NICArb To Discuss Effect of COVID-19 On Arbitration At Annual Conference

NICArb To Discuss Effect of COVID-19 On Arbitration At Annual Conference

The effects of COVID-19 pandemic and its unexpected disruption in the arbitration business landscape will be the focus of the 2021 annual conference of the Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators (NICArb).

The conference, which has the theme: ‘Disruption and the New Normal in Arbitration/ADR in Africa: A Way Forward’, seeks to proffer solutions in the wake of COVID-19 disruptions on how to improve the use and practice of Arbitration/ADRs to create an environment that attracts investment and investor confidence, and a roadmap for dispute resolution under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

According to the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of the Institute, Mrs. Sola Oshodi-John, this year’s conference will be the first Hybrid Annual Conference held by NICArb.

The registrar explained that the disruption has created a new narrative and a new normal with the advent of online dispute resolution, digital economy, online trade in goods and services, amongst others.

She said: “At the inception of the pandemic, everyone had thought that it would soon fizzle away and that things would return to the old ways. That expectation has long been dropped for the more pragmatic approach of fashioning a way forward in order to adapt to the disruption and harness the benefits of the resultant changes.

“This conference seeks to, amongst other things, propose a viable way towards harnessing the benefits of the new normal for the arbitration and ADR community, with particular focus on the challenges of the African continent.

“There shall also be a discussion on an overview of the current trends in the digital economy and their implications for consumer protection and competition policies.”

She said speakers at the conference will be opportuned to review emerging issues in consumer protection in electronic commerce (e-commerce), in particular, how it relates to legal and policy frameworks, consumer empowerment and business guidance, enforcement, dispute resolution and redress.

“More so, the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in January this year led to the assessment of preparation made so far by the Nigerian government and Nigerians to engage the process, emphasizing dispute resolution.

“However, the loophole here is that AfCFTA DSM gives the capacity to bring actions under the agreement only to states. Thus, private actors (non-state actors) are eliminated from the dispute settlement arrangement. This seems problematic because the major operators in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are private persons.

“The agreement’s leaning towards a state-state arbitration poses some questions, which shall be addressed by erudite scholars at the conference,” it said.

The statement added that during the conference, there shall be an extensive discussion on the ethics and integrity in arbitration, as the quality and success of arbitration are as good as the arbitrators involved in the proceedings.

Oshodi-John said: “One of the fundamental principles in arbitration is the arbitrator’s impartiality, ethics, and integrity during the arbitration process. Therefore, international law and arbitration institutions impose varying ethical and integrity standards on arbitrators, emphasising impartiality and independence. The new normal has thrown up more challenges in respect of the ethical standards expected of the arbitrator, some of which are quite novel and others far-reaching.”

Another interesting topic for discussion at the hybrid conference is the challenge of enforcement of arbitral awards in sub- Saharan Africa.

She disclosed that at the end of the two-day conference, NICArb will also launch its Arbitration Centre and Arbitration Rules.

NICArb is the premier arbitration institute in HB Nigeria founded in 1979 under the leadership of former Attorney General of Nigeria and former judge of the World Court at The Hague, Judge Bola Ajibola (SAN), and duly incorporated in 1988 under the Companies Act as a legal entity Limited by Guarantee.

Dignitaries expected at the conference include Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo as Special Guest of Honour; and Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State.

Keynote speakers include: Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment; Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) Attorney General of Federation and Minister for Justice, Nigeria; Prof. Emmanuel Sibidi Darakoum, Permanent Secretary, Organisation for Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa (OHADA); Justice Rita Nosakhare Pemu; Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State; Dr (Mrs.) Lola Akande, Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, amongst others dignitaries.

 

Culled from Thisday

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