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SUBJECT MATTER OF ARBITRATION MUST BE WITHIN THE ORIGINAL CONTRACT

Dictum

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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FROM THE FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THIS CASE IT SHOWS THAT ARBITRATION MAY BE MORE OPEN TO FRAUD

582. Regardless of my decision, I hope the facts and circumstances of this case may provoke debate and reflection among the arbitration community, and also among state users of arbitration, and among other courts with responsibility to supervise or oversee arbitration. The facts and circumstances of this case, which are remarkable but very real, provide an opportunity to consider whether the arbitration process, which is of outstanding importance and value in the world, needs further attention where the value involved is so large and where a state is involved. 583. The risk is that arbitration as a process becomes less reliable, less able to find difficult but important new legal ground, and more vulnerable to fraud. The present case shows that having (as here) a tribunal of the greatest experience and expertise is not enough. Without reflection, then a case such as the present could happen again, and not reach the court.

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

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IMPORTANCE OF PUTTING GOOD REPRESENTATION IN ARBITRAL PROCEEDINGS BY PARTIES

587. Notwithstanding Nigeria’s allegations, I have not found Nigeria’s lawyers in the Arbitration to be corrupt. But the case has shown examples where legal representatives did not do their work to the standard needed, where experts failed to do their work, and where politicians and civil servants failed to ensure that Nigeria as a state participated properly in the Arbitration. The result was that the Tribunal did not have the assistance that it was entitled to expect, and which makes the arbitration process work. And Nigeria did not in the event properly consider, select and attempt admittedly difficult legal and factual arguments that the circumstances likely required. Even without the dishonest behaviour of P&ID, Nigeria was compromised. 588. But what is an arbitral tribunal to do? The Tribunal in the present case allowed time where it felt it could and applied pressure where it felt it should. Perhaps some encouragement to better engagement can be seen as well. Yet there was not a fair fight. And the Tribunal took a very traditional approach. But was the Tribunal stuck with what parties did or did not appear to bring forward? Could and should the Tribunal have been more direct and interventionist when it was so clear throughout the Arbitration that Nigeria’s lawyers were not getting instructions, or when at the quantum hearing Nigeria’s then Leading Counsel, Chief Ayorinde, was failing to put necessary points to experts to test their opinion and Nigeria’s own experts (for whatever reason) had not done the work required? Should the Tribunal have taken the initiative to encourage exploration of new bounds of contract law and the law of damages that may today be required where major long term contracts are involved?

— 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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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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ARBITRAL PROCEEDINGS LACK THE SOPHISTICATION OF REGULAR COURTS

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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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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