By: Kelechi Ozuzu, ACArb,

“The future is already here – it is just not very evenly distributed yet’ – William Gibson

The time honoured adage says: “if you lose money, you have not lost anything, if you lose your health, you have lost something but if you lose your integrity you have lost everything.”

Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character and honesty are all encapsulated in integrity.

There are Laws, codes and Rules governing ethics and integrity in arbitration. Many sections of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Cap. A18, LFN 2004 made reference to issues directly or indirectly relating to this twin concept. Sections 14 and 15 of the Act provides for equal treatment of parties and ensuring fair hearing respectively while Section 8 dwells on disclosure requirements and the all-important grounds for the challenge of an award. NICArb Rules of Professional Ethics for Arbitrators provide four key attributes expected in arbitration, namely;

Independence, Impartiality, Confidentiality and Competence. These are fundamental standards of ethical conduct and responsibility.

Integrity is the defining standard in life. In matters of integrity one should not waver but stand like a rock. The bottom line on all issues both legal, extra-legal and arbitration are all subsumed on the altar of integrity. Integrity CANNOT BE CODIFIED by extant laws, conventions and legislations because it is an inert quality of humanity. It is trite that even the devil cannot tell the intention of a man. In the corporate world, ethics and integrity are the SOUL of corporate governance which means: DOING THINGS THE RIGHT WAY.

Juxtaposing ethics and integrity with Arbitration, it is presumed that the parties and the arbitrators should be objective, open minded, fair and truthful to reach a sound and equitable decision. I recall serving in a committee at an international institution when an issue on the human rights in the Chairman’s country was to be discussed. The Chairman did not permit the issue to be discussed a case of bias and partiality lacking in neutrality.

The crown of arbitration is its integrity; its stronghold is the impartiality and competence of the arbitrator. A partial arbitrator destroys the confidence in the system which has a ripple effect on the society.

Competence requires that arbitrator should only accept an appointment if the arbitrator meets the professional qualification and any other requirements specified by the parties in the arbitration agreement (reasonable expectations inclusive). Independence presupposes a sense of self awareness and self-assertion. There should not be a pre-disposition towards the party that appointed the arbitrator. These are the hallmarks of competence. No diffidence in arbitration.

Confidentiality is an essential ingredient of arbitration. It must be protected. It is about how to treat evidentiary materials, official decisions and communications without violating secrets or divulging sensitive information obtained in the course of work. This imbues confidence which is the armour of arbitration. It preserves the integrity and fairness of the arbitral process.

Ethics and integrity in arbitration are the ‘Siamese Twins’ that engender a good arbitration. Ethics is the active part and integrity is the contemplative part, both parts make up the whole. Ethics and integrity like the Sun, Moon and Truth, according to Kong Qiu, the Chinese Philosopher better known as Confucius, cannot long be hidden. For a good arbitration, ethics and integrity should be like Salt which maintains its integrity amidst pollution. Effective arbitrators must withstand every pressure and inducement and always act ethically, truthfully and with the highest level of integrity in the discharge of their duties.