By Dairo Danladi
Concern over cost and delays in litigation procedures together with increasing globalization have led to a more flexible means of resolving disputes which provide alternatives to court-based litigation governed by the law and procedure of a particular state or country known as Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR).
The process was formulated by an American litigation lawyer Eric Green, who first used the term ADR in an article titled “settling large case litigation: an alternative approach”.
It consist of using several approaches to resolve a dispute in a non-confrontational way, ranging from early neutral evaluation, mini trial, negotiation, expert determination, mediation, conciliation, and arbitration.
Considering the preference for ADR in resolving disputes, there are a legion of benefits that accrue from its use including not limited to less expenses to redress disputes, shorter time is resolving dispute, cordial relationship among the disputing parties, providing the parties with a mutually binding decision, and providing win-win situation.
The Edo State Governorship Election has come and gone, a winner emerged and a loser, what is paramount now is how to resolve the disputes arising from the pre-election, conduct of the election and post-election.
Section 137 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as Amended prescribed the procedures in presenting petition to the Election Petition Tribunal. In the electoral process several acts or omission constitutes offences.
While some of such acts or omission may be civil offences, others may amount to criminal offences and may lead to arrests and litigation with protracted time wasting, distractions, antagonism, and victimization, including leading to deaths. Unfortunately, it is time consuming, very expensive to engage the services of a qualified lawyer, and even create non-cordial relationship after court decision.
Notwithstanding, the place of ADR should not be overlooked as Section 274 of the 1999 Constitution as Amended has prescribed the practice procedure in the use of ADR. Pursuant to Section 274 of the 1999 Constitution, Order 25 Rule (1) (2)(C) of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules of Lagos State 2012, makes provision for the promotion of amicable settlement of cases or adoption of ADR.
Section 24 of the High Court Laws of Lagos State 2003 also provides that in any action, the court may promote reconciliation among the parties thereto, encourage and facilitate the amicable settlement thereof.
The Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Mediation Procedure Rules 2004. Parties that opt for arbitration will be governed with the Multi-Door Courthouse Arbitration Procedure Rules 2004. In Abuja, Practice Direction 19/11/03 made pursuant to section 259 of 1999 Constitution prescribes practice procedures in Alternative Dispute Resolution session at the Abuja Multi-Door Courthouse mediation proceeding, while the Abuja Multi-Door Courthouse Arbitration Procedure Rules (2002) govern Arbitration Proceedings at the Abuja Multi – Door Courthouse.
The application of ADR in the settlement of electoral disputes will benefit both parties and the constituencies as follows: they are likely to spend less using ADR to redress their dispute rather than outright litigation in court which requires a lot of cost implication; will have a short time resolving the matter; the stress associated with such exercise will also be reduce on them; the parties would continue after the resolution of the dispute to enjoy a cordial relationship; the parties are brought together to acknowledge and appreciate their difference and therefore reach a mutually beneficial conclusion, or provide the parties with a mutually binding decision, i.e. through the establishment of rights and commitments; although one Party may emerge as the incumbent winner, the other party may be pacify with a good appointment. Therefore, the absence of total win/lose will unite the parties for effective governance etc.
On the other hand, their constituencies may: have relative peace and harmony completely devoid of political thuggery which often result to destruction of lives and properties; experience good governance as the dispute having settled amicably would likely collaborate with cross fertilization of ideas that move the constituency forward etc.
Rather than use the litigation approach, the ADR options which have been use for a long time and have gained wide acceptance, ought to be explored. It is on this note that I encourage parties that have electoral disputes in the just concluded Edo State Governorship Election to try first to submit to ADR for disputes settlement.
In fact ADR is so widely recognized that in normal litigation, courts would first subject parties to explore ADR options before they could come for litigation. See Dunnet v. Railtrack Plc, (2002) 1 WLR 2434 at 2436-7.
The establishment of Regional Centre for International commercial Arbitration in Lagos and the International Centre for Arbitration and Mediation in Abuja is a welcomed development in resolving disputes among parties.
Just like in ordinary day-to-day human activity, the Multi-Door Court House and Citizen Mediation Centre already exist in Lagos and Abuja should be established in all the States for effective optimization of ADR. Also INEC has ADR Directorate for quick resolution of disputes, and the services are rendered absolutely free of charge.
These centres if partronized by political parties and politicians, will go a long way in providing quick redress to electoral disputes in the country. That is the way to go and the earlier Nigerians adopt this, the better for all of us.
Dairo is a National Vice President, Law Students Association of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).