Institute to free construction industry of protracted litigation, disputes

The President and Chairman of Council, Institute of Construction Industry Arbitrators (ICIArb), Kola Awodein (SAN) has said the institute is poised to stem protracted litigation and uncertainties inherent in construction-related disputes.

Awodein said ICIArb would do this through innovative and tailor-made dispute resolution strategies.

He said it was necessary for lawyers involved in arbitration in the construction industry to ensure that “the brand reflects the professionalism and service that has been our legacy for nearly three decades.

“Let me seize this opportunity as the outgoing President of this dynamic institute to state very clearly and firmly that it is imperative for all existing Fellows and Members to know that ICIArb is built on and has endeavoured to maintain a firm principle of integrity and professional ethics,” Awodein said.

He spoke at the Investiture ceremony of Fellows and Induction of new members held at Westwood Hotel, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi.

Those inducted as Fellows of the Institute include Prof. Andrew Chukwuemerie (SAN), Mrs Roseline Nwosu, Mrs Yinks Kolade, Dr Ifeoma Nwafor, Ayodele Akintunde (SAN), Prof. Offornze Amucheazi (SAN) Uchenna Orakwue, Kembi Gabriel, Robinson Omomia and Pachal Madu.

The new members include Joseph Kikiowo, Kenneth Onyema, Prince Rotimi Ogunleye, Orojinmi Niran and Olayinka Davies.

Awodein, who was represented by the President elect of the institute, Felix Okereke-Onyeri further stated: “Every member irrespective of status, is mandated and has a duty to adhere to high standard of professional ethics as laid down in the Institute’s Code of Conduct and Ethics as well as by various professional bodies that each member belongs to especially in the conduct of arbitration disputes.”

He urged lawyers involved in arbitration in the construction industry to be diligent as sanctions will henceforth be meted out to erring ones by the Institute of Construction Industry Arbitrators.

Awodein while handing down the new order also stated that aside from disciplining erring members, the institute will also report such erring member to all professional and statutory bodies that can discipline them.

He expressed dismay at the rate at which nominated and appointed arbitrators compromise and undermine the integrity of arbitral process in the conduct of arbitration generally in the country saying, ” it has become disturbing and worrisome to state the least.”

He said in many cases, such arbitrators, knowing that relationships they have with either counsel or the parties are such as to disqualify them from accepting nominations or appointments as their independence is called into question, still unethically refuse or decline to disclose such relationship or to recuse themselves.

To buttress his position, he cited a case decided at the Lagos High Court, number LD/1910/2017 involving Global Gas and Refinery Limited Vs Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) which judgment was delivered February 25, 2020.

He said the trial judge set aside an arbitral award on the ground of misconduct by the chairman of the arbitral panel because it was grounded in bias.

“This was apparently established by evidence in that case that there was such disqualifying relationship between the President of the arbitral panel and one of the parties as well as between the counsel to one of the parties and some members of the arbitral panel.

“The judgment infers that the least professionalism and ethics required of the said President was to disclose the relationship to the other party and recuse himself in the event that the other party objects to his appointment”, he said.

Secretary of the Institute, Emmanuel Dike, in his address stressed the need for continuous professional development for fellows and members of the institute.

Dike encouraged them to attend courses by other professional bodies that may enhance their skills and competence such as those of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Institute of Architects, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors among others.

He said: “Construction involves immense multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary activity, governed by layers of simultaneous contractual relationships. An understanding of the technical principles for the purpose of dispute resolution provides an edge to the professional equipped whit the relevant skill set.

“Admission to this prestigious body is therefore an opportunity to join the league of successful sought after arbitrators”, he said.

By Adebisi Onanuga

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