Some mediation Advocates in Lagos have cited the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as the would be most sought-after resolution medium in the near future in the country, because of its efficacy in fast tracking justice administration.
In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday, the experts, therefore, called for more aggressive measures to be put in place to ensure that only cases that must go to litigation were sent to the courts for adjudication.
Mr Adeyemi Akisanya, a lawyer and a member of the Standing Conference of Mediation Advocates Advisory Board (SCMA), told NAN that ADR had helped parties to identify the underlying interests in a dispute and totally address it.
Akisanya said that more cases had come to mediation through the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC), especially the court directed processes.
According to him, the interests that underlie conflicts between persons, even in commercial matters, were not always addressed because of the nature of regular litigation.
“The result is that because these interests are not addressed, there is a tendency for the parties to be in continued loggerheads in courts, as they try to employ the technicalities of the adversarial litigation process, which is inefficient in resolving conflicts.
“You find out that one of the major reasons cases have logged the law courts is because the parties’ interests are not yet addressed. What ADR has done is to help parties identify these interests and address them, thereby satisfying parties a lot faster.
“ADR has also shown that the bottlenecks in courts can be reduced, and with a lot of determination and commitment it will eventually be eliminated.
“I believe that in the near future, the process of ensuring that only cases that have to go all the way into the litigation process, will get to courts for litigation, if the process becomes more aggressive,” Akisanya said.
He said that Lagos State had led the way from 2012 to 2013, when it made compulsory provisions for sending cases to mediation first, adding that other states would do well to join hands, to promote ADR processes in their environments.
Akisanya said: “when these systems are efficiently addressed, we will find out that future justice administration will become much faster, efficient and parties will become more satisfied and fulfilled.”
Another mediation expert, Mr Valentino Buoro, Director, SCMA, said ADR had assisted on the resolution of cases not only in Lagos. but throughout the federation.
He said that the only challenge ADR had was its confidentiality, which made it difficult to put a finger on the number of cases resolved through ADR across the country.
According to him, it was only organisations like the Lagos State Citizens Mediation Centre (LCMC), that can publish reports on the number of cases resolved by their centre.
He said that many cases were being referred to the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse, from the High courts and Magistrates’ Courts, for resolution through ADR, proving that ADR had impacted immensely on the provision of access to justice in the country.
Buoro, however, said that the depth of penetration of ADR consciousness among Nigerians was still relatively small.
“Our hope and expectation is that ADR will be the mainstream option of resolving disputes in our country”, noting that “It is also very interesting now that ADR process has extended to criminal jurisprudence, whereby minor offences no longer attract custodial sentencing.
“A whole new number of cases would be resolved through the restorative justice system, where offenders can be made to undergo things like community service. ADR has come to stay, it should be patronised and promoted by the media,” Buoro said.
Also speaking, Mr Femi Akin-Johnson, a lawyer and mediator, who practices at the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse, said any way one looked at it, ADR was helping in the administration of justice in Nigeria
“It is a known fact that most of our courts are congested, with some Judges handling over 100 cases a day. With the advent of ADR, a lot of cases were sent in for mediation and this exercise at the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse has been a success, with quite a number of cases settled.
“Cases that have been in court for years are known to have been settled at mediation, thereby decongesting the courts and fast tracking settlement of cases swiftly,” he said. (NAN)