Covid -19 Has brought A Radical Transformation In Arbitration Procedures – Prof Derri
The COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the world has been described as a cause that necessitated novel innovations in Court proceedings and that the innovation has brought digital litigation and digital case management systems to the fore in the administration of justice in Nigeria.
Professor Damfebo K. Derri of the Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island stated this at a seminar organised by the Nigerian Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators in yenagoa,in a paper titled “The Effect Of COVID-19 On The Dispute Resolution Processes In Nigeria”, said the COVID-19 has also brought a radical transformation in arbitration procedure.
He said unlike court proceedings, no special guidelines or practice or directions are needed to proceed with virtual arbitration hearing in Nigeria. Saying the future is bright for digital dispute resolution.
He further said, the COVID-19 will not bring an end to litigation. “The sources and causes of dispute have not and will not dissipate as a result of the pandemic”.
According to the university Don, parties must embrace the reality of dispute resolution in a virtual world and actively considered in engaging in virtual mediation/negotiation and not be afraid to consider proposing procedural solutions that will assist courts in conducting matters online or through virtual hearings.
He therefore proposed that more resources should be allocated to developing technologies for use in dispute resolution proceedings. He said this includes, having up-to-date software to facilitate remote video evidence and investing in secure cloud-based solution that will enable swift and seamless sharing of large quantities of data.
He also said greater cost of budget allocation should be allowed for the digitalization of resources in order for parties to be equipped for remote dispute resolution.
“Key documentations should be managed more efficiently. Contracts/commercial documents should be extracted, achieved and stored, ready for use in remote dispute resolution in the event that this become necessary.”
Professor Damfebo who is also the District chairman of Bayelsa state Institute of Chartered Arbitrators, said cloud storage should be utilized more effectively, saying the security and protection of such data should be of central importance.Though the virtual court hearing was novel, but he was optimistic that with time it will be accepted and adapted in Nigeria,s judicial system.The Guest speaker, Rapheal Ajunwa acknowledged the fact that the pandemic also affected Bayelsa state as the various restrictions and lockdown, social distancing , wearing of face masks, reduction of physical court sitting and virtual court sittings were among measures taken to avoid the spread of covid -19 which lead the judiciary to introduce virtual court hearing and this also affected dispute resolutions in terms of parties that were restricted.