Nigeria needs alternative dispute resolution processes to manage divided society – Jega

Attahiru Jega, former chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, has called for a viable dispute and conflict resolution system to address Nigeria’s diverse and polarized society, politics, and attendant conflicts and crises, which threatens the country’s existence.

Speaking during the 2021 annual general meeting of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators in Abuja on Tuesday, Jega noted that disputes which are allowed to begin with litigation in courts of law, become cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive due to court delays, use of technicalities by lawyers which stalls proceedings.

Representing the former INEC chairman, Louis Brown Ogbeifun, past president of the institution, instead of allowing misunderstandings, disagreements and contestations to degenerate into litigations and or assume violent dimensions, many countries have increasingly introduced enhanced alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms to resolve conflicts.

“Nigeria is regrettably, a relatively polarised and conflict-ridden country. It is, additionally, an intensely litigious society, especially on civil and commercial matters and relations, whether in respect of family, land, business or even political, especially electoral, matters.

“Unmitigated conflicts more often than not, poison inter-personal relations, negatively affect inter-personal and intergroup relations and in general negatively impact upon peaceful coexistence in a very diverse polity, such as Nigeria.

“As we strive to encourage and ensure peaceful resolution of disputes in the Nigerian polity in particular and political economy in general, there is need to increasingly deploy alternative dispute resolution (ADR) institutions, processes, procedures and mechanisms, because of their advantages in contrast to litigation in courts,” he said.

According to him, the Nigerian political economy requires a concerted effort to strengthen and entrench the effective use of ADR, with its components of dialogue, mediation, negotiation and conciliation.

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Markus Wauschkuhn, Acting cluster coordinator, Program coordinator for Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationalle Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in his remark said that dialogue, mediation and conciliation should be adopted as a tool for dousing the spiraling ethno-religious and socio-economic tensions in Nigeria.

According to him, the Nigeria economy requires reforms for commercial dispute resolution, as well as to enhance the capacity of mediators across the country.

“Our activity in Nigeria is aimed at supporting economic development and strengthening the micro, small and medium enterprises.

“This conference seeks to explore the role of dialogue, mediation, and conciliation as tools for dousing the spiraling ethno-religious and socio-economic tensions in Nigeria,” he said.

Agada John, President of ICMC, said that the goal of the institution was to safeguard the nation from the scourge of conflict, ethnic and parochial misunderstandings.

According to him, a diverse, conflict ridden country, such as Nigeria, with a preponderant tendency to litigate virtually everything, stands to gain a lot from increased utilization of ADR methods and approaches beyond just commercial and business disputes.

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