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ARBITRATION PANELS ARE SPECIAL QUASI-JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS

Dictum

As a foundation, I would state that Arbitration proceedings are special quasi-judicial proceedings which are specifically provided for, regulated and governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act as well as the Arbitration Rules provided for in the schedule to the Act. The proceedings are not the same as the usual judicial proceedings in the determination of disputes which are also governed and regulated by the different Rules of procedure and practice enacted for such Courts.

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

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WRONG FACT FINDING CANNOT SET ASIDE AN ARBITRAL AWARD

In arbitration proceedings, the general principle is that facts finding by an Arbitrator is not a ground for setting aside an award on the ground that it is wrong nor on the ground that there is no evidence on which the facts could be found because that would be mere error of law.

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

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ARBITRATION AGREEMENT MUST SATISFY THE NORMAL REQUIREMENT OF A CONTRACT

My Lords, every Arbitration Agreement must satisfy the normal requirement of a contract such as consensus, capacity and legal relationship. Like any other contract, the terms must be clear and certain. The Court would, however, lean towards a construction that will give effect to the intentions of the parties. Thus, where a contract contained an arbitration clause which merely reads “Arbitration if any, by the I.C.C. Rules of London”, the Court held that the words “if any” which were the basis of the opposition were either surplusage or abbreviation for “if any dispute arises” and therefore sufficient. See MANGISTAURAUNAIGAZ OIL PRODUCTION ASSOCIATION v. UNITED WORLD TRADE INC. (1995) LLYOD’S REP. 617. There must also be a valid underlying substantive contract in existence and an arbitration agreement the terms of which are certain and enforceable. The essence of the arbitration agreement is to refer disputes arising between parties to arbitration. The words by which the reference is made must therefore be clear and express, as an inference will not be implied. So also, what is referred must be clearly and sufficiently stated to ensure that jurisdiction is conferred on the arbitrator.

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

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JURISDICTION CAN BE RAISED AT ANYTIME NOT APPLICABLE TO ARBITRATION

For instance, the general position of the law that the issue of jurisdiction of a Court can be raised at any stage of the proceedings of a case, even for the first time at the appellate stage, is not applicable to arbitral proceedings before an arbitral Tribunal because the Act, in Section 12(3) has provided the stage at which a challenge to the jurisdiction of the arbitral Tribunal is to or may be raised by a party.

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

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SUBJECT MATTER OF ARBITRATION MUST BE WITHIN THE ORIGINAL CONTRACT

In BAKER MARINE (NIG) v. CHEVRON NIG. LTD (2006) 6 SC 21 at Pg. 31 &37; (2006) FWLR Pt. 326 Pg. 235 at 250, the issue in this Court was whether damages for the tort of conspiracy as opposed to that of breach of contract can be at large and that aggravated damages could be claimed and sustained by the arbitral award. This Court held that any award would be outside the arbitration agreement and the arbitrators are not allowed to re-write the arbitration agreement to include extraneous issues or parties outside the substantive contract between the parties.

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HIGH COURT DOES NOT SIT ON APPELLATE FUNCTION OVER ARBITRAL PANEL

In the case of Baker Marine Nigeria Limited v. Chevron Nigeria Limited (2000) 3 NWLR (Pt. 681) 939 @ 410, it was held that an application to set aside an arbitral award: “The lower Court was not sitting as an appellate Court over the award of the arbitrators. The lower Court was not therefore empowered to determine whether or not the findings of the arbitrators and their conclusions were wrong in law. What the lower Court had to do was to look at the award and determine whether on the state of law as understood by them and stated on the face of the award, the arbitrators complied with the law as they themselves rightly or wrongly perceived it. The approach here is subjective. The Court places itself in the position of the arbitrators, not above them, and then determines on that hypothesis whether the arbitrators followed the law as they understood and expressed it.”

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LITIGATION PREPONDERATES OVER ARBITRATION IN THIS INSTANCES

No doubt, there are some instances where even though parties have submitted to arbitration, suitability of litigation preponderates over arbitration. These are instances among others: 1. Where the issue for resolution is essentially a legal one. 2. Where the issue turns largely on the credibility of the evidence. 3. Where immediate enforcement of a right is required. 4. Where one of the parties is intransigent. 5. Where there are multiparty disputes arising from a transaction e.t.c. Thus an arbitration agreement cannot and does not completely oust the jurisdiction of the Court. U

BA v Triedent Consulting Ltd. (SC.CV/405/2013, July 07, 2023)

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