By Abdulwahab Abdulah & Tosin Adejuwon
LAGOS â€” GOVERNOR Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, yesterday advised lawyers to educate litigants to use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism in settling disputes to decongest the courts.
The governor who spoke at the maiden edition of the Lagos Settlement Week (LSW) at the premises of the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC), Igbosere,Â said: â€œLMDC was promulgated to create a legal framework for our operations and to affirm our mandate to expand the frontiers of access to justice through the provision of ADR services like arbitration, mediation and hybrid processes.â€
Governor Fashola who was represented by the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Olashupo Shasore (SAN), further said the LSW was a structured and deliberate justice reform initiative that would allow the administration of justice in the state and set it on the path of effectiveness.
He said this would in turn not only ease the tension on the corridors of the courts but would also help in equity and dispensation of justice.
The Chief Judge of the state, Justice Inumidun Akande, in her keynote address said the Lagos State Judiciary had an average of 50 cases assigned to a judge on a daily basis. This, she said, made the state judiciary the busiest and the most vibrant in the entire federation.
In the same vein, Chairman of LMDC governing council, Justice Opeyemi Oke, said the settlement week was designed to encourage the settlement of cases that were pending in the Lagos State High Court through the deployment of ADR mechanisms.
According to her, â€œat the settlement week conferences, professional mediators will explore with litigants and their counsel, participatory and satisfying solutions, as well as timely and cost effective justice on a wide variety of disputes.â€
â€œThe significance of this approach cannot be overstated. As a judicial officer for quite some years now, I am aware that giving a decision, after the trial of a case, sometimes leaves parties somewhat less than satisfied.
Hence, it means that for the first time in the history of the Lagos State judiciary and indeed Nigeria, a week has been set apart where ADR takes the centre stage and litigants, with the participation of their counsel, are able to creatively work out remedies to their disputes. This is what justice should be,â€ she said.
The first Lagos Settlement Week of the 2009/2010 Legal Year of the Lagos State judiciary is a pilot project to establish a framework for meaningful intervention of ADR in the justice sector.
Subsequent settlement weeks will witness an unprecedented and definitive reduction of the case load off the courts and the overall cost of the administration of justice in Lagos State.
Most importantly, distinguished audience, the successful implementation of the Settlement Week project will demonstrate the viability in ADR for justice reform and possibly serve as a model for other states in Nigeria. The week will run from November 2nd till 9th, 2009.