Understanding arbitration process in ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme


Highlighting the key aspects and procedures.

The ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme is a regional insurance scheme established to facilitate free movement of vehicles across member states within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In cases of accidents involving vehicles covered by the Brown Card Scheme, arbitration plays a crucial role in resolving disputes. This feature will delve into the arbitration process under the ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme, highlighting key aspects and procedures.

Arbitration Overview:

Arbitration is a dispute resolution mechanism where parties involved in a legal conflict agree to submit their case to an impartial third party, known as an arbitrator. This process is an alternative to litigation in traditional courts and is often preferred for its efficiency and flexibility.

Arbitration in ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme:

Under the ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme, arbitration serves as the primary mechanism for resolving disputes arising from accidents involving insured vehicles. This process is designed to provide a fair and timely resolution for all parties involved.

Key Steps in the Arbitration Process:

  1. Notification of Intent to Arbitrate:

When a dispute arises, the involved national bureau parties must formally notify the Permanent Secretariat of their intent to seek arbitration. This notification should include relevant details about the accident, the parties involved, and the insurance policies in question. The Permanent Secretary must act swiftly to appoint arbitrators to settle the matter.

  1. Selection of Arbitrator:

Both parties have the opportunity to agree on the selection of a neutral arbitrator. The Council of Bureaux represented by the Permanent Secretary General that appoints the panel of arbitrators mainly selected from three different member states apart from the two contending parties in order to ensure fairness

  1. Arbitration Hearing:

The arbitration process typically involves a hearing where both parties present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses. The arbitrator presides over the proceedings, ensuring a fair and balanced exchange of information.

  1. Decision:

After reviewing the evidence and arguments presented, the arbitrator issues a binding decision. This decision is final and enforceable.

Benefits of Arbitration under ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme:

  1. Efficiency:

Arbitration is often faster than traditional court proceedings, allowing for a quicker resolution of disputes.

  1. Expertise:

Arbitrators are typically chosen for their expertise in the relevant field, ensuring that the case is assessed by a knowledgeable professional.

iii. Flexibility:

Parties have more control over the arbitration process, including the selection of the arbitrator and the schedule of proceedings.

  1. Procedure Guide:

The Author has sampled excerpts of the Guide in this feature to guide the readers.


The arbitration regulation seeks to spell out, outline, and describe the resolution through arbitration of disputes between two (2) or many National Bureaux as they process claims arising from trans-border traffic accidents that involve or may involve ECOWAS brown card cover.

Arbitration is considered the preferred dispute resolution method between two (2) or many National Bureaux.

Arbitration cannot be compulsorily given that prior to the occurrence of the accident, the parties in dispute (the local victims and the alleged foreign perpetrator) are not business partners that can conclude an agreement to that end.

However, we can make it preferable and exempt of trials before the state Court by complying with universal principles including the arbitrators’ respectability, neutrality and impartiality and ensuring equitable and fair trial….


The arbitration procedure spelt out in this regulation shall apply to the resolution of disputes regarding liabilities that may fall on the various parties, and on the other hand, and any other issue regarding the management of a claim that arises from trans-border road accident that involve or may involve ECOWAS brown card cover.

Only the Standing Arbitration Committee shall have powers to conduct arbitration such as outlined in this Regulation.

Solely this body shall rule on issues regarding its powers.


The Committee shall be composed of full-fledged members and alternate members.

At the inauguration of the Standing Arbitration Committee, the Extraordinary General Assembly shall elect the Chairman of the Committee as well as the first and second Vice Chairman. Elections shall be by consensus. In case consensus fails, the election shall be by a simple majority vote of the National Bureaux in attendance.

The Chairman shall be the legal representative of the Standing Arbitration Committee.

The Chairman of the Committee shall be a member ex officio of the legal and regulatory committee.

In the absence of the Chairman, the first Vice Chairman shall exercise his/her powers for the time of absence; and in case the first Vice Chairman is unavailable, powers shall be exercised by the second Vice Chairman.


Members of the Arbitration Standing Committee shall be called Arbitrators. The Arbitrators shall serve two (2) year tenure renewable once.

The Arbitrators’ tenure shall be effective on the date of their inauguration at the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Council of Bureaux.

The function of the Arbitrators serving on the Standing Arbitration Committee shall be benevolent and free.

The Arbitrators’ registration fees at the zonal meetings and at other meetings as well as their per diems shall be borne by their National Bureaux.


To be eligible to the position of arbitrator, candidates shall

possess five (5) years of professional experience as a claim manager for an insurance Company or a National Bureau in an ECOWAS member country.

Arbitrators must fully enjoy all their civil rights.


The Secretary-General shall write to the Chairman of each National Bureau at least six (6) months prior to the end of the tenure of the sitting arbitrators.

Each National Bureau shall submit a two (2) name list, one full-fledged and one alternate, with appropriate CVs, to the Permanent General Secretary at least four (4) months prior to the end of the tenure of the members.

In case the Permanent General Secretary observes that a particular candidate does not meet the required conditions, he shall inform the relevant National Bureau fifteen (15) days following receipt of the list. The concerned National Bureau shall replace the candidate(s).

On pain of foreclosure, the National Bureau shall submit the new list to the Permanent General Secretary within thirty (30) days following the receipt of the request.

The Permanent General Secretary closes the final list of the fourteen (14) full-fledged arbitrators and the fourteen (14) alternate arbitrators two (2) months prior to the end of the tenure of the sitting arbitrators.

The Permanent General Secretary circulates the list of both the full-fledged and alternate arbitrators to the National Bureaux to be communicated to the insurance companies at least forty-five (45) days prior to the end of the tenure of the sitting arbitrators.


The inauguration of the Arbitrators shall be held at the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Council of Bureaux.

At the inauguration ceremony, each Arbitrator shall take the following oath in the official language of his/her country:

“I accept my new duty as Arbitrator sitting on the Standing Arbitration Committee of ECOWAS Brown Card.

I pledge to enforce the provisions of the Arbitration Regulation throughout my tenure, to behave as independent and impartial arbitrator, and under no circumstance, shall I behave or take position neither as representative of my country nor in favor of any party”.

For the swearing ceremony, Arbitrators may be grouped based on the official language of their country of origin.


The parties have agreed to submit for arbitration all claims cases where amicable decisions could not be reached.

In view of this, the requesting National Bureau must get hold of the Arbitration Commission.

The request letter must clearly indicate the names and Contact address of the defending party, the fact of the claim, the police report and all relevant documents.

If the dispute is in relation to quantum, the proposed offer made by the Insurance Company must be indicated in the file.

In case the disputing parties decide to refer to the Standing Arbitration Committee of ECOWAS Brown Card, they shall fully adopt, accept and comply with the provisions of this Arbitration Regulation.

Within two (02) days starting from the receipt of the arbitration request, the Permanent General Secretary shall send notice of the arbitration request to the responding National Bureau and ask them to submit full documentation for defense.

Starting from the date of referral, the responding National Bureau shall have six (6) working days to forward his relevant document.

Within two (02) working days following the receipt of the file of the responding National Bureau, the Permanent General Secretary shall forward the file to the Chairman of the Standing Arbitration Committee.

Readers could contact the Secretary-General of the Council of Bureaux of the ECOWAS Brown Card Insurance Scheme at [email protected]  , [email protected] for the full Guide.


The arbitration process under the ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme serves as a crucial mechanism for resolving disputes arising from accidents involving insured vehicles. Its efficiency, expertise, and flexibility make it a preferred method for achieving timely and fair resolutions. Understanding the key steps involved in this process is essential for all parties involved in the ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme.

The author is the Secretary-General of the Council of Bureaux of the ECOWAS Brown Card Insurance scheme headquartered in Lome, Togo

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