Some cases/ events illustrating the problems associated with litigation
• Fictitious case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens 1852-53, which is the real-life case of Richard Smith that lasted up to 36years in England. Dickens presented the case in the first chapter of the book to first attack the chancery court system of England as being deficient. This case depicts or illustrates the problem associated with the legal cost of litigation in the past and still very much so in the present day England-Lord Wolf reform-1998-99 and Jackson’s reform 2013.
•The experience in America- Roscoe Pound paper presentation in 1906 on “The causes of widespread dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice in America.
• Prof Frank Sander 1976 follow up of Roscoe Pound. Sander introduced the Multi-Door
Courthouse (MDC). This was conveyed in a speech at the National Conference on the causes of
widespread dissatisfaction with the administration of Justice St Paul Minnesota the very
the place where Pound brought to fore the causes of popular dissatisfaction or discontent of the
Administration of Justice.
• Mr Kehinde Aina’s frustration with the court system in Nigeria.
Keywords: Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Access to Justice, Multi-Door Courthouse, Legal Practice and Procedure, Nigeria Courts.
Snapshot of the LMDC
My work is in the family of ADR, which consists of Mediation, Arbitration and Negotiation. The researcher believes that Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can be defined as a process deployed by an institution or a private individual. Within or outside a structured court system to resolve disputes in an acceptable informal manner facilitated by a neutral party.
Given that, LMDC Law (2007) defines ADR as an entire range of alternatives to litigation that involves third party intervention to assist in resolving disputes. However, African tradition had a similar system of settling disputes before the legal transplant occurred, which is the traditional or customary method of resolving a dispute. This was formalised and transplanted back to Africa. The transplanted law is what the researcher would call an ‘improved or processed ADR’ thus;, the processed ADR was never an alternative to Nigeria. Instead, litigation has been the alternative. However, in this paper, the researcher only deals with one aspect of ADR, the Lagos Multi door Court (LMDC).
According to Sec 2 (b) of the LMDC Law, ‘the LMDC is a court-connected Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre with its offices located within the High court of Lagos premises and any such other suitable locations as the Council shall approve.’
What is the Concept behind the LMDC?
The answer is, just like Equity came to mitigate the harshness of the common law, so has LMDC reduced the harshness of litigation. Thus, the researcher is excited about her research because the pain which disputants were previously going through, irrespective of their background, has been resolved. They can now have swift access to Justice through the Multi-Door Courthouse (MDC) either by walking in or through court referral. This new method of settling disputes became an instant hit in Lagos, Nigeria, in a landmark case involving the first elected vice president of Nigeria, Dr Alex Ekwueme. This case has been going on for seventeen (17) years; as soon as the matter was referred to Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) for mediation, the parties signed the terms of the settlement, it was resolved within a day.
Similarly, a recent case between famous musicians 2face Idibia and Blackface was settled via out of court settlement at the LMDC. This case which has been ongoing for almost fifteen (15) years, was resolved within two days. The circumstances mentioned above provides a particular example of the effectiveness of the LMDC. Therefore, the disputants do not need the rigorous process associated with litigation when they can have closure in one day.
My area of interest, which is exploring the effectiveness of ADR through the LMDC, has thrown up many surprises and interesting discoveries. One of the ADR proponents in this area of study is Dr Emilia Onyema, a lecturer at the SOAS University of London. Her approach has been holistic rather than advocating for a break from the traditional government-subsidised litigation. This researcher’s approach embraces this philosophy without dampening my enthusiasm for ADR as the leading means of resolving disputes.
Limitations and Challenges
However, there are limitations and challenges posed in this scheme that this thesis seeks to tackle. The limitation is that the LMDC is still in its infancy; it is less than twenty years (20) since it was introduced. If it had existed for up to fifty (50) or one hundred (100)years, then one will be able to make a more reliable analysis on its effectiveness. As it is now, there is not much to be gleaned except from the two primary research carried out by Dr Emilia Onyema and Prof Akeredolu. One of the challenges is the lack of awareness since Lagos is an industrial city, and a hub for transactions of commercial businesses as such if more awareness campaign is carried out. Then it will bring it back home to the common man; also as some of the states in Nigeria are yet to embrace this scheme. Hence, this thesis will be able to tackle this by embarking on mixed methods research (MMR) which is socio-legal itself.
The researcher argues that looking at the thesis from the socio-legal perspective is a more attractive proposition in tackling this subject matter. The LMDC is a legal transplant from America; thus, pertinent questions like why was it borrowed? What was the philosophy behind it, the experience in America, the experience in Nigeria? The problems with transplanting ideas.
Bearing in mind that the court does not operate in a vacuum, the thought behind why the law was enacted, the local condition and how this has shaped the way it functions in practice is sought to be examined. Thus, context is actually the key. How has it changed, and how is it working? Is the LMDC up to or does it achieve the set objectives behind its birth? As it is one thing for it to meet the goals, however, does it solve the problems because the researcher argues that across Africa- is a question of backlog, is a question of cost, is a question of access, and a lack of specialisation generally. Hence, the research intends to give answers to the aforementioned employing socio-legal research.
Indeed, this research will bring the needed awareness to the other parts of the land in Nigeria and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa countries that are yet to embrace this scheme. Given time, the researcher asserts that the LMDC will pose a real challenge to litigation and attract more adherents.
- A. Leo Levin, Russell R. Wheeler (ed), The Pound Conference Perspectives on Justice in the Future (West Publishing Co. St Paul Minnesota 1979) 166.
- Bukola Faturoti, Institutionalised ADR and Access to Justice: The Changing Faces of the Nigerian Judicial System. (Robert Gordon University 2014) 78
- Charles Dickens, Bleak House (Oxford University Press, 2008) 11-13.
- Emilia Onyema, The Multi-door Court House (MDC) Scheme in Nigeria: A Case Study of the Lagos MDC (School of Social of Oriental and African Studies 2012)11
- Stella Dawson, Alternative Courthouse in Lagos speeds the delivery of Justice (2013) (Thomas Reuters Foundation) 23
- Ibid 23
- Lagos Multi-Door Court Law (LMDC) 2007
- Lagos Multi-Door Court Law (LMDC) 2015
- Kehinde Aina, The multi-Door Concept in Nigeria: The Journey so Far” op. cit note 48, 10. See A Law to Establish the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse and for Other Connected Matters  No. 56, vol. 40 Lagos State of Nigeria Official Gazette.