By Stephen Isayinka, AICMC
The scourge of injustice pervading round Nigeria’s democratic system inevitably affects the subaltern of the country. Many encounter afflictions degenerating from injustices and corruption. Unfortunately, the judiciary is no longer becoming the last hope of the common man due to its corrupt nature. The Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen attested to this reality by stating that ‘corruption in the judiciary is not only limited to bribe taking but includes giving of judgment or orders based on any consideration other than legal merit.’
The high cost of litigation, exasperating delay in legal proceedings, heavy workload on the court have all handicapped many victimized Nigerians. Besides, the few who endured the rigor of litigation are often battered financially or psychologically as one can safely assume that close to 100% of the ‘losers’ in litigation were unhappy at the end.
As a result, a renaissance in the administration of justice is seemingly taking place in Nigeria as Mediation practice is increasingly becoming a trend in civilized communities basically as people are seeing clearer visions that litigation is not always the best way to settle scores between parties.
What then is justice? It is a complex phenomenon that symbolizes fairness. The term ‘Justice’ is like ‘beauty in the eyes of the beholder.’ This highlights the fact that justice means different things to different people. It is expedient to note that Mediation, an ancient strategy for the administration of justice and a modern form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) have been a viable mechanism in resolving commercial, civil and family disputes within the shortest possible period when compared with litigation and arbitration.
Solving today’s tough problems depends upon finding better ways of handling conflict. The party-driven nature of arriving at a resolution is what endorses mediation as a ‘just legal process’. No wonder at the end people feel as though it has been a just process even though the outcome might not be what they wanted.
The promotion of justice amongst conflicting entities is evident in the two major aspects of mediation which includes; the private mediation sector and Public/court-annexed mediation. Private mediation involves the parties seeking the service of an independent third-party expert who offers his or her services on a commercial/voluntary basis. A famous example of Private Mediators in Nigeria is the Brekete Family, a reality radio and television program focused on human rights advocacy for the rights of the oppressed and marginalized citizens in Nigeria. It was founded by Ordinary Ahmed Isa. The Brekete Family has advocated justice by resolving many complicated societal matters, including broken marriages, broken families, warring societal groups and conflict between individual Nigerian citizens/organizations and federal, state, and local governments and their agencies
Another powerful mediator that agitates for justice in Nigeria is Hajiya Hamsatu Allamin popularly referred to as “the woman that speaks with Boko Haram.” She is a mother of eight children and the winner of the 2016 Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice’s (IPJ) Women Peacemakers. Other private experts in the field includes Mr. Segun Ogunyannwo FICMC, Prof. Demola Akinyoade and many others.
Public/court- annexed mediation comprehends the utilization of Mediation Centers set up by the government, where disputing parties can request for experts (mediators) for the conduct of mediation proceedings. Such centers also support the training of mediators. In Lagos, for instance, the Citizens’ Mediation Centre (CMC) provides a forum for the mediation and settlement of disputes between parties who voluntary agree to mediation. This Public mediation is in line with Section 24 of the High Court Laws of Lagos State which provides that, ‘in any action in the High Court, the courts may promote reconciliation among the parties thereto and encourage and facilitate the amicable settlement thereof.
Mr. Segun Ogunyannwo, the Registrar of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC) identified that only seven states have mediation centers in Nigeria and this is unimpressive.
Thus, for justice to fully thrive, we need more of such infrastructures to promote peace and justice. When people have conflicts and know there’s a place they can go to, that somebody will listen to them and assist them to be reconciled, it has a tendency to douse tension and avert jungle justice.
In conclusion, the establishment of more Mediation centers, the training of local stake holders in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) techniques will go a long way in sustaining justice by preventing people from resorting to self- help or taking the law into their hands.
Stephen Isayinka, is an Associate Member of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC).