ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION-HIGH COURT OF LAGOS STATE CIVIL PROCEDURE RULES 2012 AND PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION ACT 2004
BY JOHN OGUNNIYI ESQ
Alternative Dispute Resolution is a mechanism in which matters are resolved between two warring parties in a conducive environment devoid of strict legal technicalities by an umpire. Under the new High Court of Lagos Civil Procedure rules 2012, the new rules have inculcated Alternative Dispute Resolution into the law as a means of resolving matters.
It should be noted that the Public Complaints Commission through its enabling Act performs as part of its role, duties similar in nature as those practiced by the Lagos Multi door Court House.
Public Complaints Commission receives complaints from members of the public as the ombudsman and looks at the complaints investigates, and sometimes invites the respondents and mediates between them with the purpose of settling the matter amicably. In this sense, it is a win win system unlike the adversarial system, where we have winners and losers.
Under the Public Complaints Commission Act, the Commission is empowered to initiate complaints where it is suspected that the right of the citizens will be adversely affected by the occurrence of any event. As a matter of fact, it can also settle matters amicably and make its findings known through recommendations to the appropriate authority for further action or it can organize a press conference as a means of enlightening members of public about the activities of certain industrial sectors and by so doing bring sanity into the system.
Under the High Court rules, when a lawyer files his writ of summons in court, the matter will be subjected to scrutiny by a designated officer. Where it is found that the bone of contention can be resolved through Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms, such matters will be sent to the Multi-door Court House for mediation. It should be noted that where a matter has be sent for mediation, an Alternative Dispute Resolution judge will be assigned to the case where all interlocutory applications will be dealt with.
Where parties are able to resolve the matter at the Multi door Court House, the resolution will lead to the preparation of memorandum of settlement or an agreement after which the agreement paper will be sent to the Alternative Dispute Resolution judge for pronouncement as the judgment of the court.
If this is done, none of the parties has the right to appeal against such consent judgment without the leave of the court sought and obtained. The applicant must present cogent and real material facts to the court for him to be allowed to appeal against such judgment.
The advantages of the above mechanism arc numerous. It spans from quick decision as obtained especially in commercial matters where time is of essence, it reduces cost, it allows the parties to sit and discuss matter in an environment devoid of legal jargon and technicalities to settle their matters. It also brings about healthy relationship between the two warring parties since it is a win win system.
The introduction of alternative dispute resolution into the Lagos State High Court civil procedure rules is highly commendable.
This will serve as a veritable means by which matter can be settled with less stress. It should be borne in mind that this arrangement by the new high court of Lagos rules is very close to the duties performed by Public Complaints Commission since its inception. Public Complaints Commission has been involved in dispute resolution of all complaints brought by the members of the Public and such complaints are being resolved on a daily basis. Many people especially the indigent ones have explored this mechanism to settle their matters at no cost.
It is believed that the operation of the new Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism in high court civil rules will complement the duties performed by the Public Complaints Commission and in a short time our court will be rid of those cases which would have been resolved through Alternative Dispute Resolution. This can be appreciated against back drop of the fact that justice delayed is justice denied.