The Role of Insider Mediator in Managing Electoral Disputes by Dr. Agada Elachi, President ICMC.

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INTRODUCTION

Who is the insider mediator? Who can we describe as an insider mediator? According to the UNDP “Insider mediators assist negotiations between two or more parties to help prevent or resolve conflicts. Insider mediators are credible figures, groups or institutions internal to a conflict”. 10th April 2017.

According to Clingendael, “Insider mediators know the culture, know the causes and roots of the conflicts and are present to react quickly if necessary. However, despite the obvious benefits of working with insider mediators, they do lack the training and resources to live up to their full potential.

It is important to train mediators in negotiation skills, as mediation is a facilitation of a negotiation process. Skilled mediators can facilitate a process through which the conflicting parties can work towards a sustainable outcome based on their interests.” (Accessed from Clingendael website on 4th October 2022).

From the foregoing, it is apparent that the concept of insider mediators refers to persons, institutions or organizations that exist or operate within the framework of the ensuing conflict. These persons, institutions and organization though integral to the conflict theatre, can and should play the role of catalyst that could and should bring about the transformation of the conflict and lead to the resolution of the conflict.

Within every conflict setting or potential conflict situation, there are key stakeholders who can play this critical role. In the Nigerian context, especially taking into consideration our unique socio-ethnic, socio-cultural, socio-political, and socio-economic framework, and also in the light of the forthcoming 2023 general elections, it is important to identify insider mediators who can help provide track 3 mediation and dialogue engagements to promote a peaceful election and transition.

Some of such insider institutions and organizations include but are not limited to; the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC), the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), the Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP), and the National Peace Committee, just to mention a few. In this discourse, our focus shall be on the role that ICMC as an example of an Insider Mediator can play in helping to manage the electoral disputes that will arise pre, during and post the 2023 general elections.

BRIEF BACKGROUND ON ICMC

The Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC) is the professional body of dispute resolution practitioners with the mandate to regulate the practice of Mediation, train prospective mediators and conciliators, and encourage organizations and institutions to adopt Mediation and Conciliation as the primary means for effectively resolving disputes. The Institute has over the years engaged in formal and informal approaches in undertaking conflict prevention and resolution.

The Institute, which was established in 1999, has a membership base of over twelve thousand (12,000) qualified and professional Mediators who come from all walks of life and professional disciplines. ICMC has three (3) cadres of membership: Associate Member, Member, and Fellow. The Institute offers the following services:

  • Professional Certification Training in Mediation and Conciliation
  • Continuing Professional Development training in Mediation and other ADR processes
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Conflict Intervention
  • ADR Consultancy
  • Management Consultancy

ICMC STRUCTURE AND CAPACITY

The structure of ICMC is as follows:

  • The Annual General Meeting (AGM)
  • The Board of Trustees
  • The Governing Council
  • The Executive Committee
  • The Secretariat

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is the largest decision-making body of the Institute. The Annual General Meeting consists of all paid-up members. The Annual General Meeting usually holds once a year on the sidelines of the annual Conference/Induction Ceremony of the Institute.

The Board of Trustees is the legal title holder of the Institute and comprises mainly of pioneer members of the Institute and past Presidents and Registrars.

The Governing Council consists of the President (who serves as the Chair of the Governing Council), past Presidents and Registrars of the Institute, members of the Executive committee, Branch Chairpersons (who are ex officio members), and a select number of distinguished ADR practitioners who are co-opted to council for a period of three years.

The Governing Council is tasked with determining the proposed mission, strategic vision and character of the Institute.  Its role is also to evaluate long-term strategic plans, annual budgets, key performance indicators (KPIs), and ensure that these meet the interests of the members of the Institute, and other stakeholders.

The Executive Committee determines the organizational direction of the Institute, and advises the Governing Council on strategy, policy, opportunities, investment and risk. The Officers of the Executive Committee work in tandem with the Secretariat to serve the needs of the workplace and the membership body of the Institute.

The Executive Committee and the Secretariat are tasked with the day-to-day running of the Institute. Members of the Executive Committee are elected by the Governing Council, while the staff of the Secretariat are appointed by the Executive Committee.

ICMC’S TRACK RECORD

The Institute’s trainings leading to Associate Membership, Membership and Fellowship, as well as specialized trainings on thematic areas in dispute resolution, have established ICMC as one of the leading Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) training institutions in Nigeria. Since inception, the Institute has organized and conducted over Nine hundred (900) training programs, which have led to a membership base of over 12,000 professionals from diverse backgrounds; Law, Accounting, Engineering, Medicine, Peace & Conflict, Intelligence, Defence & Security, Public Administration, Human Resource Management, Education, Political Science, Information & Communications Technology, Banking & Finance, Traditional Leadership, and many more.

ICMC has collaborated with many organizations and institutions to organize membership trainings, and ADR-oriented trainings specially tailored to suit the needs of the members of the organizations and institutions. Some of these organizations and institutions are;

  • Ogun State Multi-Door Courthouse
  • Edo State Multi-Door Courthouse
  • Kano State Multi-Door Courthouse
  • Uwais Dispute Resolution Centre (formerly Abuja Multi-Door Courthouse)
  • National Industrial Court of Nigeria ADR Centre
  • Oyo State Judiciary
  • Lagos State Judiciary
  • Edo State Judiciary
  • Enugu State Judiciary
  • Ogun State Judiciary
  • Osun State Judiciary
  • Kaduna State Judiciary
  • Cross River Judiciary
  • Federal Capital Territory High Court
  • Kano State Ministry of Justice
  • Nigerian Bar Association Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NBA-ICLE)
  • Nigerian Bar Association (Abuja Branch)
  • International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Lagos Chapter
  • African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) Lagos Chapter
  • Prisons Officers’ Wives Association (PROWA)
  • West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP)
  • GIZ Nigeria
  • Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS)
  • Pensions Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD)
  • Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI)
  • Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry Dispute Resolution Centre
  • Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
  • Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP)
  • Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON)
  • Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC)
  • Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company Limited (WRPC)
  • Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)
  • Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)
  • Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC)
  • North East Regional Initiative (NERI)
  • Nigerian Law School
  • Olabisi Onabanjo University
  • University of Lagos
  • Babcock University
  • Enugu State University of Science and Technology
  • Chukwuemeka Odumegwu University
  • Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti

While training has been the Institute’s main focus for many years, ICMC has also consulted for organizations and institutions to conduct needs assessment, and design internal disputes prevention/management systems. These organizations include but are not limited to; the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry – to establish the Chamber’s Dispute Resolution Centre, the Independent National Electoral Commission – to establish the Electoral Alternative Dispute Resolution directorate within the Commission, and the Ogun State Judiciary – to set up the Multi-Door Courthouse of the Court. The Institute has also partnered with the Ebonyi State Judiciary to pass into the law the bill establishing the Ebonyi State Multi-Door Courthouse.

Under the current leadership, the Institute now undertakes interventionist roles in dispute resolution in the polity and society at large. To this end, in 2021 the Institute launched and operationalized the Volunteer Mediator Scheme (VMS). The scheme is designed to have members of the Institute provide pro bono (free) mediation services to members of society particularly the indigent.

This initiative brings mediation to the grassroots and within the reach of the common man.  The scheme is operationalized through our network of state branches and has been quite impactful in promoting accommodation and tolerance in the communities where it has been applied. Our team of trained mediators offer their services on a weekly basis to assist disputing parties in their localities to manage/resolve their disputes.

The Institute has also been actively involved in community engagements, providing awareness of mediation, conciliation, peace education, and dialogue practices with a view to promoting effective conflict prevention and resolution in communities. The Institute has carried this out in partnership and with support of the traditional institutions and structures in the various communities where it has been deployed. Because of the presence of ICMC all over the country and its membership spread, this interventionist approach has been quite successful and impactful.

Another major interventionist measure that the Institute has worked hard at promoting is the collaboration with relevant stakeholders for the holding of what is termed “Mediation Weeks”. This has been a very successful measure in bringing about greater awareness of the use of mediation. The most recent “ICMC Mediation Weeks” were held in Kaduna and Abuja with huge turnout of members of the public seeking to have their issues resolved through mediation and dialogue.

The Institute has for some years now held an ADR conference on an annual basis. The success of this Conference has put the Institute on the global map, and brought to light the practice of Mediation, not only in Nigeria but in Africa. The ADR conference provides a platform for the discourse of contemporary issues and framework for addressing national issues. Recommendation from the conference have been helpful in developing strategies for further engagement of stakeholders in the polity.

All the above-mentioned factors are demonstrative of the kind of capacity and resilience that exists within the Institute and these factors qualify the Institute as an insider mediator which can assist in the promotion of peace education, and also which can deploy manpower for the effective resolution of disputes particularly in the context of the forthcoming general elections. Thus, ICMC commits that this inherent capacity of the Institute will be deployed in partnership with other stakeholders and peace actors to assist in the management of pre, during, and post-election disputes in the course of the forthcoming general elections.

 STRATEGIC ENGAGEMENTS WITH PARTNERS/STAKEHOLDERS

The success story of ICMC as an organization has been made possible through its strategic engagement with other stakeholders. ICMC’s link with these organizations makes it one of the few organizations with the operational capability to play the critical and important role of being an insider mediator within the Nigerian polity.

Some these strategic partners are;

ECOWAS, GIZ, WANEP, UNODC, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), various Ministries of Justice, various federal and state Judiciary, MDA’s and other non-profit organizations. The Institute is poised to constantly engage these partners and others of like mind to further the course of mediation, the promotion of peace education and a culture of accommodation and tolerance in our society.

CHALLENGES AND LIMITATIONS

The Institute’s capacity and success notwithstanding, some key challenges that the Institute continues to deal with are:

Funding gaps, stakeholder’s awareness and acceptability of ADR mechanisms, and the will and commitment of key stakeholders particularly government. Others are the ever changing scope of peace building initiatives and efforts, and present state of insecurity.

CONCLUSION

A review of concept note for this event reveals that the expected outcomes of this stakeholder engagement are twofold; the design of a road map for a multi-layered collaboration towards ensuring peaceful elections, and a coordinated action plan that contributes to the reduction of threats of electoral conflicts in the country.

Insider mediators will play a critical role in the resolution of any crisis or dispute. What is key is that such insider mediators must possess the integrity, cultural closeness, legitimacy, and capacity which will ensure that the principal actors in the conflict can trust them to assist in a confident and assured manner. It is also important that insider mediators possess the requisite training and skills which can be deployed to support the peace process. ICMC offers its large body of trained mediators to assist in this regard.

ICMC is poised to assist in the actualization of these objectives. As stated above, the Institute possesses the man power, spread and operational capacity to deploy insider mediators who can support the process of ensuring peaceful conduct of all electioneering activities.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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