I was delighted to welcome Mrs Anuolu Gade, the Director of Oyo State Multi-Door Courthouse (OYSMDC) and a member of the Governing Board of OYSMDC. Mrs Gade obtained a degree in Law from the University of Ibadan in 1998 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2001. She worked at the Public Prosecution Department for ten (10) years as a Prosecutor. She also worked as a Mediator at the Oyo State Citizen Mediation Centre, Ministry of Justice, for about six (6) years and later rose to become a Deputy Director in the Mediation Centre.
Mrs Gade is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, Nigeria, an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, UK, CIArb and a steering committee member Covid-19 Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Initiative (CADRI).
In this episode, we discussed the following questions :
1) When and how did the OYSMDC commence?
2) Has it been able to enhance access to justice for the Citizens of Oyo State?
3) How are matters referred to the MDC?
4) Is there any measurable difference or impact on the cost of settling disputes compared to litigation?
5) What is your advice for potential users or users of the OYSMDC?
When and how did the OYSMDC commence?
The OYSMDC came onboard precisely or was established in March 2018. This was necessary because the court dockets were overloaded with cases, thereby depriving users or litigants of their fundamental right, which is to access the court in a timely fashion. Akin, the MDC is an ADR centre that offers ADR processes such as Mediation, Arbitration, Conciliation and other Hybrid processes.
Following the above point, the essence of MDC’s establishment was to promote easy access for the people and resident of OYSMDC.
Has the OYSMDC been able to enhance access to justice for the citizenry?
We affirmed that OYSMDC had enhanced access to Justice for their citizenry because mediation or ADR mechanism is a less formal, cost-effective, timely process, unlike litigation. Litigation is expensive, it’s cumbersome, and it could also be tedious.
Additionally, when we talk about litigation, especially in Nigeria, it can be very frustrating, and it could also make the litigants impoverished because it is expensive. Not many people can afford litigation, but the ADR mechanism that the OYSMDC offers is user-friendly. It is quick, cheaper, and builds and preserves the relationship. For example, business relationship, the family relationship amongst other relationships can be preserved, unlike litigation like Yoruba’s will say, “you do not go to court and come back as friends; you end up as permanent enemies.” These are some of the benefits of the MDC, and apart from that, it enhances businesses in the state just within a short time when people bring their cases to the MDC within one or two sessions, matters are resolved amicably. It helps to promote quick and easier resolution in commercial activities in the states.
Is there any measurable difference or impact on the cost of settling disputes at the OYSMDC compared to litigation?
When parties come to the OYSMDC, they are asked to pay an administrative fee more like a stipend- very cheap as low as 5,000 Naira (equivalent to £9.40) from both parties. It takes care of logistics, services and processes. However, the Litigation fees, which is about 100,000 naira- 500,000 Naira (though varies depending on the law firm and state), cannot be compared with the early mentioned fees.
Therefore, it is submitted that there is a great impact on the cost of settling disputes at the OYSMDC compared to litigation costs.
What is your advice for potential users of OYSMDC?
We pointed out that potential users should try as much as possible to patronise the MDC. After all, they stand to gain so many benefits when they do so because they have a panel of neutrals. These are experienced ADR professionals from all walks of life in various fields like engineers and bankers who would attend to their cases. Thus when they bring their cases to OYSMDC, they do not lose anything at the end of the day. They get quick and timely solutions as they have various civil cases from tenancy, commercial, land cases, banking, investment and employment cases.
Additionally, one of the many benefits of ADR is that parties have to sign a confidential agreement, including the mediators. Lastly, at the end of each matter where it is resolved, parties enter into a resettlement agreement. After that, such an agreement is taken before an ADR Judge who would not fault such an agreement-rather would endorse it.
Validating the above assertion is section 21 (1) 1, 2 of the OYSMDC 2017, which states ‘that where an ADR Judge endorses such an agreement, it shall be deemed enforceable as a judgement of the High Court (H.C).’
How are matters referred to the MDC?
There are three different ways by which matters are brought into the MDC. The first one is the Walk-In route-anybody can come in by themself with or without a lawyer; they do not necessarily need a lawyer.
The second method by which a matter can be brought to the MDC is through Court-Referrals– the court refers cases that are amenable to ADR to the MDC. The third and the last method of bringing cases to the MDC is by Direct Intervention; the directors have been empowered to invite disputing parties to the OYSMDC to settle their disputes amicably.
This work has been able to analyse how the OYSMDC commenced. It has provided a detailed account of the cost implication of settling disputes through the MDC, which is way cheaper than the cost of litigation. This work concludes with the significant points raised by the director of OYSMDC on the current satisfaction with the system while revealing why potential users or disputants should embrace the scheme.
To listen to the full version of Episode 17 of EVA, click here.