By Jude Njoku
Rather than recourse to litigation in the recovery of premises with the attendant waste of time and resources as well as the deep scar it leaves on the litigants at the end, estate surveyors and valuers and their colleagues in the legal profession have called for the use of mediation as an alternative means of resolving tenancy related disputes.

The setting was the launch last week in Lagos of a 66-page book on Recovery of Premises in Lagos State: The Multi-Door Courthouse Approach written by a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Michael Oyagha.

The Chairman of the Governing Council of Lagos Multi-door Courthouse, LMDC, Hon. Justice Opeyemi Oke noted that majority of the cases in the Magistrate Courts in Lagos are related to landlords and their tenants. She noted that the Lagos State Government in a bid to find solutions to some prohibitive practices in the letting and leasing of accommodation, drafted and passed into law, the 2012 Tenancy legislation.

Justice Oke who also wrote the Book’s Forward, explained that a major consideration in advocating the use of alternative dispute resolution ADR in the process of recovery of premises, is that it affords parties the opportunities to resolve their dispute without subjecting themselves to the rigours of the courtroom.

She stated that with the establishment of the LMDC in 2002, litigants now have various options for the timely, efficient and cost-effective resolution of their disputes. “LMDC was created to offer alternative dispute resolution, ADR services for a range of disputes including landlord and tenant related disputes,” she said.

Speaking for estate surveyors, a former National Secretary of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, NIESV, Mr. Akin Olawore who said he has refrained from taking tenants to court in the last five years, enumerated the advantages of mediation over litigation in the recovery of premises. He noted that mediation is cheaper, less time consuming and more efficient than litigation.

According to him, most distraught tenants, in a bid to cut their own pound of flesh from the landlord, vandalise the property before leaving. This, he noted, would not happen if such disputes are amicably resolved through mediation.

Speaking to Vanguard Homes & Property at the end of the book launch, Olawore identified the chief causes of disputes and why mediation is a better option in resolving landlord-tenant related cases.

“Mediation by its process is a parties-led process, in which case it is the parties that have the opportunity to speak to each other. Dispute is natural but what leads to dispute? So many things lead to dispute…Now when we go to court, what they lawyers would be looking at are what are your rights and the technicalities but what has caused that dispute is still there, unresolved.

You may still be feeling hurt and I am still going to feel hurt. In a nutshell, that is what dispute and mediation is all about. Even before we started mediation here, what I have learnt is that if you are able to sit a landlord and a tenant down and they are able to talk, they will start to understand themselves better,” he said.

Author of the book, Mr Michael Oyagha noted that “parties submission to the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse or the Citizens Mediation Centre dispute resolution process, does not constitute an ouster of the jurisdiction of the courts.

He further explained that the introduction of this provision in the 2012 law for the resolution of landlord and tenant disputes at the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse and  the Citizens Mediation Centre is aimed at providing parties with an alternative to the traditional mono-door system where their property disputes can only be resolved through recourse to litigation.

Oyagha who works with LMDC as its Training Coordinator, said the primary focus of his new book is the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse and its importance in the legal space. He appealed to other states of the federation to borrow a leaf from Lagos and establish a multi-door courthouse.

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