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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Disputes which are subject of an arbitration agreement must be arbitrable. Matters like criminal matters or where fraud is alleged and raised as a matter of public policy are not to be settled privately by arbitration. See B. J. EXPORT & CHEMICAL CO. LTD v. KADUNA PETRO-CHEMICAL CO. LTD. (Supra).

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

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✓ In O.S.H.C v. OGUNSOLA (2000) 14 NWLR Pt. 687 Pg. 431CA, the Respondent claimed the sum of N1,969,861.20 and Pleadings were filed and exchanged. Before the case went on trial, the Defendant/Appellant applied in limine to stay proceedings in the case pending a reference of the dispute to arbitration in accordance with the agreement signed by both parties. The application was refused and dismissed by the trial Court and the case was ordered to proceed to trial where judgment was given in favour of the Respondent. At the Court of Appeal, the Respondent argued that the issue of arbitration clause was not raised and was never sought by the Appellant throughout the proceedings. The Court held that there is consensus by both parties that they are bound by the terms of the contract agreement which they duly executed or signed. What was in dispute in that case and emphasized was whether or not there was a formal request (or application) before the lower Court for the proceedings to be stayed and for the dispute to be referred to arbitration. The Court of Appeal held that since the Appellant had acted timeously by making his request or application for stay of proceedings atthe lower Court pending arbitration, the learned trial judge should have ordered a stay of proceedings and referred the matter to a referee for arbitration. Judgment was awarded in favour of the Appellant. The Court also held that parties to a written contract are bound by the terms of the contract provided such terms are not illegal or contrary to public policy. The application was brought in that case under Section 5 of the Act.

✓ In “M. V.” PANORMOS BAY v. OLAM (NIG) PLC (2004) 5 NWLR Pt. 865 Pg. 1CA, the Appellant’s action was filed pursuant to Section 4(1) and 5(1) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The issue there was whether the trial Court was right to hold that there was valid, subsisting, binding and irrevocable arbitration agreement between the parties. Also, whether a finding by the trial Court that the Defendants who were the applicants and who had not taken any steps in the proceeding had enough grounds to have entitled the trial judge to order the parties therein to go for arbitration outside the jurisdiction of this Country having regards to Section 20 of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Decree and Section 5(2) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The Court held Per Galadima J.C.A (as he then was) thus: “I have held that Section 20 of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Decree (supra) is a statutory limitation to the enforcement of the purported arbitration agreement contained in the bills of lading herein. Therefore by reference to the clear provisions of the said Section 20 of the Decree, this Court could declare the arbitration agreement null and void. Alternatively, if however this position is unattainable in law, then a finding by the learned trial Judge that there is a valid, subsisting, binding and irrevocable arbitration agreement between the parties and that the defendant had not taken any steps in the proceedings could not in any case have entitled the trial judge to order the parties herein to go for arbitration outside the jurisdiction of this Country since Sections 2 and 4 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act are controlled and limited by Section 5(2) of the same Act.”

✓ In ONWARD ENTERPRISES LTD. v. M.V MATRIX (2010) 2 NWLR Pt. 843 Pg. 530 CA, the issue in that case was whether the trial Court exercised its discretion under Section 5 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act judicially and judiciously. When the Respondents in this case brought their application for stay of proceedings, they tendered certain documents which indicated that they had appointed their own arbitrator and had communicated same to the Appellant. The Court held that by appointing their arbitrator in compliance with Clause 40 of the charter-party agreement endorsed by both parties, the Respondents fulfilled their own obligation. The approach of the Respondents clearly indicated that they were ready and willing to do all things necessary for the proper conduct of the arbitration in line with Section 5(2) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.

✓ In M.V. LUPEX V. NOC & S. LTD (2003) 15 NWLR pt. 844 Pg. 469SC, the parties in this case agreed to refer their disputes to arbitration in London under the English law. The Tribunal in England had started hearing the dispute and parties had begun to present their respective cases before it. This Court overturned the judgments of the two Courts below which refused stay and ordered a stay of proceedings. On the issue of discretion, the Court held per Uthman Mohammed JSC thus: “Ephraim Akpata, JSC in the book “The Nigerian Arbitration Law” is apt on the issue of staying proceedings where parties have agreed to refer their dispute to arbitration in a contract. He expressed his opinion in the following exposition: “That the power to order a stay is discretionary is not in doubt. It is a power conferred by statute. It however behoves the Court to lean towards ordering a stay for two reasons; namely; a) The provision of Section 4(2) may make the Court’s refusal to order a stay ineffective as the arbitral proceedings “may nevertheless be commenced or continued” and an award made by the arbitral Tribunal may be binding on the party that has commenced an action in Court. b) The Court should not be seen to encourage the breach of a valid arbitration agreement particularly if it has international flavour. Arbitration which is a means by which contract disputes are settled by a private procedure agreed by the parties has become a prime method of settling international commercial disputes. A party generally cannot both approbate and reprobate a contract. A party to an arbitration agreement will in a sense be reprobating the agreement if he commences proceedings in Court in respect of any dispute within the purview of the agreement to submit to arbitration.”

✓ In SAKAMORI CONSTRUCTION (NIG) LTD v. LAGOS STATE WATER CORPORATION (2021) LPELR 56606(SC), the Appellant filed the matter in the Court of trial and applied for summary judgment on 15/07/2009. But the Respondent, for reasons best known to it, neither entered appearance nor reacted to the Appellant’s originating processes et al, inspite of the proper service evidently effected on it. The Appellant’s application for summary judgment in question was heard and ruling was reserved for delivery on 11/12/2009. It was at that point in time on 11/12/2009, that the Respondent deemed it expedient to wake up from slumber and file an application for stay of proceedings, thereby seeking to momentarily arrest the judgment of the trial Court. This Court held Per Ibrahim Mohammed Musa Saulawa, JSC thus: “In my considered view, the answer to that pertinent question is not far-fetched. This Court has had cause in a plethora of authorities to reiterate the fundamental principle, that any agreement to submit a dispute to arbitration, does not automatically oust the jurisdiction of the Court. Therefore, either party to such an agreement may, prior to when submission to arbitration or award is made, commence legal proceedings regarding any claim or cause of action contained in the submission. See HARRIS VS. REYNOLDS (1845) 7QB71, OBEMBE VS. WEMABOD ESTATES LTD (1977) LPELR-SC466/1975.”

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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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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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589. The privacy of arbitration meant that there was no public or press scrutiny of what was going on and what was not being done. When courts are concerned it is often said that the “open court principle” helps keep judges up to the mark. But it also allows scrutiny of the process as a whole, and what the lawyers and other professionals are doing, and (where a state is involved) what the state is doing to address a dispute on behalf of its people. An open process allows the chance for the public and press to call out what is not right.
591. And Lord Wolfson KC will forgive my quoting his submission for his client in oral closing argument: “Section 68 is not there to give you a remedy if you instruct an honest lawyer who makes a mess of it or doesn’t take an available point. That is just tough. You have made your arbitration bed and you lie on it”. Blunt and correct. But, unless accompanied by public visibility or greater scrutiny by arbitrators, how suitable is the process in a case such as this where what is at stake is public money amounting to a material percentage of a state’s GDP or budget? Is greater visibility in arbitrations involving a state or state owned entities part of the answer?
— R. Knowles CBE. FRN v. Process & Industrial Developments Limited [2023] EWHC 2638 (Comm)

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Once parties have consented to arbitration, they have also consented to accept the final award by the arbitrator.

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

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