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Africa Dispute Resolution Method: A Panacea to Courts’ Congestion in Nigeria – Akilu Sa’adu

Supreme Court of Nigeria

Africa Dispute Resolution Method: A Panacea to Courts’ Congestion in Nigeria

𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙤𝙙𝙪𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣:
Litigation has been the viable and  most pronounced means for settling dispute in Nigeria. However,with the emergence of many things and cascading of novel issues which swamp and at the same time congest our court-system , there is unwaverable need for judiciary to evolve with an aternative to conventional court litigation for resolving disputes and qualms in our society . This write is dedicated toward unravelling the numerous modes via which a disgruntled or offended persons could secure remedy even without knocking at the judge’s door for expounding of rule or law in Nigeria but with vehement consideraration on  Multi-Door court and Arbitration .

An Overview of the System

Africa , nay Nigeria for the time immemorial has its unique informal means of resolving disputes, disagreement and altercations that arise in various communities
Alternative Dispute Resolution is not a new concept within Nigeria. Mediation was one of the favoured methods of resolving disputes long before the arrival and implementation of the British  adversarial-based legal system.
The procedure which proved the height level of sophistication of African communities since before the arrival of colonial intruders …

For example, In Hausa Land prior to the intrusion of colonial adventurers, there was a system of resolving dispute with mai-anguwa (village head) as the neutral arbiter who facilitates the disputing parties till they reach consensus.

Likewise in Igbo where family head has the sole onus or is duty bound to attend to all the family matters before appoaching Okparas for resolution. This act prevented the privacy of the family.  so also in yoruba land, family heads played an invaluable role in negotiating any matter that may arise in the Family; and such matter(s) were privately resolved without the involvement of an outsider or a third party.

But, the modern procedure can be traced to the writting of an American lawyer  , Eric Green, who first used the term ADR in an article entitled “settling large case litigation: an alternative approach” who was involved in a serious commercial dispute which persisted for many years and  was not even heard in the court. so, he devised a way through which he navigated the energy-sapping and time-consuming litigation procedure. He adopted ADR and in two  days concensus was reached and dispute was reaolved.

What is ADR?

𝘼𝘿𝙍  according to some people is an acronym which stands for “African Dispute Resolution. The argument of some people in favour of this is that: Africa did practice ADR since before Eric pronounced it in his writing.

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But, the famous and encompassing meaning of ADR is: Alternative Dispute Resolution. It is a litigation -free procedures through which disputes are amicably resolved .

However, for knowledge search it is pertinent to understand that ADR means the following: Alternative, Amicable or African Dispute Resolution.

ADR can be described as an effort to arrive at mutually acceptable decisions. It involves the   application of methods such as mediation,negotiation, procedures and skills designed to achieve an agreement that is  satisfying and acceptable to all parties.

ADR in Nigerian Justice System

 Nigeria is one of the populous country with the slowest justice delivery system because of the large chunk of cases queving in our courts, unattended . Likewise, Nigerian  judiciary is among the most overstretched judicial system with a large number of cases yet, very few judicial officers to attend to.

As a result, Nigeria innovated its alternative Dispute Resolution procedure known as Arbitration and concilation Act 2023 which the repealed the Arbitration and Mediation  Act (cap A18 laws of FRN 2004) .

This Act monitors or regulates  any recognised out-of- court means of resolution . It was enacted  to provide a unified legal framework for  fair and efficient settlement of disputes in Nigeria.

More so, among the various modes of ADR my concern will heavily focus on the applicability of Multi-Door court house system and Arbitration in Nigeria.

Multi-Cout house

These are centres for ADR, named Multi-Door Courts (MDCs), that are independently run and managed, but are attached to a specific court (in the case of Kano, Abuja and Lagos – the High Court of each respective state). They have the benefit of offering different „doors‟ for resolving disputes in respect of cases that may or may not already be within the court system.
The judgement reached in either walk-in case or court- refferred case ment reached is given the same status as full judgments of the High Court. 

Arbitration

It is a private arrangement by parties to submit disputes to one or more uninvolved and impartial persons to resolve the points of disagreement. The decision of the arbiter is final and binding on the parties. 

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Arbitration was judicially expounded in the case of CN Onuselogu Ent. Ltd V Afribank (Nig) Ltd (2005) 1 NWLR (pt 940) 577, “As an arbitration agreement is where two or more persons agree that a dispute or potential dispute between them shall be resolved and decided in a legally binding way by one or more impartial persons in a judicial manner, upon evidence put before him or them” 

An Arbitrator often set procedure which is more court-like in its process both prior to and during the arbitration itself. Full legal arguments are presented and the proceedings should be fully recorded and transcribed as in formal court proceedings. The arbitral award is bindinh upon the parties.

it is fact that our courts need to breathe ; it is congested with alot of cases that could be resolved in a seconds or single sitting with an astute arbiter and that is why case that ought to be decided in a week should linger for three to five years, fortunately.

For this reason,  Different High Courts procedure rules provide for case referral to ADR subject to the consent of the parties. For example, section section 18 of High court law of Federation FCT enjoin parties to tour through different”doors” in order to settle amicably before approachinh court for proper litigation.

How Could ADR Decongest Courts in Nigeria

ADR will aid in emptying our courts and judiciary from been tired when people explore different means available other than conventional litigation in order to seek for compensation and other remedies.

For instance, most of the marrital cases, if not all, can be treated an resolved privately within the family members.

This methode provides an avenue for easy amendment of relationship and securing of damages, if any. . The ADR procedure is very flexible devoid of any legal technicalities. It is based on the consent of the parties that agreemet will be entered. Yet, it gives satisfaction similar to, or same as what litigation might give the parties.

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More over, in litigation the process may not be unravelled in the reasonable time; it may take a year for a case to be. mentioned in court and massive adjournment may come up and thwart the judgement process due to the inability of the litigants to either incontrovertibly prove their suit or provide a prima facie witness.

But, in ADR is expedient and speedy where a complicated case could be  expeditiously resolved  within an hour due to its flexibilty and consessual nature.

Suggestions of the Writer

I suggest that, we should endeavor to explore out -of- courts modes of resolving disputes (ADR) either traditional means of it or the modern model procedure for the resolution of our business or marital discord.

These ADR (Alternative to Dispute Resolution) modes would be more easier, less costly , speedy and more secretive than going for litigation which at the tail end may initiate enmity among the two wings of family members.

…It is priceless to take-in that litigation is not the only modes of refunding one’s Sadaq (Dowry) or getting compensation from the wrongs one’s suffers; Court is not the only escape route through which you can claim your outstanding debts on your husband or business colleague. Taste Traditional means of settling disputes to evade disclosing all your business secrets to the gallery instead for couples to divulge their secrets in court room ,let head of Family or  guardians first know or enjoin the company of Lawyer for advice before approaching any court .

Lawyers duties are beyond Litigation. They are trained to mediate or  conciliate on any matter which is mediative and conciliatory.


Image Credit: Punch Newspapers


About Author

Akilu Sa’adu is a 200 level law Student from the Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. He can be reached via his WhatsApp number: 07046112021
Or through his Email: [email protected].

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