Conflicts generally are inherent and occurring in every form of interdependent relationships. There would definitely be situations of disagreement, discourse, and misunderstanding. These issues range from commercial, family, religious, professional forms of relationships etc. In a bid to settle all these forms of discords, individuals are turning in their numbers to the courts. It must be observed that these litigation processes have been built to ensure deliberations that would guarantee fairness and justice.
However, the desired solace from this process has been severed not because the court is nonchalant about the problems presented, rather because of certain impending issues such as the technicalities of the procedure, cost of litigation, duration, and delay of the trial, and sometimes a litigant is even denied access to justice. Countless judges still take notes by hand, as there are no stenographers. Records are archived manually and a reliable computer in a Nigerian court is rare, especially at the magistrate courts that handle most cases. The biggest problem, however, is overcrowding. Many judges or magistrates have over 50 cases per day on their dockets, a number impossible to adjudicate. It can take many years to get to trial and months to have a motion heard. Disputants often express frustrations at the "come today, come tomorrow" syndrome and mounting legal fees for professional representation with each futile court appearance. It is not uncommon in African countries for a dispute to take a decade or more to a reach resolution. As a foreign diplomat in East Africa once joked, "it is easier for one to pass through the mouth of a lion than go through the legal system".
Alternative Dispute Resolution has been attaining a high level of popularity though it is quite slow in Nigeria. ADR simply put is the process of resolving disputes without using the court system or 'out of court' as is popularly called. These ADR mechanisms can be used to resolve all types of disputes from simple forms of disagreement between residential neighbours to the very complex matters or multi-party. It does not necessarily involve only the intercession and assistance of a neutral third party who helps to facilitate such resolutions. It is seen as "a group of flexible-approaches to resolving disputes more quickly and at a lower cost than going to court". The notion of ADR fits comfortably within traditional concepts of African justice, particularly its core value of reconciliation. The intent of some proponents of ADR is to use it to fill up the vague of the efficiency of the courts. Some other ADR adherents say the application of these mechanisms leads to a better outcome for all the parties involved in the dispute. ADR generally has helped courts around the world reduce delays and costs to litigants, deliver justice faster and fairly, and allow parties to exercise control over their case resolution without feeling alienated.
ADR could be broadly categorised into; Non-binding ADR which includes Negotiation, Mediation, Conciliation, etc; and Binding ADR such as Arbitration and other adjudicatory ADR methods like Mini-trial, Expert Determination, and Mediation-Arbitration etc. It is very important to note generally that there are of course various techniques or mechanisms employed in the bid of settling these disputes as under the course of ADR ranging from mediation to Negotiation to Arbitration to Conciliation etc. which are Constitutionally provided for in Section 19(d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999 (As amended).
In conclusion, Nigerian courts have come to realise the role of ADR quite aside from imposed decisions in an effective justice delivery system. It is expeditious, cost-effective, face-saving, maintains relationships often destroyed in adversarial proceedings, and focuses the parties on their real interests. Strengthening ADR culture in Nigeria will go a long way in easing the unnecessary burden on its judicial system and foster a consensual, cooperative and creative atmosphere for the resolution of disputes for sustainable development in the country. For a detailed insight on this topic, see Alternative Dispute Resolution in Nigeria.
Written by: Chioma V. Basil Esq.
Email: [email protected]
Phone No.: 0900008231
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Ernest E. Uwazie, "Alternative Dispute Resolution in Africa: Preventing Conflict and Enhancing Stability" (A Publication of the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies).
A paper delivered by Prof D.A Guobadiq on "ADR mechanisms: An Introductory Analysis", P.g 1
Henry Brown and Arthur Marriott: "ADR Principles and Practice" (1993) Sweet & Maxwell, P.9
Sander et al, Dispute Resolutions Little Brown & Co Chapter 1 titled "The Disputing Universe" (1994) P.4
David B. Lipsky and Ronald L. Seember, "Appropriate Resolution of Corporate Disputes: The growing use of ADR by U.S. Companies," Cornell/PERC Institute on Conflict Resolution, 1998.