Prof Attahiru Jega, a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the deployment of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms is the panacea for litigations and violent conflicts.
Jega, represented by Dr Louis Ogbeifun, a former ICMC president, stated this on Tuesday in Abuja while delivering a keynote address at the annual conference of the Institute of Chattered Mediators and Conciliators(ICMC).
Our correspondent reports that ICMC is a professional body of dispute resolution practitioners primarily responsible for the training of prospective mediators in Nigeria.
Jega who spoke on the theme of the conference: “Dialogue, Mediation and Conciliation: A Panacea For Managing Polarized Societies,” noted that “Nigeria is a relatively polarized and intensely litigious society.
“Resolution of disputes should not begin with or at the courts, which should ordinarily be the last resort, except in criminal cases or what can be termed as matters of urgent national importance.
“Unmitigated conflicts more often than not, poison inter-personal relations, negatively affect inter-personal and inter- group relations and in general negatively impact upon peaceful coexistence in a very diverse polity, such as Nigeria.
“As we strive to encourage and ensure peaceful resolution of disputes in the Nigerian polity in particular and political economy in general, there is need to increasingly deploy ADR institutions, processes, procedures and mechanisms, because of their advantages in contrast to ligation in courts.”
Jega noted that many countries have increasingly introduced and enhanced ADR mechanisms to mitigate or resolve conflicts before they degenerate into either time-consuming and costly litigation, or assume irreconcilable and violent dimensions.
He expressed satisfaction with the fact that Nigeria was already beginning to deploy alternative dispute resolution structures, processes and mechanisms, to address and resolve the phenomenal incidences of conflicts, which affect our nation.
He therefore urged participants and ADR professionals to partner with other stakeholders to reposition ADR in Nigeria, by deploying it in many needy spheres towards greater beneficial outcomes.
Also speaking, Olumide Akpata, President, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, and chairman of the occasion, assured ICMC of NBA’s support, stressing that he welcomed any program aimed at training train lawyers to become better professionals.
“Some people say we have too many lawyers in Nigeria but the problem is not the number of lawyers but the fact that we have too many lawyers doing the same thing.
“It is time to solve the problems that are tearing us apart as a nation because lawyers who acquire ADR training from the institute will apply them to resolve out-of-court disputes.
“Let’s try as much as possible to ensure that ADR is domesticated across the country. I’m eager to see how we can inject ourselves into mediation, especially with regards to the violent conflicts in Nigeria,” Akoata said.
In his address, ICMC president, Dr John Agada, said that the task of safeguarding the country cannot be left to government alone, hence the institute’s decision to partner government and stakeholders like the German corporation, GIZ.
He explained that the institute’s membership cut across all disciplines considering the multifaceted nature of dispute resolution and the parties that are often involved in it.
Agada said that under him ICMC engaged in advocacy and sensitization visits to various places and moved the institute from merely training people to offering ADR services like corporate social responsibility.