On the 26th day of May 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari assented the Arbitration and Mediation Bill, 2022 now Arbitration and Mediation Act, 2023.
The need for new law in this area of the law is long overdue. This Act repealed the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1988.
The new Act introduced fundamental provisions in line with the modern day realities. This article seeks to set out the remarkable provisions as contained in the Act.
The Key Provisions in the Arbitration and Mediation Act.
1. Statute of Limitation: A statute of limitations is the length of time a civil or criminal case can be brought to legal proceedings. After the statute of limitations has passed, the parties in dispute can no longer take legal action. The Act provides that the period of Arbitration and Mediation will not be considered by the Court in determining whether a cause of action is statute barred. This will encourage parties to explore Arbitration and Mediation without fear. This is contained in Section 34 of the Act.
2. The Finality of the Arbitral Award : The Award can only be set aside by a court on the ground of arbitrariness and /or public policy. See section 55 (2) and 56 (9) of the Act.
3. Creation of Arbitral Award Review Tribunal: The Act also established an Arbitral Award Review Tribunal. The parties can agree to subject the Arbitral Award to first level review. An aggrieved party can subject the award to review first before resorting to the court. See section 56 of the Act.
4. Consolidation of parties and disputes : The New Act allows for consolidation of disputes. By this provision, disputes that are similar can conveniently be dealt with together. This will promote uniformity of awards. See Section 39 of the Act.
5. Stay of court proceedings: It is now compulsory for the court to stay the proceeding until the matter is subjected to Arbitration on the request of any party to the Arbitration Agreement. See Section 5 of the Act
6. Joinder of parties: Just like in court where a party who shows that he is a necessary party can be joined as parties in a suit, similar provision is now also in the Act.The Act provides that a party can now apply to be joined as necessary party provided that such party is bound by the Arbitration Agreement.
7. Provision for an Emergency Arbitrator: The law allows a party to an Arbitration Agreement to apply for an emergency arbitrator in a case of urgent relief or where there is a need for a party to maintain the status quo pending the award, a party can make an application to the tribunal. See Section 16 of the Act.
Arbitration and Mediation is one of the mechanisms of alternative dispute resolution. The arbitration clause is common in an agreement. This is the reason for the need to be conversant with the provision of the new law so that the parties can be more intentional and know the implications of putting such clause in their agreement.
The Arbitration and Mediation Act is a great leap forward in the trajectory of Nigeria Arbitration.