News & MediaLandmark Ruling: Extension Of Time To Set Aside An Arbitral Order

April 13, 20150

WALTERSMITH PETROMAN OIL LIMITED } APPELLANT
AND
NIGER DELTA PETROLEUM RESOURCES LIMITED } RESPONDENT

Olisa Agbakoba legal instituted an appeal on behalf of the appellant against the ruling of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos delivered on the 31st of March 2014 where the Federal High Court held that it had jurisdiction or judicial powers to extend time to defeat the statutory limitation period of 3 months prescribed by section 29 (1) of Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The respondent had prayed by an application for extension of time to set aside an Arbitral Award well over 18 months after publication.

The Appellant filed its appellant’s brief on 17th of June 2014 and articulated two issues for determination:

1. Whether the court below has jurisdiction or judicial powers to extend the statutory limitation period of 3 months prescribed by section 29(1) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (ACA).
2. Assuming without conceding the limitation period of 3 months prescribed by section 29(10) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, whether the learned judge correctly exercised discretion to extend time.
The appellant also filed an appellant’s reply brief. In response, the Respondent filed its brief on 23rd of July, 2014 and articulated his own issues for determination. Issue one was adopted.

However, issue two was reframed as set out hereunder:
1. Whether the Court below has jurisdiction or judicial powers to extend the statutory limitation period of 3 months prescribed by section 29(1) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (ACA).
2. Whether the learned trial judge’s proper exercise of discretion in extending time within which the respondent may apply to set aside part of the award in dispute ought to be affirmed.

After listening to arguments and submissions from both parties, the court held as follows:

“In the instant appeal, the extension of time granted the Respondent was invalid and null abinitio as the trial court had no jurisdiction to extend time. The bar can be lifted or the limit extended only if the statute allows it to be done. Where there is no such provision, the action carried out will be invalid, and the court will treat as such. The trial court had no jurisdiction to entertain the application for extension of time to set aside the Arbitral Award.

Once there is a time frame without a provision for extension of time, it becomes mandatory that the act must be done within the time frame. The limitation period of 3 months under Section 29 (10) applies to all Arbitral Awards without exception.
The learned trial judge was wrong in extending the time for the Respondent to apply to the Court to set aside the Arbitral Award.
This issue is hereby resolved in favour of the Appellant. Having resolved the first issue in favor of the Appellant, the second issue is therefore unnecessary.”

The Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice U.I. Ndukwe-Anyanwu, allowed the appeal and made no order as to costs.

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Olisa Agbakoba Legal

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