Dorothy Udeme Ufot

Last week Nigeria accomplished an unprecedented feat in the field of arbitration when it hosted the very first International Chamber of Commerce Regional Arbitration Conference in Africa. The ICC conference which held at the Eko Hotel and Suites had leading arbitrators from around the world in attendance, including ICC President, Mr. Alexis Mourre. May Agbamuche-Mbu, Jude Igbanoi and Tobi Soniyi sought the views of the Chairperson of the Organising Committee, Mrs. Dorothy Udeme Ufot SAN, C.Arb on the challenges of putting together such a world-class event amongst other pressing issues regarding the future of international arbitration in Africa.

The ICC chose Nigeria to be the first African country to host its Regional Arbitration Conference. What were the challenges of organising a conference of such magnitude?

No discussion about this conference or why the ICC chose Nigeria as the First African country to host its African Regional Conference on International Arbitration will be complete without first giving you the background of the International Chamber of Commerce, popularly referred to as the “ICC” and the background of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC.

The ICC is the world business organisation, a representative body that speaks with authority on behalf of enterprises from all sectors in every part of the world.

The Mission of the ICC is to promote open international trade and investment and help businesses meet the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly integrated global economy.

As the voice of world business, the ICC’s conviction that trade is a powerful force for peace and prosperity dates back from the organisation’s origins early in the 20th century, when the small group of “far-sighted business leaders who founded the ICC called themselves “the Merchant of Peace””.

This small group of business leaders considered the ravaging effect of the 2nd world war and convinced themselves that world peace could be achieved through trade. Today the global network of the ICC comprises over 6 million companies, chambers of commerce and business associations in more than 130 countries.

The ICC has three main activities: rule setting, dispute resolution and policy advocacy.

Coming to dispute resolution and arbitration, you will agree with me that it is impossible to talk about business or investment without anticipating disputes. In this regard, the ICC provides other essential services, foremost among which is the ICC International Court of Arbitration, which is the world’s leading arbitral institution.

The ICC International Court of Arbitration is the most trusted system of arbitration in the world, with arbitration under its rules on the increase. Since 2009 the ICC Court of Arbitration has received new cases at a rate of over 750 annually.

The ICC Court of Arbitration holds international arbitration Conferences annually in several regions of the world, and none has ever been held in the African Region.

As to why Nigeria was chosen to host the first ICC Africa Regional Arbitration Conference, Nigerian parties remain the most frequent users of ICC Arbitration in the region followed by South Africa. In 2015 for instance, of the 801 cases filed with the Court, involving a total of 2,283 parties, 18 of these were Nigerian parties followed by South Africa which recorded 15 parties in total in 2015.

There has been a steady increase in the number of Nigerian parties opting for ICC Arbitration in recent times, so the choice of Nigeria hosting this first ICC Arbitration Conference in the region was not a difficult decision for the ICC Headquarters in Paris.

The major challenge of organising a Conference of this magnitude was funding.

The ICC Nigeria National Committee is a non–profit organisation, so the ICC did not have the funds to organise such a huge conference. When Nigeria won the slot to host this conference last year, the Nigerian economy was not this bad. We were very optimistic that we will raise the funds from corporate organisations in Nigeria and the Law firms, relying on the global reputation of the ICC to sell the conference. Unfortunately, the Nigerian economy took a turn for the worse even before we started marketing the conference. Because we had already made a commitment to Paris to host the conference, it became a reputational issue that the conference must go on.

A few corporate organisations came to our rescue. Globacom, the Grandmaster of Data in the telecommunications industry was our major sponsor. They believed in us and gave us incredible support both in cash and kind. You would have observed that Glo ran several full page ads in several national dailies to announce this Conference. They held several meetings with key members of the Planning Committee advising on what steps we should take to make the conference a success.

The Glo team even traded their goodwill by going with us to negotiate costs with Eko Hotels & Suites, which made the costs of the venue of the conference affordable.

Glo was more than a sponsor for this event, they were truly our partner and we remain deeply grateful to the team, particularly their chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga, Jr., GCON, who agreed to sponsor this conference and remained committed to its success.

Next to Glo, were Dangote Cement PLC and Access Bank PLC. They both gave us considerable financial support.

As you know, I was recently appointed to the Board of Dangote Cement. We approached them to sponsor the event and they did. We are deeply grateful to the Chairman of Dangote Cement PLC, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, GCON, and Dr. Herbert Wigwe, Managing Director Access Bank PLC.

Equally deserving of our gratitude are Mary Akpobome, Executive Director of Heritage Bank, John Momoh, ‎Chairman & CEO of Channels TV, Mr. Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary & CEO of Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Eko Hotels & Suites, SO&U Limited.

Our very deep gratitude goes to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr. Augustine Alegeh, SAN, FCIArb (UK), for the huge financial and moral support given to the Planning Committee. The members of the NBA in the Planning Committee were wonderful, they made a difference to the planning of the conference.

I am deeply grateful to the Chairman of ICC Nigeria, Mr. Babatunde Savage, our Chairman emeritus, Chief (Dr.) Olusegun Osunkeye, Vice Chairman Chief (Dr.) Raymond Ihyembe and Professor Gabriel Olawoyin, SAN, Chairman ICC Nigeria Commission On Arbitration & ADR for all their counsel and contributions to the success of this event.

We are grateful to the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami, SAN for declaring the conference open.

I must thank my beloved husband, Mr. Udeme Ufot, MFR, specially for standing by me during the very difficult time of the planning of the conference. He brought his experience to bear in his counsel, he ensured that I remained focused, he solicited assistance for the Planning Committee and worked with us remotely, vetting our budget and taking out items he considered “not must haves” and together with the Shippers’ Council donated buses and drivers for conveying our foreign speakers and delegates throughout the duration of the conference. I personally cannot thank him enough for keeping me focused during this period.

I am also very grateful to all the sponsoring Law firms, too numerous to mention and to Senator Daisy Danjuma for her Sponsorship.

I am grateful to all the members of the Planning Committee for the incredible hard work they put in to ensure the success of this Conference.

It is very important to appreciate our sponsors, partners and supporters for this conference for the simple fact that this conference took place in a very depressed economy, yet it recorded a resounding success such that the President of the ICC Court of Arbitration, Mr. Alexis Mourre, who visited Nigeria for the first time wrote to congratulate us for “an outstanding event” saying that we have set the bar very high for next year.

Our sponsors made this happen and we are extremely grateful.

The theme of the conference was ‘Arbitration and Africa: Prospects and Challenges. ’ In your opinion what do you see as the challenges and prospects of Arbitration in Africa?

Africa is an attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but until recently, not an attractive destination for the resolution of the disputes which arise from these investments. However, recently, there has been a growing interest in African Arbitration. African lawyers and arbitrators are now clamouring for African countries to be nominated as seats for international arbitration.

Much more arbitrations are now being conducted in African countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania to mention just a few.

This development no doubt has its prospects and its challenges.

One of the key prospects of Arbitration and Africa is the opportunity for African lawyers and arbitrators to gain practical experience in the art of arbitrating business disputes, bearing in mind that arbitration procedures are different from litigation which we all are used to. Our lawyers and arbitrators also earn the fees associated with arbitration proceedings and our Courts get the opportunity to decide many issues that arise and are related to these proceedings, thereby contributing to the growth of the jurisprudence and precedents in the field of arbitration.

Countries such as the UK, USA, France and Switzerland are today referred to as arbitration friendly countries, because the decisions of their Courts in respect of arbitration in terms of the enforcement of arbitration agreements and awards have been tested to the highest levels of their Court systems and the outcome of any matter filed in these Courts are reasonably predictable, quite unlike what obtains in most African countries. These are the prospects of the growing interest in African arbitration.

The challenges are however enormous, principal among which is the perception of corruption, the delays in the judiciary, lack of adequate infrastructure etc.

We must deal with these issues if African countries must graduate to becoming preferred destinations for international arbitration. This is what informed the theme of this conference. If Africa must be relevant in the scheme of things, particularly in terms of its enormous natural resources, often the subject matter of arbitration proceedings, then we must look ourselves in the face and tell ourselves the home truth by making efforts to deal decisively with these challenges.

There were a number of outstanding topics and exceptional speakers who attended the conference. What were the highlights of the conference?

This was a gathering of the world’s most experienced and renowned arbitrators and delegates. We had 60 speakers from all over the world. A truly stellar panel of speakers. They all came and not one of them was sponsored by the committee. They paid their fares and also paid for their accommodation.

The topics of discussions aimed at highlighting the challenges of arbitration in Africa, such as the Rising Costs of Arbitration, the Impact of the Judiciary on Arbitration in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Abuse of Process in International Arbitration and the Unwillingness of Counsel to Accept the Outcome of Arbitration.

We had 4 parallel industry sessions to discuss the challenges in these sectors: These were Arbitrating Construction Disputes, Arbitrating Energy Disputes, Arbitrating International Trade and Shipping Disputes, and Arbitrating Telecommunications Disputes. The discussions were intense and thought provoking and the speakers and delegates were extremely delighted to have been part of this epoch making event.

The ICC Nigeria, ICC Court of Arbitration and the NBA were organisers of the conference. What is the relationship between these organisations?

As I said earlier, the ICC is the World Business Organisation and it operates all over the world through a network of National Committees. The ICC only admits individual members in countries where there are no national committees.

The relationship between these organisations lies in the fact that the ICC International Court of Arbitration is one of the organs of the ICC. The ICC International Court of Arbitration is the world’s leading arbitral institution. “A truly global institution delivering high-quality services inspired by the core values of transparency, diversity and ethical excellence”.

ICC Nigeria, is an affiliate of the ICC in Paris and Co-organiser of the 1st ICC Africa Regional Conference on Arbitration, which took place in Lagos on 19th to 21st June, 2016.

Although one does not have to be a lawyer to be an arbitrator, majority of arbitrators in Nigeria for instance are lawyers. The President of the NBA, Mr. Augustine Alegeh, SAN is an arbitrator. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, UK, as a renowned arbitrator himself, it was not difficult to convince the NBA President to support this event and the NBA gave us massive support which contributed in no small terms to the resounding success of the conference. So these three organisations pulled together to ensure the success of the conference.

One of the sub-thematic issues addressed at the conference, “Unwillingness of Counsel to Accept the Outcome of Arbitration in Sub-Saharan Africa Damaging the Brand” is very pertinent as parties often challenge arbitral awards in court. How was this theme tackled at the Conference?

This is part of the Challenges of arbitrating in Africa. Oftentimes parties challenge arbitral awards in court. This is a negation of the parties’ agreement to resolve their dispute by arbitration, the outcome of which is final and binding. Meaning that, once an award has been published, it should be complied with voluntarily, but this is not the case in most African cases. This issue had to be debated during this conference as one of the challenges of arbitrating in Africa.

There are several organisations offering Institutional Arbitration services such as the London Court of International Arbitration, Permanent Court of Arbitration and International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA). What are the advantages of conducting Arbitration at the ICC?

There are no doubt several arbitration institutions in the world providing arbitration services but the ICC stands out because of the scrutiny process which ICC awards are subjected to before publication. Prior to being approved, awards undergo scrutiny by the ICC Court, which may lay down modifications as to form, and draw the tribunal’s attention to points of substance. This ensures that ICC awards are hardly set aside by the Courts in almost all jurisdictions in the world. It is only the ICC Court that adopts this procedure and here lies the attraction for ICC arbitration.

The ICC International Court of Arbitration and the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR are organs of the ICC involved in dispute resolution in different capacities. Could you enlighten us on their functions?

While the ICC Court of arbitration administers ICC arbitrations taking place in different parts of the world and acts as appointing authority, where the parties have failed to appoint arbitrators, the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR is a forum for pooling ideas on issues relating to International Arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution. The ICC Commission on Arbitration, in Paris of which I am one of the 8 global vice presidents, among other responsibilities, drafts and amends ICC’s Arbitration, ADR, Expertise, Dispute Board and other forms of dispute resolution rules, provides reports, guidelines and best practices on a range of topics of current relevance to the world of International Dispute Resolution, with a view to improving ICC dispute resolution services. The Commission also creates a link among arbitrators, Counsel and users to enable ICC dispute resolution to respond effectively to the users’ needs.

Nigerians often prefer to conduct their Arbitration in other jurisdictions, even when most of the transactions resulting in the dispute took place in Nigeria. What are the possible reasons for this development?

This is also still part of the challenges of arbitrating in Nigeria and indeed Africa.

Many Nigerians do not trust the system, particularly the Court system, which sometimes intervenes unjustifiably in on-going arbitration proceedings by issuing anti-arbitration injunctions to restrain on-going arbitrations. They are also afraid of corruption etc, they claim. This is why this conference was extremely important and crucial at this time when there is evidently, a growing interest in African Arbitration. We discussed all these challenges at the conference, including the training of judges. We discussed the length of time that arbitration cases take in our courts and whether there is the need to create specialised courts for arbitration cases. The courts are key to the proper functioning of the arbitral system. Court Support for arbitration is fundamental.

A viable system of resolving disputes by arbitration is one of the crucial factors which foreign investors consider before investing in a host country. So getting this right is of absolute importance. Very important, complex and high volume disputes are currently being resolved by arbitration in Nigeria and other African countries particularly in Construction and Oil & Gas. We must begin to hold these hearings in African countries to enable us test the system and make sure it works. This is the only way that we can change the mindset of the users of the process.

Since arbitration is strictly confidential, most parties are discouraged by the fact that arbitration proceedings do not form precedents and are not normally published as law reports, in sharp contrast to litigation. Is there a way around this issue?

This is another area where ICC Arbitration Court is taking the lead. The ICC publishes its awards, although, unlike courtroom litigation, without the names of the parties involved in the proceedings.

It is a collection of ICC Arbitral Awards, the latest of which is the 2008-2011 Awards. It is published by Kluwer Law International. I use these collections of ICC Awards regularly when I am writing my awards, because nothing is new. We are dealing with contracts gone bad. The issues repeat themselves in similar cases, so I use them as guides when I am writing my awards. Again, the publication of ICC awards sets the ICC Court of Arbitration apart from other institutions offering arbitration services.

The Privileges Committee has been prevailed upon over the years to accord arbitration proceedings, the status of concluded matters in court for the purpose of compiling cases for the award of Silk. Would you support this move?

I more than support the move to accord arbitration proceedings, the status of concluded matters in court for the purpose of compiling cases for the award of Silk.

Although I did not use any arbitration case as part of my cases when I applied for Silk, because I sit more as an arbitrator than as counsel in arbitration proceedings.

Many arbitration proceedings that I have been involved in around the world are very complex, if you take a typical complex Construction or Oil & Gas disputes as examples.

The documentation in most of these arbitrations are enormous, requiring excruciating hard work on the part of Counsel to wade through the documents, make sense out of them and present the client’s case before the arbitral tribunal. There is serious advocacy in arbitration. There is persuasion, just like you find in the courtroom. Do not forget that most arbitrators are lawyers, and some of them are retired judges who have their expectations from counsel appearing before them.

I sat in several complex and high volume Oil & Gas, LNG and dredging arbitration cases with the late Justice Kayode Eso. He was revered. You dare not appear before him as Counsel in an arbitration proceeding without being fully prepared to present your case. I believe that by the time a Counsel goes through such rigour, an award arising from such an arbitration hearing ought to be accorded the status of a final judgement of a court for the purpose of compiling cases for the award of Silk. Steps however must be taken to ensure that the particular Counsel putting forward the award, was actually the Counsel that conducted the proceedings in respect of the arbitral award submitted.

The Privileges Committee can achieve this by requesting for some of the transcripts or the record of proceedings, which will definitely show that the particular Counsel conducted the proceedings. I also believe that there should be a mixture of both court judgments and arbitral awards for such an applicant to create a balance.

You are a Chartered Arbitrator and you have been admitted to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ UK Panel of Chartered Arbitrators thereby becoming the youngest Nigerian to be granted such an honour by the institute. What are your comments on the career progression in Arbitration?

Yes, indeed. I qualified as a Chartered Arbitrator in 2003 having earlier qualified as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK in 2000. At the time I qualified as a Chartered Arbitrator, I was the 2nd Nigerian female to so qualify and the 5th and youngest Nigerian to qualify as a Chartered Arbitrator at that time from the UK Chartered Institute which was at that time and still is the number one arbitration training institution in the world. I have made very rapid and impressive progress in International Arbitration. I have also worked excruciatingly hard to be where I am today in International Arbitration. The beginning was not easy at all. International Arbitration is a closed club, although it is opening up now. Being an African and a woman were big issues but I wasn’t deterred.

I must also acknowledge God’s Grace in my career progression in this field. I was blessed to meet Mr. Tony Canham, who later became the President of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK, very early in my quest to become an accomplished international arbitrator. He believed in me and trained me. He is an Engineer by his primary profession and a renowned international arbitrator. He trained me in Construction disputes, as an Engineer. Tony and his wife Valerie embraced me and I took the opportunity very seriously. He was extremely supportive of my ambition to qualify as a Chartered Arbitrator. He continued his support after I became a Chartered Arbitrator. He placed his hands publicly on my shoulders at International Conferences and invited me to share his table at dinner with his wife and other top foreign arbitrators during the institute’s annual conferences, thereby giving me a nod of approval. His wife, colleagues and friends became my friends and before I knew what was going on, they had all started calling me by my first name. I have also kept my relationship with very many of them and made my own friends in the field, which was evident in the number of foreign arbitrators who readily accepted our invitation to speak at the conference.

I am truly indebted to Tony for all he has done and today we are great family friends.

As the fight against corruption reaches the global level, arbitrators are increasingly faced with domestic and anti-corruption legislation. What are your comments on the current ethical standards in International Arbitration?

For arbitration to continue to maintain its position as the preferred mechanism for the resolution of business and investment disputes, the process must be free of corrupt practices.

Corruption in any form or field of endeavour is bad. The global fight against corruption is a most welcome one and the arbitration industry and arbitrators must eschew corruption.

The ICC is doing a lot of work in the area of anti-corruption. One of the ICC Commissions is the Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-Corruption.

The mandate of this Commission is to develop policy recommendations and practical tools from the global business perspective on corporate responsibility and fighting corruption. The ICC Institute of World Business Law has a publication titled “Arbitration, Money Laundering, Corruption and Fraud.”

Corruption is real and all hands must be on deck to fight this menace generally and in arbitration in particular.

To this end, the on-going fight against corruption and corrupt practices in Nigeria is a welcome development as corruption leads to poverty and underdevelopment.

The ICC introduced the Emergency Arbitrator procedure under its 2012 rules to provide urgent interim relief to parties before the constitution of the arbitral tribunal. Could you explain the benefits of this procedure to Arbitration practice?

The Emergency Arbitrator Procedure introduced under the 2012 ICC Rules of Arbitration is a welcome development in International Arbitration.

The procedure becomes relevant where a party to an arbitration requires urgent interim relief before the commencement of arbitration proceedings. For example if the interim measures sought are designed to preserve the status quo, such as preventing a bond from being called or a ship from leaving the harbour. The advantage here is that settlement is more likely to be possible with the preservation of the Status Quo by way of an Emergency Arbitrator’s order.

The ICC reports that since 2012, more than 23 Emergency Arbitrator’s orders covering a broad range of jurisdictions and industry sectors have been received by the ICC. The system is working effectively abroad. You can imagine a ship carrying a Cargo of crude oil being prevented from departing the harbour by an Emergency Arbitrator order. I can assure you that there will be prompt settlement of the dispute because of the huge costs of the detention of the vessel with the cargo. It will be interesting to see how this process works in Africa.

Some Arbitration experts are of the view that the costs associated with domestic arbitration are increasing steadily, thereby deterring parties from referring their disputes to Arbitration. In your opinion is Arbitration more expensive than litigation? How can parties minimise the cost of arbitration proceedings?

This question must be answered within context. What type of arbitration are we referring to? There is no doubt that the cost of arbitration is rising. This was one of the hot topics at this conference. There was a presentation of the ICC Commission Report on the “Decision On Costs In International Arbitration” by the Secretary General of the ICC Court of Arbitration, Mr. Andrea Carlevaris. There was also a debate on Costs: The Cost of Arbitration in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly dealing with the perception of the rising cost of Arbitration. Since this discussion is about ICC, I can state authoritatively that the ICC is committed to ensuring that proceedings are conducted in an effective and cost effective manner. It is important to stress that from the statistics provided by the ICC, party costs (including lawyers’ fees and expenses, expenses related to witnesses and expert evidence and other costs incurred by the parties for the Arbitration) make up the bulk of the overall costs of the proceedings. Arbitrators’ fees and case administration account for a much smaller proportion of the overall costs of Arbitration.

The above notwithstanding, the ICC Commission on Arbitration has already done significant work to help keep party costs under control.

There have been calls for the amendment of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2004 to bring it in line with global best practices in Arbitration. Would you support this agitation? What policies should the Government put in place to facilitate the growth of arbitration and ADR in Nigeria?

I fully support the agitation for the amendment of the Nigerian Arbitration Act, which has long passed its sell-by date. How can an Act which came into force in 1985 answer the contemporary questions which arise in International Arbitration. This is clearly one of the critical challenges of Arbitrating in Nigeria. The Act is completely outdated for contemporary International or Domestic Arbitration practice.

To be attractive to foreign investors, the government of a host country must declare through its national legislation and other policy instruments a readiness to submit to international arbitration for the resolution of its investment disputes.

The Federal Government of Nigeria declared its readiness to submit to International Arbitration by ratifying the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, 1958. Nigeria further declared its readiness to submit to International Arbitration by acceding to the World Bank Convention on the settlement of Investment Disputes 1965, the ICSID Convention and thereafter enacted the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (Enforcement Act).

Several other statutes which provide for arbitration as the dispute resolution mechanism in key sectors of the Nigerian economy include the Petroleum Act, the LNG Act, the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Act.

As further evidence of the Federal Government’s preparedness to embrace arbitration as a preferred dispute resolution mechanism in all domestic and international contracts through a circular issued by the Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2004, directing that all international and domestic contracts involving ministries, parastatals and extra-ministerial agencies should contain arbitration clause.

It therefore appears to me that the Federal Government has put in place sufficient laws to facilitate the growth of Arbitration in Nigeria, except for the archaic arbitration legislation it lies in the hands of us practitioners to agitate for the reform of the Law.

There is an ongoing debate regarding the impact of the New York Convention on developing economies. Some are of the view that it does more harm than good to these countries. What are your thoughts on this issue?

I do not agree with the view that the New York Convention does more harm than good to developing economies. The New York Convention is one of the World’s most progressive pieces of legislation that has influenced the growth of Arbitration all over the world.

As David Rivkin, current President of the International Bar Association, (IBA), himself a world renowned Arbitrator, once noted, the New York Convention is the “United Nations’ greatest achievement in private international law, whose practical effect has been to change the way in which business is conducted around the world”. The New York Convention is the best thing that ever happened to Arbitration and international business. It obligates contracting parties to honour their obligation to resolve their business disputes by arbitration, having contracted that the arbitration award resulting from the arbitration proceedings will be final and binding on the parties. But for the New York Convention, the arbitration industry would have been extremely chaotic.

Foreign Arbitral Awards are readily recognised and enforced by the Courts of many countries all over the world today due to the New York Convention. Nigeria is a signatory to the New York Convention having ratified the convention in March, 1970. The New York Convention applies to Nigeria and forms part of our Arbitration and Conciliation Act. Only countries or parties who have no intention of honouring their contractual obligations to arbitrate and be bound by the outcome of the arbitration would criticise the New York Convention as being oppressive or unfavourable to developing economies.

You been involved in several complex Arbitrations in the oil and gas Industry representing major multinational oil companies. Could you elucidate on the nature of arbitration in the oil and gas Industry?

Different types of disputes, too numerous to mention, occur daily in the Oil & Gas industry such as disputes relating to production sharing contracts, Gas Sales and Purchase disputes, for example. As you know, the arbitration process is very confidential, and one is precluded from making public statements about the cases that one has been involved in. What I can say however is that most Oil & Gas disputes are often very huge and complex requiring the nomination of a knowledgeable and competent Arbitrator.

In recent years few female lawyers have attained the rank of SAN, last year only one female lawyer was awarded the rank of SAN. Could this be a fair representation of female lawyers in the legal profession?

The issue of the elevation of female lawyers to the rank of SAN cannot be predicated upon or viewed only from the perspective of being female.

I personally do not believe that things should be done for women simply because they are women or that standards should be lowered to accommodate women.

Women must obtain whatever they desire, not just SAN, through hard work and by merit.

Meeting the requirements for the attainment of the status of SAN is extremely challenging, as such, as many women who qualify for elevation to the prestigious rank should be admitted to the inner bar.

The number of women eventually conferred with the rank should be based on the number of women who apply and meet the requirements. Meeting the requirements for SAN is very time consuming requiring a great deal of focus on the practice of law and the attainment of the requirements as contained in the guidelines for the award prevailing at the time of the application for elevation to the inner bar.