In the past, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act served as the legal framework for ADR in Nigeria, but due to the rate of development globally, that act could not keep pace with current realities. The new Arbitration and Mediation Act (AMA) was finally enacted after being assented to by President Muhammad Buhari on 26 May 2023, and the Arbitration and Conciliation Act has now been repealed.
Fola Alade, a legal practitioner and one of the leading mediation attorneys in Nigeria, commented that, "With the Nigerian Arbitration and Mediation Act now in existence, we have left the era where lawyers will regard mediation with disdain. Now there is an urgent need for lawyers who are yet to get on the mediation train to do so – fast! This new Act has almost covered the entire scope of local and even international mediation practice. I say almost because there’s always room for improvement."
“The Arbitration and Mediation Act, 2023 will make Nigeria one of the leading countries in Africa in the development of alternative dispute resolution,” commented Oluwamayowa Olaoba, an associate at the International Trademark Association. “The country now has an adequate legal framework for ADR to address the current realities. This will attract foreign investors and will boost their confidence as they will be willing to invest knowing that, where disputes arise, they can be resolved amicably through arbitration or mediation.”
There has been an obvious need for strong self-regulation on arbitration and ADR practice in Nigeria, and a need to advance constructive and progressive legislation in this field. This new dawn for ADR can largely be attributed to the efforts of the National Committee on the Reform and Harmonisation of Arbitration & ADR Laws which has been working towards this point since 2005.
"AMA has brought with it a lot of innovations,” noted Olaoba, “including the introduction of the Arbitration Review Tribunal, considering that very few countries have such a tribunal. The review tribunal serves as an appellate body to ADR tribunals. Although some experts said it would cause complications as there would be prolonged hearings if a party is not satisfied with arbitral awards, thus defeating the purpose of arbitration, it will help to improve the finality of arbitral awards. Moreover, it serves as a review board where an arbitral award can be reviewed when a party is not satisfied with the settlements reached.”
Abdullahi A. Haroon, a Nigerian legal practitioner, said that, in his view, "The Arbitration and Mediation Act, 2023 comes with a number of significant innovations in line with international standards and best global practices, one of which is that non-Nigerians can be appointed as arbitrators and, subject to the agreement of parties, an arbitrator can also go on to act as a mediator in resolving the dispute.”
Apart from the socio-economic significance of the Act, it will help shape the future of ADR in Nigeria and will serve as a motivation for other African countries to follow suit.
To learn more about the dispute resolution landscape in Africa, read Africa Legal’s recent report on the subject, commissioned by the UK Ministry of Justice. From established arbitration centres to the adoption of mandatory court-annexed mediation, the continent is shifting gears, but challenges persist. Clickhereto download the report.
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