The Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse will be holding it’s first (1st) Online Settlement Month (O.S.M) in Africa from the 11th-16th December 2020. The O.S.M., which was recently approved by the Chief of Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice K.O Alogba, is a part of the on-going initiative- the Lagos Settlement Week (L.S.W.). Set up by the LMDC in conjunction with the Lagos State Government and the Lagos State Judiciary in a bid to minimise the frustration of disputants and ease delays in the courts.
The Introduction of the O.S.M in Lagos state shows that the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse has continued to fulfil its overriding objectives stipulated in section 2 of the LMDC Law 2015. One of which is to enhance access to justice by providing alternative mechanisms to supplement litigation in the resolution of disputes.
Purpose of the O.S.M:
To reiterate, the purpose of the L.S.W. is to assist in decongesting the court’s dockets in the state as well as enhance the justice system through the definitive reduction of the caseload of the courts and cost within a specific time. The purpose as mentioned above aligns or is in line with the purpose of the O.S.M. However, the distinguishing factor between the two is that parties to a dispute can resolve their conflicts from the abode of their homes or offices amongst others. Additionally, the LSW/ Dispute settlement is a week’s events whereas the O.S.M is within one month.
Scopes of matters settled under the O.S.M:
The nature of matters covered at the O.S.M includes Tenancy matters, Banking, Real Estate, Maritime, Aviation, amongst others.
Scopes of matters not covered: It is essential to point out that Capital offences and divorce proceedings are not covered at the LMDC. However, minor offences can be settled through the restorative door.
Benefits of Online Settlement Month (O.S.M):
a) O.S.M will reduce both the magistrates and judges dockets, thereby allowing them to focus on more complex cases.
b) It will provide parties with autonomy where they can stipulate what they want and how they want it in their contractual agreement. Thus if both parties decide to settle that same day or another day, then Terms of settlement (T.O.S.) will also be signed online. Hence it saves time and cost.
c) It is inherently non-coercive and private- If both parties show up then it demonstrates that they are on the same page, they want to resolve past issues and address future needs thus they will be able to secure a win-win outcome.
Challenges facing the O.S.M:
The following are some of the challenges I believe that the O.S.M may face:
a) Some parties may not be aware of this initiative because it is new, so the turn up might be low or not much.
b) Some parties who are not computer literates may not know-how to commence cases online, or might need help, to get started on the computer thereby delaying the process or not showing up at all.
c) It may cost more for parties who will still need the services of their lawyers and
d) Some cases might not be resolved within the duration stipulated herein- due to the complexity of some cases; thus, it will be returned to the courts.
I believe that Online Settlement Month encapsulates all the ideals of a faster case flow management system; hence this new initiative would enhance the effectiveness of the Alternative Dispute Resolution through the LMDC practice. Hopefully, the O.S.M will live up to these expectations. Fingers crossed.
P.S: Read the guidelines governing Online Dispute Resolution at the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC), which I stated in my previous post.
LMDC Linkedin page
LMDC Law 2015
Umegbolu, Chinwe, Dispensation of Justice: Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) as a case study (Ongoing PhD Research at the University of Brighton).