The Enugu State Multi-Door Courthouse (ESMDC) was conceived out of the urgent need to reduce the litigation burden of the court and create a more civil and conducive atmosphere where legitimate disputes can be expeditiously and adequately dealt with. The ESMDC in 2018 (by the Enugu State Multi-Door Courthouse Law, which came into effect on the 6th of September 2018, however, the centre was formally inaugurated on the 17th of December 2018) formally opened its doors to the public, replicating the Multi-Door Courthouse (MDC) concept in Lagos State, which Harvard Law School Professor Frank Sander first proposed at the Pound Conference in 1976; a multifaceted dispute-resolution scheme currently utilised worldwide.
This process of replication and adoption of the MDC had the then Chief Judge of Enugu State, Hon Justice N. P. Emehelu, FCIArb, FICMC, F.DRI spearheaded the campaign, which is recognised as the ESMDC; in her efforts to ensure the sustainability of the newly established ESMDC, invited the former director of Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) Mrs Caroline Etuk to start up this scheme in the Eastern part of Nigeria- 042 / Coal City.
Finally, fostering an ethos of negotiation between government agencies is a universal trend that is widespread in developed economies. For instance, in resolving disputes between one government agency and another or between a government agency and private sector institutions, recourse is made via ADR for the amicable settlement of disputes. Hitherto, the ESMDC, on the 4th of January 2021, inaugurated the most erudite governing council of any Multi-Door Court (MDC) in Nigeria into the Governing Council of the ESMDC. They include Hon Justice C.C Nweze, (PhD) JSC, FCIArb, Vice Chairman, Chief (Mrs) A.J. Offiah SAN, a foremost advocate, Arbitrator and Mediator. Hon Justice R.O. Odugu, Chairman of the ADR Judges and Magistrate Forum and certified mediator of the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) UK. Hon Justice C.C. Ani (PhD), ADR Judge and accredited mediator of the Center for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) UK; Chief Melitus Eze, (Life Bencher), Hon. Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Enugu State; Mrs Caroline Etuk, Director of the ESMDC, amongst others.
INITIATING A CASE AT THE ESMDC:
A matter may be commenced at the ESMDC in three (3) ways-
I. Walk-Ins: Any party to a dispute may initiate a Mediation, Arbitration, Early Neutral Evaluation or any other ADR process service by completing and filing the requisite forms at the ESMDC.
II. Court Referrals: The Presiding Judge or Magistrate in a matter already in litigation or during a pre-trial conference may refer parties to the Centre in appropriate circumstances.
III. Direct Interventions: The ESMDC, in circumstances where public interest or the interest of the disputing parties so demand, may approach the parties to assist in resolving their dispute.
THE ADR PROCESS:
A. The Initiation Stage is the stage at which disputants complete and file the ESMDC Request form along with supporting documents to initiate the ADR process, or the matter is referred to the ESMDC by the Court for ADR Intervention. The other party’s submission to the process is also essential to this stage.
B. At the Intake Screening Stage, the ESMDC determines the most appropriate ADR Door for the dispute.
C. The Pre-session Stage is a meeting where the parties are acquainted with the ADR procedure to be deployed, choose a Neutral, and commit to the process by signing the relevant confidentiality and other preliminary agreements.
D. The ADR Session Stage is the stage at which the ADR intervention commences, and the disputants fully engage in the process towards resolving the dispute.
E. The Closure Stage is the final stage of the process where there is a Settlement, an Award or a transition to other Hybrid Processes which may be deployed in a continuum.
Finally, a settlement agreement duly signed by the parties when endorsed and adopted by an ADR Judge is deemed enforceable as a Judgement of the Court of Enugu State. Thus far, settlements are enforceable at the ESMDC.
THE STEPS TAKEN SO FAR -FROM THE DAY OF INCEPTION TO DATE:
The Centre’s objective was clearly stated in Section 4 of the ESMDC Law 2018, which includes enhancement of access to justice by providing alternative mechanisms to supplement litigation in the resolution of disputes and to serve as a focal point for the promotion of ADR in the Enugu State.
Against this backdrop, they have engaged with a broad and immeasurable range of clientele as the Centre can obtain referrals from the courts of Enugu State, the Federal High Court, and Courts of other jurisdictions that provide top-notch ADR services to individuals, corporations, organisations (governmental and non-governmental). Its most well-developed product mediation is utilised through well-articulated systems of service delivery within the framework of the ESMDC (ADR Procedure) Rules issued in 2018, its Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Nevertheless, its arbitration door is yet to gain patronage from potential clientele. However, its early neutral evaluation door has recently been activated with the appointment of four (4) retired judges and four (4) retired magistrates to provide more service options. In every area of ADR service delivery, the Centre strives to benchmark internationally acceptable levels of efficiency for court-connected programmes and to address the factors that affect the level of effectiveness, productivity, and probity.
Furthermore, to boost its service capabilities through capacity building of mediators for its distinguished panel of neutrals, the Centre introduced the Enugu State Mediation Skills Training Certification Programme to train mediators for effectively resolving disputes which have entered the court system. This training is followed by a period of mediation mentorship, one which seeks to produce a high calibre of professional mediators with best-practice competencies and ethics.
The ADR Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Enugu Branch, in collaboration with the ESMDC, has organised Mediation Advocacy skills training for lawyers. Additionally, the Youth Mediation Programme, launched this year, 2020, has trained Fifty (50) Youth lawyers in mediation skills.
Strengthening their grass root dispute resolution framework is an integral part of their strategy. Additionally, they have engaged the Magistracy of Enugu State at a more interactive level to pay attention to the vast reservoir of disputes from a more significant segment of the society as well as providing the needed solutions to those problems.
Finally, the ESMDC entrance into the commercial sector through its Commercial Intervention Strategy and development of a Banking Track is ongoing. For example, this year, they focused on the banking sector and engaged Micro Finance banks- which birthed incredible results; they now have an increasing number of cases for resolving bank-customer-related disputes.
It is pertinent to point out that for the first time, my PhD findings (2019-2022) (Dr Chinwe Egbunike-Umegbolu) revealed that minor criminal matters were settled via Mediation / the Restorative Justice Door in Nigeria precisely in Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) and Enugu State Multi-Door Courthouse (ESMDC) precisely via Mediation.
The blogger’s PhD findings also revealed for the first time that funding, awareness and more space are the biggest challenges facing Nigeria’s Multi-Door Courthouse (MDC).
Consequently, the blogger’s research recommendation particularly emphasised that social media (Podcast) can be a great tool in advancing and creating more awareness on the ADR and MDC agenda.
It gives the blogger great joy that this is no longer the case; on the 13th of December 2022, the blogger and Benjamin Aneke (Esq) planned on creating an ESMDC podcast channel (I will share the link on my blog when it happens) and on the 15th of December 2022 the Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi, in partnership with the Enugu State Judiciary, the present Chief Justice of Enugu State, Hon Justice A. R. Ozoemena, moved the ESMDC from a smaller structure /edifice to a bigger one.
The ESMDC has achieved this incredible feat within a short period while maintaining a growth trajectory that has identified it as an institution of choice for resolving commercial, civil, and family disputes in the Eastern part of Nigeria. The ESMDC has retained an average settlement rate of 67% of its mediated cases; however, it urgently needs to increase its case intake. This can be done by creating more awareness via their social media platforms. Thus far, the ESMDC is still a work in progress.
- 042 is a landline dial code given to Enugu state, the coal city back in the ’90s. The popularity of the number “042” can be attributed to pop culture; musicians like ‘Phyno’ amongst others, popularised the number ‘042.’
- Enugu State is often called the ‘Coal city’ reason being that coal was discovered (by the British colonist) in Enugu – “Enu Ugwu” connotes “the top of the hill.”
- His Excellency Rt. Hon. Dr Ifeanyi L. Ugwuanyi, Executive Governor, Enugu State, Opening and Naming Ceremony for the New Enugu State Multi-Door Courthouse Headquarters,13,14
- Chinwe Egbunike-Umegbolu, Dispensation of Justice: Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) as a Case Study in Nigeria (A Thesis in the Department of Business and Law Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement of the University of Brighton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy) 318
- ESMDC Guide- 2019
- Property Finder: https://propertyfinder.com.ng/why-is-enugu-called-042/ accessed 1st January 2023