By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas has “a lot going for it” to ultimately become a major international arbitration and alternative dispute resolution centre, a leading expert in the field said yesterday.
Babajide Ogundipe, president of thje Lagos Court of Arbitration, in an interview with Tribune Business ahead of today’s second annual Arbitration and Investment Forum, said government support - not necessarily government involvement - was key in achieving those objectives.
“You don’t want too much government involvement because then the independence of that the centre you want to establish could be called into question,” said Mr Ogundipe.
A scheduled speaker at today’s forum, Mr Ogundipe added: “You need the support of the professionals. You need to enlighten the business community and the general public about what these methods of dispute resolution can do to help with solving disputes in their individual businesses.
“You also have to have the core of qualified people who can undertake these various roles as arbitrators and adjudicators. You also need the support of the courts.”
Mr Ogundipe said the Bahamas’ business climate, close proximity to the US and common law system were among the key factors working in favor of its ambition to become a prime location for arbitration.
Leading attorney Dr Peter Maynard, who is spearheading today’s forum at the UBS annex-building, said the Bahamas has the necessary human capital to establish an arbitration centre.
“We do have the human capital, and it’s being developed even more. We have qualified professionals; not just lawyers but accountants, engineers, surveyors and any numbers of persons who may be arbitrators as well as witnesses. We have the human capital to make this happen. I think the Bahamas is very well known for having a core of very skilled professionals,” said Dr Maynard.
He added that the Bahamas could be seen as a neutral arbitration venue. “I know that there are disputes going on, on an ad hoc not institutional basis, involving Sharia investors and America investor,” Dr Maynard.
“The Sharia investors don’t want to be in the US, and the Americans don’t want to be in an Arab country. That’s an example of the strategic location of the Bahamas. We have an opportunity, so now the question is how do we get people to appreciate how important this is, and how important the Bahamas can be in this area.”
Dr Maynard added that arbitration and mediation can be used to settle local disputes peacefully as well. “Many Bahamians do not know how to settle disputes peacefully. Arbitration and mediation can be used to settle disputes peacefully,” he said.
“It can be used in community mediation centres such as Urban Renewal Centres. Generally speaking, we are hoping that the Bahamian public can develop a better appreciation of dispute settling mechanisms.”
Today’s arbitration forum is expected to cover several topics including ‘Mediation as Complement to Arbitration’; ‘Becoming an International and Regional Arbitration Hub and Arbitration Clauses in Practice: Form and Substance’. Proceeds from the forum will benefit law students at COB.