For a long period of time, the use of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has been consistently introduced and encouraged in the judiciary. Stakeholders are constantly reminded to embrace the ADR as a viable tool of arbitration that yields quick results.
In Oyo State, the procedure is not a new occurrence, having been introduced for over a decade though few people have embraced it. But last week, the ADR Society in Ibadan, convened by Barrister David Kole Ojo, went all out to preach its gospel; that ADR is better than litigation in resolving disputes.
The Ibadan ADR society, a not-for-profit organisation promotes resolution of disputes by means of appropriate dispute resolution methods including arbitration, mediation, adjudication and reconciliation and it is a body that aims to educate and inform its members on the law, ethics and opportunities open to them in ADR.
The main message of the ADR is that most civil and business cases need not go to litigation as there are other means that are faster and more cost effective
The ADR Society in a bid to move the principle of ADR from mere theory to a practical and procedural technique that is a first option in resolution of dispute, held its first public lecture and symposium to further reiterate the importance of ADR and enlighten lawyers and other stakeholders on the need to embrace it.
The symposium with the theme: ‘A New Dawn in Dispute Resolution; Opportunities and Challenges’ that was convened on behalf of the ADR Society Ibadan, by a seasoned arbitrator and chairman of the body, Kole Ojo, had in attendance, the Chief Judge of Oyo State represented by Justice A. L Akintola, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Oyo state, Seun Abimbola, who is also an arbitrator, senior advocates, lawyers and professionals from different walks of life.
The event held at the premises of the state High Court at Ring Road, had a panel of discussion on the theme and was chaired by Justice Akintola, with the state Attorney-General, Seun Abimbola; the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveying chairman, Kayode Obiwale; the chairman, Nigeria Institute of Architects, Bode Gbolade and the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ibadan branch as discussants.
The second panel treated the topic: ‘Jurisdictional and Enforcement conundrum. What jurisdiction applies to ADR?’ It was chaired by Mr. Adebayo Adenipekun (SAN) and had as discussants, David Kole Ojo, chairman of the ADR Society, Attorney-General, Mr Seun Abimbola, Kolawole Fadayomi and Dr. Mrs. Alero Akeredolu.
The panels discussed whether the global shift of referring more and more disputes to ADR an opportunity to achieve a broader access to justice and quicker resolution of disputes, the opportunities, challenges and the meaning of ADR, how effective the award of settlement obtained under the various models of dispute resolution is, the willingness of parties to agree and attitude of arbitrators.
And after 13 years of being introduced into the judicial system in Oyo State and various efforts of propagating the gospel across the state by the society, the ADR procedure finally took root as the best practice in dispute resolution that day, with stakeholders; the ADR Society, Ibadan, the Ministry of Justice, Oyo State judiciary and the Nigerian Bar Association, calling for more engagement of people especially lawyers in the process.
Speaking, the Attorney-General, Mr. Abimbola, stated that the reality that should be embraced by lawyers and even litigants is that ADR is the way to go and anyone that fails to join the train will be left in the loop. According to him, since 2003 when it was introduced in Oyo State, the process was yet to fully pick momentum as lawyers were still being engaged and those that had started only engaged in arbitration, leaving mediation and negotiation.
According to him, “ADR has come to stay in terms of processes, regulation and judicial pronouncements,” adding that lawyers need to know that rather than take away their jobs as feared, it will only make it easier and help resolve more cases in a little time thereby increasing income, explaining that nothing can stop ADR now.
He reiterated that the state mediation centre has proved the efficacy of ADR in the number of cases that it has resolved without litigation, adding that the judiciary through litigation cannot meet up with such an output.
He stated that in 2011, the centre got 281 cases and successfully mediated in 261; in 2012, it got 936 and concluded 751; in 2013, it got 572 and concluded 423; in 2014, they got 609 and dispensed 459; in 2015, there were 340 cases filed and 288 concluded while this year, 344 cases had already been filed and 277 had been concluded. He further explained that they had recovered the sum of N23, 467, 562, 70k for people through mediation.
The panelists concluded that ADR had been part of the culture in Nigeria even before the advent of judiciary and had been effective in our culture and religious organizations and called on people to open their minds and stop wasting funds and time in taking cases for litigation when they could be resolved through mediation
They added that if ADR is seen as first option, the abuse of judicial process will be greatly reduced and the courts will be free to adjudicate in criminal issues and speed up the judicial process which is seen to be continuously on a snail speed.
After citing diverse examples, people at the symposium arrived at the conclusion that
ADR is always a better option than going to court as there is no way litigation can beat ADR in terms of effectiveness. They panelists stated that ADR is better described as a practical mediation that eradicates the frustrating aspect of litigation and create a win-win situation with no victor and no vanquished.
According to them, the ADR permanently erodes the Yoruba saying that “a ki ti kootu de ka sore” meaning we do not return from court and remain friends as the ADR settles matters in a way that all parties will be satisfied, adding that before anybody would file cases in court, they need to first explore all avenues of resolution through ADR.
In his concluding speech, Kole Ojo stated that ADR is the answer to the weakness of the court system as it easily resolves issues without any lingering bitterness, adding that lawyers should embrace it and make it the first option in any matter. He said it is time for people to see ADR as the Appropriate Dispute Resolution method and not an alternative since it has been established that it is more efficient and time saving and called for more hands in spreading the ADR gospel in Oyo state.