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ARBITRAL PROCEEDINGS LACK THE SOPHISTICATION OF REGULAR COURTS

Dictum

In Celtel Nigeria BV v. Econet Wireless Limited (2014) LPELR-22430(CA) @ 60 explained, succinctly, the nature of arbitral proceedings before an Arbitration Tribunal as follows: “An Arbitral Tribunal is by nature an informal adjudicatory body lacking the sophistication and technical know-how of Judges of regular Courts. Arbitral Tribunals are also not bogged down in the procedural trappings of regular Courts. Arbitral proceedings are therefore treated with a broad, liberal/open mind leaning on the side of dynamism, commercial sense, latitude and common sense.”

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PROOF REQUIRED UNDER EVIDENCE ACT NOT APPLICABLE TO ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS

Proof as required under the Evidence Act is not applicable in arbitral proceedings as provided for in Section 256(1)(a) of the Act which says that: “This Act shall apply to all judicial proceedings in or before any Court established in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but it shall not apply to – (a) Proceeding be an arbitrator.” Absence of evidence in proof of facts submitted to an arbitrator, required under the Evidence Act, is not a ground for setting aside an arbitral award.

– Garba, JCA. Dunlop v. Gaslink (2018)

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P&ID DID NOT ENTER THE CONTRACT TO JUST GET A SETTLEMENT VIA ARBITRATION, WITH THE INTENTION OF NOT PERFORMING

490. Here, I am satisfied P&ID did intend to perform the GSPA when it entered into it, and that there were means by which it could have done so. Nigeria has characterised the GSPA as a sham and contended that P&ID as a BVI-registered company with no obvious assets, no relevant experience and few employees, had no genuine intention of performing the GSPA, and would never have been able to do so. However P&ID did not have to contemplate performing the GSPA itself with its assets, experience and employees. This is not, as it represented, because it could simply use the work on Project Alpha to perform the GSPA. It is rather because ICIL Group had shown in the past that they could contract in. 491. Whilst P&ID was prepared to bribe in the course of its business, I do not accept it was of the sophistication to conceive at the contract stage a plan to extract large sums of money from Nigeria by means of an arbitration or a corrupt settlement. Consistently, P&ID did not use the GSPA to move directly to arbitration at the first available opportunity. I have found it did not (as alleged by Nigeria) corrupt Mr Shasore SAN. And it appointed, in Sir Anthony Evans, an arbitrator of unquestioned experience, expertise and independence. 492. It is in these circumstances that I have reached the conclusion that the present is not a case in which, when the parties entered into the GSPA, P&ID’s intention was not to perform it but simply to use it as a device to get an award or settlement. However that is not the end of Nigeria’s section 68(2)(g) challenge.

— R. Knowles CBE. FRN v. Process & Industrial Developments Limited [2023] EWHC 2638 (Comm)

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AN ARBITRATION AGREEMENT IS A SEPARATE CONTRACT

The Courts have always upheld the autonomy and independence of the arbitration clause in the contract. The arbitration agreement may be drawn up separately or may form part of the transaction between the parties. Where the arbitration clause is part of the contract, it is nevertheless regarded in law as a separate contract. In HEYMAN v. DARWIN LTD (1942) A.C 356 at pp. 373-4, the Court in the United Kingdom in considering the legal status of such a clause in a contract, observed: ” … an arbitration clause in a contract is quite distinct from the other clauses. The other clauses set out the obligations which the parties undertake towards each other, but the arbitration clause does not impose on one of the parties an obligation in favour of the other. It embodies the agreement of both parties that, if any dispute arises with regard to the obligations which the one party has undertaken to the other such dispute shall be settled by a Tribunal of their own Constitution.”

— H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. UBA v Triedent Consulting Ltd. (SC.CV/405/2013, July 07, 2023)

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ARBITRAL AWARDS HAVE SAME FORCE AS A JUDGEMENT OF A COURT

Onwu v. Nka (1996) 7 NWLR (Pt.458) 1 at 17 paragraph E, where the Supreme Court, per Iguh JSC. had this to say: “The law is well settled that where disputes or matters in difference between two or more parties are by consent of the disputants submitted to a domestic forum inclusive of arbitrators or a body of persons who may be invested with judicial authority to hear and determine such disputes and matters for investigation in accordance with customary law and general usages, and a decision is duly given, it is as conclusive and unimpeachable (unless and until set aside on any of the recognized grounds) as the decision of any constituted court of the land, such a decision is consequently binding on the parties and the courts in appropriate cases will enforce it.”

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ISSUE OF JURISDICTION CAN ONLY BE RAISED AT THE ARBITRATION PANEL

The law therefore is that although in the regular Courts, the issue of jurisdiction can be raised at all stages of the proceedings of a case; from the trial to the final appellate, where a statute prescribed the stage at which the issue is to be raised in the course of the proceedings of a case, the issue cannot be validly and properly raised at any other stage other than the one stipulated in the statute. The general principle applies only where there was no statutory provision as to the particular or specific stage of the proceedings of a case at which the issue of jurisdiction is to be raised by a party.

– Garba, JCA. Dunlop v. Gaslink (2018)

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TIME LIMIT TO SET ASIDE AN ARBITRATION AWARD

It can easily be observed that the provisions of Section 29 are complementary to the provisions of Section 32 in that they only provide the time limit and the discretion to set aside an award on proof that it contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to the arbitration. The provisions of the two (2) sections are therefore neither in conflict nor mutually exclusive of each other as erroneously argued by the learned counsel for the Appellant.

– Garba, JCA. Dunlop v. Gaslink (2018)

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