The backlog of cases in the Nigerian legal system has increased the clamour for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) specifically, court-annexed mediation. Several high courts initiates, notably the Abuja, Kano, and Lagos Multi-Door Court Houses and the Lagos State Citizens Mediation Centre, now list mediation as a means of dispute resolution. Court-annexed mediation allows parties with matters pending in court to have their dispute settled by the Court’s mediation Centre. Sequel to the Court of Appeal Rules, 2016, the Court of Appeal Mediation Rules, 2018, gives a framework for conducting settlement by mediation in the Court of Appeal. This article reviews the effectiveness of the Rules vis-à-vis its objective: to enhance the administration of justice.
The Purpose of the Court of Appeal Mediation Centre
Rule 1 establishes the Court of Appeal Mediation Centre (CAMC) to provide speedy resolution of disputes through mediation and other alternative dispute resolution procedures.
All appeals to the Court will be screened to determine their suitability for mediation and resolved at the Centre if found appropriate. This screening is done by the court. In defining Appeals that are “appropriate” for mediation, Rule 4 lists all civil appeals and matters relating to breach of contract, liquidated money demand, matrimonial causes, child custody and parental actions, personal actions in tort, chieftaincy, and inheritance. In addition to this list, parties can on mutual agreement opt to have their disputes resolved at the Mediation Centre. In the latter sense, it appears there are no restrictions as the type of matters that may be referred to mediation under the Rules. Save the above description, the Rules provide no further guidelines regarding what constitutes an “appropriate” case for mediation.