Arbitration agreements

What are the formal requirements for an enforceable arbitration agreement?

Under both the Arbitration and Conciliation Act and the Arbitration Law of Lagos State, every arbitration agreement must be in writing, contained in a document signed by the parties, or in an exchange of letters, telex, telegrams or other means of communication providing a record of the arbitration agreement or clause. Thus, any reference in a contract to a document containing an arbitration clause constitutes an arbitration agreement if such contract is in writing and the reference is such as to make that clause part of the contract. Section 3(4) and (5) of the Lagos State Arbitration Law provides that ‘writing’ includes ‘data that provides a record of the Arbitration Agreement or is otherwise accessible so as to be useable for subsequent reference’, and ‘data’ is defined as including ‘information generated, sent, received or stored by electronic, optical or similar means’.

Arbitral procedure

Does the domestic law contain substantive requirements for the procedure to be followed?

The Arbitration and Conciliation Act makes provision for rules of procedure in domestic arbitration. Parties in international arbitration are at liberty to choose the rules of procedure to govern their proceedings. In the absence of this, the applicable law would determine the rules of the procedure to apply. Under the Lagos State Arbitration Law, the rules or procedure for the conduct of arbitration under the Law are those of the Lagos Court of Arbitration, a privately run dispute resolution centre established by statute by the Lagos State government.


When and in what form must the award be delivered?

An award must be in writing and signed by the arbitrator or arbitrators. The award must be reasoned, must contain the date on which it was made and the place of the arbitration, and a copy thereof must be delivered to each party. The legislation makes no provision for a time within which the award must be handed down.


On what grounds can an award be appealed to the court?

No appeal is permitted against an award under either the Arbitration and Conciliation Act or the Lagos State Arbitration Law. An aggrieved party may only apply to court within three months to have an arbitral award set aside if the party making the application furnishes proof that the award contains a decision on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration. Another ground for setting aside an award is that an arbitrator has committed misconduct or that the award was improperly procured. The arbitration bill passed by the senate makes provisions for an award review tribunal. Parties have the option of referring their awards to the tribunal for review, and the time frame for reviewing the award is three months. The award can either be upheld or set aside in whole or in part. Where the award review tribunal upholds the award, it can only be set aside by the courts on grounds of arbitrability or public policy.


What procedures exist for enforcement of foreign and domestic awards?

The enforcement of foreign arbitral awards is governed by the Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (New York Convention), which is incorporated into the Arbitration and Conciliation Act as one of its schedules. Applications to enforce arbitral awards must be made to the court in writing, accompanied by an authenticated award or certified copy thereof and the original agreement or a certified copy thereof. Under the New York Convention, as adopted under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, foreign arbitral awards are enforceable in Nigeria where the state in which the award was made is also party to the Convention. The Lagos State Arbitration Law has gone further by providing that arbitral awards may be recognised as binding upon an application to the Lagos State High Court, irrespective of the jurisdiction or territory in which it was made. Despite the recent changes in the country’s political landscape, the enforcement procedures of foreign awards remain the same.