Arbitration experts in Nigeria have called for a stronger commitment to foreign direct investment and the enforcement of arbitral awards in the country. This call was made at the 2023 Annual Dinner of the International Law Association (ILA), Arbitration Commission, held in Lagos State. The theme of the dinner was ‘International Arbitration: Putting Our House In Order’.

Leading this charge, Prof. Tolulope Aderemi, Chairman of the Arbitration Committee, expressed concerns about the increasing number of appeals on arbitration-related matters reaching the Supreme Court. He emphasized the need to reconsider such appeals on weak grounds, as they hinder Nigeria’s potential as a preferred foreign investment destination. Aderemi also called for strict penalties to be imposed on those who violate the ethics of the industry.


Aderemi urged his colleagues to continue to practice arbitration with integrity and within ethical boundaries. He proposed the establishment of a national code of ethics for arbitrators, the evaluation of legal provisions relating to misconduct, and the enhancement of accountability and probity in the conduct of arbitrators. He also called on the Nigerian government to conduct an audit of contracts similar to the P&ID contract to assess the government’s exposure and mitigate risks.


Prof Damilola Olawuyi, SAN, President of the International Law Association, Nigerian Branch, commended the efforts of the Arbitration Committee in leading change in the Nigerian arbitration landscape. He emphasized the importance of aligning arbitration practices in Nigeria with international best practices and standards.


The keynote speaker, Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu, SAN, discussed the challenges faced by African arbitrators in accessing the global arbitration market and the significant arbitral awards against the Nigerian government. Fagbohunlu emphasized the need for Nigerian arbitrators to equip themselves for global opportunities. He proposed the establishment of a single arbitration institution for the African continent to enhance its attractiveness and participation in international arbitration. Fagbohunlu also stressed the importance of supporting the judiciary in enforcing arbitration agreements and awards.


During the Fireside chat, Mrs. Hairat Balogun, a Life Bencher and the first female Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State, addressed the ethical issues within the legal profession. She attributed the decline in the profession’s standing to the lack of adherence to ethical rules and the diluted training of lawyers. Balogun criticized the current method of admission into the Nigerian Law School and called for a reconsideration of the suggestion to admit only students from accredited schools.


The 2023 ILA Dinner concluded with a unanimous recognition of the need for practitioners to uphold integrity, accountability, and probity in arbitration. The event highlighted the importance of attracting foreign direct investment and enforcing arbitral awards in Nigeria. The discussions emphasized the role of arbitration in economic development and the need for practitioners to practice with diligence and integrity to support governments worldwide.