In the Nigerian Dispute Resolution space, 2023 sign-posted a significant milestone both on the judicial and legislative landscapes. For the Judiciary, the 2023 general elections signalled disruption to the annual judicial calendar. Elections birth a high influx of pre-election and post-election-related matters that had to be heard and determined within a short time frame. The courts thus had to prioritize the hearing of election-related matters over all others. On the legislative end, the general elections ushered in the 10th National Assembly. Consequently, all legislative bills not passed by the 9th Assembly or assented to by the President before the inauguration of the 10th Assembly got returned to the legislation cycle.
Remarkably, the Nigerian dispute resolution space witnessed notable judicial pronouncements on novel issues and amendment or repeal of significant legislations that have reshaped principles of law, and laid to rest various legal questions. Chief of the developments is the 5th alteration to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the Constitution), which made notable changes to the Constitution.
Additional significant legislative development of 2023 was the enactment of the Arbitration and Mediation Act 2023 (AMA) which repealed the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1990 (ACA). The AMA provides a comprehensive legal framework for arbitration practice in Nigeria and codifies some of the resounding legal principles established through case law over the past decades. Also worthy of mention is the amendment to the Evidence Act 2011, to introduce new provisions to bring the Act up to speed with the digital realities of the 21st century.
On a forward-looking basis, our report peaks through the curtains of 2024, where we envisage that the Arbitration space will be eventful considering the enactment of the AMA and expect that its provisions will be tested in Court. We also envisage an increase in court actions against the governments across various tiers, as corporates and individuals continue to test new government policies and their impact on economic and social interactions. There is also likely to be an increase in tax disputes due to the revenue-generation drive of the new government.
Thus, from precedents on mind-boggling legal and constitutional questions to constitutional amendments and the enactment of a new arbitration statute, 2023 was far from lacking in rousing legal development. This Wrap-up and Outlook highlight the notable events in 2023 and our projections for the dispute resolution space in 2024.