STOAN Arrowhead, Haastrup Backs Alternative Dispute Resolution

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  • As Naira Eases To N282.97/$ At Interbank Market 
  • And BDCs Hold Talks With CBN

A ray of hope that the brouhaha between the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) may soon end appeared this week, as STOAN Chairman, Princess Vicky Haastrup says she is going to back the use of arbitration, mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in settling commercial disputes in the maritime industry.

The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and the STOAN are currently in Court, over a long litigation duel, bordering on right-fixing operational charges.

The STOAN Arrowhead, Princess Haastrup indicated this while receiving visiting Executive Council members of the Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria (MAAN) who paid her a courtesy call on Wednesday, highlighting that resolving maritime industry disputes through ADR could be much faster and less acrimonious than litigation.

“I am happy to note that we have competent persons who can handle arbitration in Nigeria. I will encourage the use of arbitration as much as possible because it has significant advantages over litigation in court, such as party control of the process, typically lower cost and shorter time to resolution, flexibility and privacy,” she said.

MAAN President, Dr. Omogbai Omoeboh, who led the delegation said MAAN was motivated by the strong desire to provide effective and cost efficient alternatives for dispute resolution of maritime disputes in Nigeria through the use of arbitration proceedings and other ADR methods.

He noted that the association was organized to gather together members ready, willing and able to serve as arbitrators of disputes arising in businesses involving all aspects of maritime, energy and related activities.

“MAAN was conceived by practitioners that have attained distinction and expertise in arbitration and maritime law in Nigeria. Following its conception and incorporation in 2005, its executive council has acted as a steering body for the establishment of the associations’ ethos and structures.

“The council is committed to ensuring that MAAN maintains internationally accepted standards and best practices with local expertise.

“MAAN is borne out of the essential need to offer Nigeria as an alternative resource and venue following recent developments in the industry and the growing cost of arbitration in foreign countries and the pressure on the litigation system to deliver timely solutions.

“It is a membership organization open to industry practitioners; service providers; consumers of arbitration services and all stakeholders at large,” Omoeboh said, adding that the group aims to become a worldwide recognized leader in commercial maritime dispute resolution by supporting and facilitating domestic and international arbitration and promoting Nigeria as a venue for the settlement of maritime disputes through arbitration and ADR.

Other members of the MAAN Executive Council who visited the STOAN Chairman include Sir Osuola Nwagbara, Mrs. Tosan Edodo-Emoren and Mrs. Ozien Okereke while the STOAN team which received them include the Chairman, Princess (Dr.) Vicky Haastrup; the Secretary, Barrister Uzamot Boye; Executive Director of ENL Conortium, Mr. Mark Walsh and STOAN Spokesman, Mr. Bolaji Akinola.

In the meantime, the naira, on Thursday, recorded 0.92 per cent depreciation as it closed at N282.97 to the United States dollar compared to N281.23 to a dollar on Wednesday and slightly weaker than the N282.3 to the dollar it traded at on Tuesday.

While some currency traders attributed the depreciation to low dollar liquidity, others said it was because of the rumoured resumption of dollar sales to bureau de change operators by the central bank was confirmed to be false, thereby triggering another round of hoarding.

At the same time, the naira at the interbank market traded for N380 to the British pounds as against Wednesday’s N371 to the British pounds, while it exchanged for N314 to the Euro as against N310 which it ended at on Wednesday.

The local currency which traded for N345 in certain unofficial markets on Wednesday and closed at N350 to the dollar at other parallel market locations closed at N350 to the dollar on Thursday.

However, Nigerian Tribune’s findings reveal that many banks are transacting at the “floating” interbank market rate of between N280 and N284 to the dollar, while some have continued to complain about scarcity of the greenback.

Meanwhile, the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), has been holding series of meetings with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in order to fashion out appropriate modalities that will enable BDCs  participate in the new foreign exchange regime.

Acting president of ABCON, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe confirmed that mechanisms are being put in place to ensure compliance by the BDCs at all levels.

He stated that transactions done by BDCs would be displayed on their online terminals with all the documents attached, such that the information can be accessed by not only the public but also regulators such as the CBN, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

At a CBN, ABCON interactive session with other stakeholders, on the flexible exchange rate policy in Lagos, Gwadabe called on the CBN to create a special intervention window for its members in the interbank market.

He added that the CBN would save a lot of jobs in the sector by granting Approval-in-Principle or Certificate of No Objection to the ABCON Roadmap already presented to the bank.

The Association agreed to come out with a unified exchange rate band when it is structured into the new foregn exchange policy, while pledging to continue to observe zero tolerance on non-compliance with regulatory requirements by members and the public at large.

ABCON through its  president appealed to the CBN to restore and enforce the self regulatory status of ABCON, by making its membership a criteria for licensing and renewal.

He also urged the bank to develop a framework for regular training for BDCs

According to him, “the association is concerned that if the policy is not properly implemented, it may lead to huge forex related losses by manufacturers.”

The president said it might also lead to further rise in inflation,  decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rate, widen the gap between the interbank and parallel (black) market forex rate, decayed Infrastructure and  closure of many manufacturing companies.

Responding on behalf of the CBN governor, Mr Anthony Ikem, the Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department CBN, said the operators’ proposal to participate at the interbank market was still under consideration.

Ikem said the management of the bank was working on how the BDCs could be  accommodated and carried along in the new forex regime.

He urged the bureau de change operators to exercise patience, saying the CBN was aware of the challenges confronting the sub-sector.

He added, “The CBN is asking the BDCS to exercise patience. The New policy is still being tested to see how successful it would be before designing a framework for BDCs.”

Ikem said that the policy was still under the watch of the apex bank.

“Even as the policy is being tested, the CBN still understands the role of the BDCs in the country. They are still relevant in the scheme of the affairs of the country.

The director noted that there was need for the BDCs to cooperate and partner with the CBN to see how they would be accommodated in the new policy.

Also Mr Ogbizi Micheal,  Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit, advised the body to have a central data base for its members in order to track their activities, adding that out of 3,000 operator, only about 620 have registered with the agency.

Micheal urged the ABCON to ensure that  any transaction its members carried out is accompanied with Know Your Customer (KYCs) documentations.

He added that such effort would ensure that money involved in any transaction were not got through illegal means.

According to him, doing so will boost the confidence stakeholders and the public have on the BDCs.

Micheal urged them to always keep in tab with the law enforcement agencies on any improper development in the sub sector which he added would boost national security.

Additional report from Tribune