By Onozure Dania
CHIEF Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen has charged Judges to encourage parties to explore the option of Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR. He gave the charge during the 21st peace award and conference on ADR with the theme: ‘’Promoting Peace and Justice in Africa,’’ organised by the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group International, NCMG, in Lagos.
Onnoghen noted that in circumstances where arbitration clauses are contained expressly in contract agreements, judges must enforce such clauses. He also added that though litigation has the advantage of finality and sanction, in most cases it destroys the business relationship between the parties,“litigation, however, should be regarded as a last resort.” The chief Justice, who was represented by the Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, further urged judges to imbibe ADR mechanisms because it saves time and in the long run, promote economic growth and stability.
Economic growth and stability
He said that the summit came at a time the Federal Government is focusing attention on non-oil sectors of the economy to boost its revenue. “There is no gain saying that the fundamental preoccupation on the minds of investors is a country’s legal framework for achieving swift disposal of disputes when they arise. I am certain that most, if not all practitioners in Nigeria will agree that much has been done to improve the nation’s ADR framework. Regardless of these developments, Nigeria’s Alternative Dispute Resolution framework can and must develop further.”
Onnoghen, who spoke on “59 years of Litigation in Nigeria; Business Demands and Future of the Courts,” said the topic was deliberate as it seeks to further enlighten judges on processes of the use of non-litigation dispute resolution methods and the measures adopted globally in resolving disputes arising in various spheres of the economy.
He said: “As we are all aware, disputes and conflicts are part and parcel of human life and will always exist as a result of disagreements. The essence of this summit, therefore, is to formulate strategies that would inject effective and more efficient ADR mechanism into the Nigerian legal system. We must rise above the daunting challenges that we face today, the challenges confronting the judiciary are insurmountable but there is also a determined resolve on our side to face these challenges squarely, especially so that we can create a better future not only for the judiciary but also for our great country.”
According to him, the focus of the summit among other things is to re-evaluate the global dispute resolution framework and foster a dispute resolution market that will fully meet users’ needs, both locally and internationally, stressing, “this summit is indeed a unique event that will offer tremendous value to the judiciary, not only in terms of learning new trends in dispute resolution, but on how to achieve faster, cheaper and better outcomes as the judiciary becomes involved in domestic and international discourse.” Notable lawyers and personalities who spoke at the event were Justice Clara Ogunbiyi Justice Supreme Court (JSC), Justice Atinuke Oluwatoyin Ipaye and the publisher of The Guardian Newspapers, Mrs. Maiden Alex Ibru, called for the introduction of Polygraph machines into the constitution.
Meanwhile the Chief Justice of Singapore, Justice Sundaresh Menon earlier in his presentation said his country (Singapore) has enjoyed huge success in mediation. Noting that ADR has been a key in justice reform.