Nigeria’s National Judicial Institute has issued a strong statement of judicial policy in support of arbitration. In a letter dated 26 May 2017 and written to all Heads of Court, the Chief Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Hon. Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON, FNJI, who also chairs the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute, deprecated the practice where courts indulge parties who commence litigation in disputes arising from contracts with arbitration clauses. The Chief Justice emphasized the importance of arbitration in encouraging foreign investments, and counselled that arbitration “needs the support and encouragement of the judiciary”.
Although the Nigerian judiciary has historically been supportive of arbitration agreements, a number of decisions in recent times have drawn criticism. Some judges have refused to stay court proceedings that one party initiated in breach of an arbitration agreement, citing reasons such as: (i) the failure of the other party to commence arbitration or (ii) the interests of third parties who were not privy to the arbitration agreement.