The Delta State Arbitration Law 2022 replaces the old Arbitration Law of 1914, modernising the arbitration landscape in Delta State. The New Law aligns with international best practices and introduces improvements in commencing proceedings, arbitrator powers and duties, consolidation, third-party funding, interim measures, witness evidence, tribunal-appointed experts, judicial intervention, enforcement, and hearing procedures. Overall, the legislation provides clarity, efficiency, and flexibility, significantly enhancing arbitration in Delta State.
Delta State has taken a significant step in modernising its arbitration framework by replacing the century-old Arbitration Law of 1914 with the Delta State Arbitration Law 2022 (the “New Law”). Governor Ifeanyi Okowa assented to the New Law on 22nd December 2022, aligning Delta State with international best practices and enhancing its reputation as a desirable seat for arbitral proceedings. This blog post highlights the key differences between the Old Law and the New Law, offering insights into the improvements and clarifications provided by the new legislation.
The New Law offers clear and flexible procedures for initiating arbitral proceedings, addressing the ambiguity present in the Old Law. It allows parties to commence proceedings in accordance with their agreement or, if no agreement exists, in a way that ensures proper notice to all involved. This facilitates the smooth initiation of arbitration and helps to avoid unnecessary delays or disputes over the commencement of the proceedings.
Powers and Duties of Arbitrators and Parties
Arbitrators under the New Law enjoy broader powers to decide evidentiary issues. The enactment emphasises the importance of each party’s responsibility to contribute to a just, prompt, and economical determination of the dispute. This enhancement empowers the arbitral tribunal to handle cases more effectively, reducing the time and cost of resolving disputes.
Efficiency and cost reduction are promoted through a framework for consolidating multiple arbitral proceedings when parties agree to do so. This feature minimises the risk of inconsistent awards and allows the resolution of related disputes in a single arbitration. Accordingly, it streamlines the process and ensures a more coherent resolution of disputes.
The New Law permits third-party funding of arbitration and related proceedings in Delta State, provided that funding is not offered by a solicitor or legal practice acting for a party to the arbitration. This development allows parties with limited financial resources to access arbitration proceedings, promoting greater access to justice and a more level playing field in dispute resolution.
Interim Measures and Emergency Relief
The New Law establishes clear procedures for obtaining interim measures in arbitration proceedings. It also provides a framework for parties seeking urgent interim measures before the constitution of the arbitral tribunal. This feature enables parties to protect their interests and preserve assets or evidence while the arbitration process is ongoing, thus safeguarding their rights and promoting a fair resolution of the dispute.
In contrast to the Old Law, the New Law mandates that all direct evidence be presented in written form, with viva voce evidence being restricted to cross-examination of the witness. This requirement ensures greater consistency and clarity in the presentation of evidence, making the arbitration process more transparent and reliable.
Arbitrators are now authorised to appoint experts to report to the arbitral tribunal and the parties, with the expert having a duty to assist the tribunal and not act as an advocate for any party. This provision enables the tribunal to access specialised knowledge and expertise when required, thereby enhancing the quality of decision-making in arbitration proceedings.
The New Law grants greater autonomy to arbitral tribunals, limiting court intervention in arbitration proceedings unless expressly provided by the law. This reduction in judicial interference allows for a more efficient and focused arbitration process, minimising delays and additional costs associated with court involvement.
Challenge and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards
Limited grounds for challenging an arbitral award are established by the New Law, focusing on procedural fairness, capacity, arbitrability, and fraud or corruption. This narrow list of grounds aligns with the principle of finality in arbitration, which seeks to minimise court intervention in the arbitral process. In addition, by limiting the scope for challenges, the New Law encourages parties to respect the arbitration process and promotes the enforcement of arbitral awards.
The New Law also allows award creditors to approach the court discreetly and prevent any potential efforts by the respondent to hide assets or take other actions that may hinder enforcement. This provision supports the effective enforcement of arbitral awards and protects the interests of award creditors.
The New Law streamlines the arbitration claim process before the High Court, aiming to make it more efficient by minimising the time spent on oral hearings. It allows the court to order private hearings for any part of an arbitration claim, thus ensuring that sensitive or confidential information can be protected during the dispute resolution process. Furthermore, it permits the use of secure communication methods, such as telephone lines or video conferencing, for conducting hearings, which can save both time and resources for the parties involved.
The New Law provides clarity, efficiency, and flexibility in arbitration proceedings, allowing parties to resolve disputes promptly and benefit from the advantages of arbitration. With its enhanced provisions and attention to detail, the New Law is set to improve the arbitration landscape in Delta State significantly.
By understanding the implications of the New Law, parties can better navigate the arbitration process and achieve a fair and efficient resolution of their disputes.
A copy of the Delta State Arbitration Law, 2022, is available here.
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