UNION CRISIS: UBANI GETS INDUSTRIAL COURT JOB

The President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Justice Benedict Kanyip has appointed former Nigerian Bar Association Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani as a Public Trustee to administer the affairs of Nigeria’s oldest industrial union, Nigeria Civil Service Union following the nullification of the union’s January 2018 National Delegates Conference.

Though one Comrade Lawrence Amaechi was purportedly elected at the conference, the election was set aside as being in contravention of a valid court order that status quo be maintained pending the determination of a substantive suit on the matter.

CITY LAWYER gathered that though Ubani’s initial attempt to resume duty this January was frustrated by the said Comrade Amaechi’s led Executive, this was reversed on 29th January, 2021 when the appointment was enforced by the Public Trustee with the support of the Court and the Nigerian Police.

The appointment letter from the Industrial Court, dated 29th of December, 2020 stated that Mr Ubani’s appointment is sequel to the Order contained in the judgement delivered on the 25th October, 2019 by Justice Sanusi Kado of the Abuja Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court in the suit between Comrade Benson Ekasa and 1 other v. Comrade Kiri Mohammed (then National President of the Union).

The letter reads: “Pursuant to Section 19(c) of the National Industrial Court Act, 2006; Order 59 of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria(Civil Procedure) Rule, 2017 and the Order contained in the judgement delivered on the 25th October, 2019 by His Lordship Hon Justice Sanusi Kado, in the above subject matter suit, I hereby appoint you, Monday O. Ubani Esq, as the Public Trustee for the Nigeria Civil Service Union(hereinafter referred to as the “Union” for an initial period of three (3) months, effective from the date of your acceptance of the appointment, on the following terms:

1. To oversee and superintend the running of the administration and finances of the Union.
2. To convene National Delegates Conference of the National Civil Service Union and organise election to elect new executive members in line with the constitution of the Union.
3. To render account of your activities within the above specified period in a report to be forwarded to the Court immediately after the expiration of the tenure.
4. To forward a copy of the report to the Honourable Minister of Labour.
5. In the event that you are not able to conclude your assignment within the three months period stated above, you may apply for re-appointment for another three months. In this event, you shall be requested to provide satisfactory reasons why you may be so re-appointed.”

Ubani has now received the commitment of the various Heads of the staff who are running the administration before his appointment. They all promised to support the Public Trustee to succeed in the onerous task that is placed before him.

The appointment of a Public Trustee by the Industrial Court is to enable him conduct free, fair election and enthrone a leadership that is acceptable to all and sundry including restoring sanity and stability to the operations of the union. 

Mr Ubani has since paid a visit to the Ministry of Labour and Employment where he met with the Minister of State for Labour & Productivity, Mr. Festus Keyamo SAN and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Yerima Tarfa to intimate them of his appointment by the Court. He has also submitted his letter of notification and acceptance to the Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige.

JICAM RULES: ‘P & ID CONTRACT WAS FRAUDULENT, POORLY DRAFTED,’ SAYS SAN

A senior advocate of Nigeria and chartered arbitrator, Prof. Paul Idornigie SAN at the weekend took a hard look at the controversial P & ID Case and concluded that the contract was fraudulent and poorly drafted.

Idornigie was speaking at the weekend in Abuja during the launch of the Janada International Centre for Arbitration & Mediation (JICAM) Rules 2020.

The foremost arbitrator whose paper was titled “Institutional Arbitration in Africa Post-COVID-19” stated that “the (P & ID) contract was fraudulent ab initio,” adding that “the contract was not properly drafted.”

According to Idornigie, the courts are not equipped to cure defective contracts, even as he urged arbitrators to “Africanize” arbitration by choosing Africa as the seat of arbitration in line with the “Africa Promise.”

On why Nigeria is not a leading arbitral centre and seat of arbitration, Idornigie who is also a member of the JICAM Governing Council said: “From my personal knowledge, most hearings in Nigeria are either held in hotels or law offices of the Legal Practitioners.  Such hearings whether domestic or international are not documented.  This probably accounts for the poor performance of Nigeria in this survey report.  This is without prejudice to the fact that issues of security, facilities, infrastructure and integrity of the Nigerian courts may also be factors responsible for the poor ranking of Nigeria in the continent.”

“The above lends credence to the establishment of JICAM.  JICAM is not only an arbitral centre but will perform arbitral services as it has its own Rules of Arbitration and Mediation.  These Rules are modern and comparable to other Rules like that of ICC and LCIA.  Indeed they are a blend of both.”

He stated that Nigeria’s legal framework would not adversely impact arbitral proceedings due to the advent of virtual hearings, saying: “Arbitration in Nigeria does not suffer the effect of the Evidence Act (s256(1)(a), the Constitution (s36(3) & (4) and the judicial pronouncements on hearing in public.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have used Skype, audio and video-conferencing at JICAM and ICAMA, Abuja and LCA, Lagos.”

Continuing, he said: “However, quite unlike physical hearing, we must prepare adequately for virtual hearing.  This is the challenge post-COVID.  For African arbitration institutions to survive, they must have facilities for virtual hearing side by side  the existing facilities for physical hearing.  There are enough Protocols, Guidelines, Guidance Notes, etc on this as highlighted above.  Thus several issues will arise before, during and after the arbitral proceedings that must be carefully addressed.”

He warned that “The arbitral institutions that will survive are those with modern rules and facilities for both physical and virtual hearings.  The arbitrators that will be in business are those who are innovative, creative and digitally knowledgeable.”

In his remarks, former Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Auta said that he was “proud at the strides JICAM has recorded since its formal establishment in 2015. In keeping with its aim to promote a forum for the resolution of disputes, we have supported disputing parties in active reconciliation and resolution of their disputes.”

A fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK), Justice Auta, who is also the Chairman of the JICAM Governing Council, stated that online dispute resolution (ODR) has witnessed a resurgence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying: “We have witnessed online giants utilize this mechanism in the resolution of buyer to customer disputes but we have failed to expand its use to the resolution of the common disputes. Perhaps this is an appropriate time to discuss the Rules we aim to launch, today.”

Noting that “parties with bad cases could easily frustrate such an attempt by withholding the consent to conduct such proceedings virtually,” Justice Auta, who was represented by Mrs. Diane Okoko, added that “we have equipped our center with state of the art facilities including high speed internet for this very purpose. In similar fashion, the Rules take care of numerous other issues which have been unclear in the arbitration space which I do not intend on boring you with today.”

On his part, the President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Justice Benedict Kanyip who was the Special Guest of Honour stated that the Arbitration and Conciliation Act “does not apply in trade disputes,” adding that such disagreements are sui generis.

In his welcome address, former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN said: “Indeed, while I consider it a huge privilege to have some of the best minds in the Alternative Dispute Resolution sector present at this event, I strongly believe that the launch of the JICAM Arbitration & Mediation Rules 2020 will usher in a new era in the realms of our Alternative Dispute Resolution engagements, which in the long run, will contribute significantly to the development of ADR both locally and internationally.”

According to Gadzama who is also a chartered arbitrator and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK), JICAM “was established in 2015 and commissioned by the then President of the Court of Appeal, Hon Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, OFR, CON, as a dispute resolution center designed to promote a suitable forum for the resolution of domestic and international disputes,” adding that “JICAM is fully equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, with its rules and guidelines accommodating both ad hoc and institutional arbitration.”

Concluding, the leading litigator said: “I strongly believe that this comprehensive document will facilitate speedier, more effective and efficient arbitration cum mediation proceedings, which in the long run will promote the advancement and viability of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa.”

In his goodwill message, the President of Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC), Chief Emeka Obegolu, commended JICAM for unveiling the new Rules.

Noting that there are over 10 prominent Arbitration and Mediation institutions in Nigeria, the former NBA General Secretary said: “I believe the general hope is for these institutions to leave their mark in the dispute resolution landscape, and contribute to the effective resolution of disputes. However, to achieve this, there must be synergy of some sort between these institutions. We must see ourselves not as competitors, but as partners in this dynamic field of ADR.”

In a similar goodwill message, the Chairman of the Abuja Chapter of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK), Mr. Chinwendu Madumere noted that the institute maintains a robust relationship with JICAM, adding that the emergence of the centre would “bridge the gap of having a world class arbitration centre with appropriate facilities and Rules.”

The event was moderated by the JICAM Acting General Manager, Chimdindu Onyedim-Etuwewe while Bar. Lama Joe-Kyari Gadzama gave the vote of thanks.

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ARBITRATION CZARS TO UNVEIL JICAM RULES TOMORROW

Leading arbitrators will tomorrow gather to unveil the “JICAM Arbitration & Mediation Rules, 2020.” The virtual event will also witness a lecture on “Institutional Arbitration in Africa Post COVID-19” by renowned chartered arbitrator and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK), Prof. Paul Idornigie, SAN. Time is 11 a. m.

The event is facilitated by the Janada International Center for Arbitration and Mediation (JICAM), Abuja.

With the President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Justice Benedict Kanyip as Special Guest of Honour, the event will be chaired by the retired Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK), Hon. Justice Ibrahim Auta. Justice Auta is also the Chairman of JICAM Governing Council.

Also expected at the virtual conference is former NBA presidential candidate and leading chartered arbitrator, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN. Gadzama also doubles as the Chairman of the JICAM Board of Trustees.

Among the panelists are Prof. Ike Ehiribe, Mrs. Diane Okoko and Dr. Fidele Masengo, all fellows of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK) and members of the JICAM Governing Council. Chimdindu Onyedim-Etuwewe, JICAM Acting General Manager is billed to anchor the event.

To register, click on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEud-usrjwpE9SIcT5YoBxdjbGbNx4mWIfe