Barristers & Solicitors
Institute Launches Arbitration Scheme

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK Nigeria Branch has launched an arbitration scheme for small businesses.

Its Chairperson, Mrs Doyin Rhodes-Vivour, said with the scheme, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) no longer need to spend long years in court over minor disputes.

According to her, MSMEs were key to economic growth, therefore they needed to resolve disputes in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

“We recognise that MSMEs are an integral part of the Nigerian economy, and that if they do not have access to timely and cost effective dispute resolution, it can affect their growth, which can affect the economy.

“The scheme is to ensure that we provide MSMEs access to cost effective dispute resolution. You can spend 15 years in the court trying to resolve a dispute. You can imagine the impact of that on your business, not to talk of the bad publicity,” she said.

She said the process was party-driven in which disputants choose who resolves their disagreement.

“We have a list of arbitrators of the institute who have signed on to the scheme. When a dispute arises, parties will have the option to choose an arbitrator. If they want us to appoint for them, we will.

“Arbitrators who signed onto this scheme have agreed to accept a reduced rate, all in the public interest. This is a service, a commitment that we have taken on,” Rhodes-Vivour said.

On the cost, she said the scheme involves the payment of a non-refundable administrative fee of N10,000.

“For commercial disputes with monetary value from N250,000 to N1million, the arbitrator’s fee is fixed at N50,000 and all other recoverable arbitration and party expenses will be capped at a maximum of N25,000.

“For disputes with monetary value from N1 million to N2 million, the arbitrator’s fee shall be fixed at N100,000 and all other recoverable and party expenses capped at N50,000.

“For commercial disputes with monetary value from N2million to N5million, the arbitrator’s fee shall be fixed at N250,000 and all other recoverable and party expenses capped at N100,000,” she said.

Chairman of the Schemes Committee, Mr Juwon Adenuga, said through the scheme, parties get a court judgment quicker without passing through a long litigation process, adding that decisions reached (awards) are enforceable just like court verdicts.

“The scheme proposes that you have an award in 90 days. An arbitration agreement is a pre-requisite for an arbitration to take place. It is strongly advised, therefore, that recommended arbitration clause is inserted in contract documents or  at least on invoices or receipts issued in the course of business transactions, provided recipients of invoices sign on them in acceptance of the arbitration agreement.

“In the absence of arbitration clause, a submission agreement or a jointly signed application for appointment of an arbitrator will be taken as consent of both parties to submit to arbitration,” he said.

There was a panel of discussion chaired by former Attorney-General of the Federation Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN). It featured former chairman of the branch Mr Babajide Ogundipe, former Lagos Attorney-General Olasupo Shasore (SAN), the institute’s third vice chairperson, Mrs Sola Adegbonmire, and arbitration experts Mrs Ososa Akpata, Mr Emeka Azinge and Mr Adenuga.

Ojo described arbitration as a win-win situation in which disputes are resolved timeously, efficiently and in a cost effective manner. “There is no disadvantage whatsoever,” he said.

Shasore said with the scheme, small businesses no longer need to resolve disputes in police stations.

“Efficient dispute resolution will boost the rule of law and confidence in the justice system. Everybody should be excited about what this scheme will do,” he said.

Lagos State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Prince Rotimi Ogunleye, said the scheme came at a time the economy needed more patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods to boost MSMEs.

“This innovative ADR scheme will essentially expand the frontiers of MSMEs’ contribution to the state’s and nation’s economy as inevitable transactional disputes will be resolved expeditiously through the avoidance of the pitfalls and challenges in the conventional judicial processes,” he said.

President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) Prof Segun Ajibola,  in a goodwill message, said arbitration was a way of sustaining relationships and has its roots in African culture.

“You don’t come back from the court and be friends. In our culture, we look for ways to reconcile so that friendships will continue to be preserved. It is expensive to go through the court adjudicatory process,” he said.

Also in attendance were Chairman of Bi-Courtney Aviation, Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN), a life Bencher Mrs Hairat Balogun, an executive council member of the branch Mrs Elizabeth Idigbe, President, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Dr. B. Ajayi-Patunola, a former chairman of CIArb Nigeria Dele Belgore (SAN), among others.

Source: Joseph Jibueze
The Nation News

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