The Court of Appeal, on Thursday, commissioned an Appeal Mediation Centre as a way of ensuring speedy and efficient dispensation of justice.
Speaking at the occasion, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen called on the authorities of the Appellate Court to utilise seasoned professionals of repute in the operation of the new Mediation Centre.
Justice Onnoghen, who spoke through a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, urged Judges to encourage Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms in cases that are less contentious before them.
This, according to the CJN will help in de-congesting the huge case load in the court.
Justice Onnoghen cautioned the management of the Court of Appeal Mediation Centre to ensure that they develop a robust and impartial system in the selection process, saying, “It is important for you to also imbibe the highest code of ethics and global best practices in the operation of the centre.”
The CJN noted that the Nigerian Judiciary, as with other jurisdictions, is consistently adopting ADR as an integral part of the justice delivery architecture in the legal system.
“I applaud the novel introduction of the Appellate Mediation at the Court of Appeal under the leadership of the President of the Court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa,” the CJN said.
Earlier in her welcome address, Justice Bulkachuwa expressed concerns over the huge number of cases that get to the appellate court, adding that, “We are faced with the need to equip ourselves to grapple with the escalating commercial disputes resulting from the growth in business activities and increase in international trade and investment on the one hand and breakdown of relationships on the other hand.”
Justice Bulkachuwa said mediation was becoming a viable option compared to litigation in settling commercial and family disputes within the shortest possible period with minimal cost.
Revealing the objectives of the new centre, Justice Bulkachuwa said, “The Appeal Court Mediation Centre would provide a platform that will encourage disputing parties in reaching an expeditious resolution of their disputes in good faith; and in a fair and efficient manner.
“The centre will improve access to justice, user confidence in the court system, lighten the court’s docket and invariably afford the conventional court ample time for such matters or issues that are best solved through litigation,” she said.
She sought the cooperation of lawyers towards the smooth operation of the mediation centre, urging the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee to review its criteria for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria to include a certain number of cases an applicant advises his client to pursue settlement at the mediation centre.