Written by Kome Oruade
An attractive characteristic of arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism is party autonomy; the freedom of having disputes resolved in a manner determined by the parties. Parties, especially those in a commercial contract, often desire customized dispute resolution procedures that are not available in the court system. For example, a contract might be on a specialized subject matter which the parties prefer to have an expert adjudicate on. The court system does not assure that a dispute will be assigned to a judge specialized on the subject matter. In another instance, parties may desire to have their dispute resolved within a certain timeframe necessitated by the nature of the contract. Again, there is no definite timeframe within which a court will resolve a dispute.
Parties, whether companies or individuals, doing business in nascent markets, want their disputes resolved justly and speedily. Hence, Dispute Resolution is one of the criteria measured by the World Bank in determining the Ease of Doing Business in a State. It is usual for commercial parties to include arbitration clauses in their contracts or submit to arbitration when disputes arise. In drafting arbitration clauses or submission agreements, any meticulous party will be careful about the choice of the seat of arbitration.
In this regard, parties prefer Seats that are pro-arbitration. The judicial attitude of the courts within a Seat gives an indication of whether the Seat is arbitration friendly. This law of the Seat is important as it places the arbitration within the domestic legal framework of the State’s jurisdiction. In Africa, some jurisdictions are considered more pro-arbitration than others. Leading among these are Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya. This article provides an indication of Nigeria’s position in the list of most-friendly arbitration Seats in Africa.