Is Cause of Action in Commercial Arbitrations Sui Generis? A Review of the Application of Limitation of Action to the Enforcement in Nigeria of an Arbitral Award

Abstract

To maintain an action in court, there must be in existence facts a combination of which gives a person the basis to seek redress in that forum. When facts the proof of which entitles a person to a remedy against the defaulting other have crystallized, it is said that cause of action has accrued.

In arbitration, the law, like in other civil matters, provides for time within which to enforce an arbitral award. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has held that for the purpose of enforcement of an award, time begins to run from the period of the breach leading to the arbitration but not from when the award is made except in cases where the award is made a condition precedent to its enforcement.

The aim here is to examine the foregoing position with a view to determining whether cause of action in an action for enforcement of an award is in a class of its own (sui generis); or whether it assumes the same meaning and connotations as it is understood in other civil causes.

This enquiry reveals that the decisions of the apex court in the cases reviewed are not in consonance with well-known jurisprudential underpinnings of cause of action. Since no award can be enforced until it is made, accrual of cause of action for its enforcement should be reckoned, not from the time of the breach giving rise to the arbitration, but from the time the award is made and the unsuccessful party fails to comply with its terms.

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Keywords: Action, Award, Arbitration, Limitation, Enforcement, Cause

 

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Is Cause of Action in Commercial Arbitrations Sui Generis? A Review of the Application of Limitation of Action to the Enforcement in Nigeria of an Arbitral Award

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