Edo State Judiciary has trained no fewer than 100 persons in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) to improve the system for commercial dispute resolution and contract enforcement in the state.

Declaring the training open in Benin City, the Acting Chief, Justice Joe Itsebaga Acha, said that the training was in collaboration with the German Agency for International Development: The Pro-Poor Growth and Promotion of Employment in Nigeria Programme – SEDIN. SEDIN is part of the Sustainable Economic Development Cluster (SEDEC) of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH which promotes economic development and employment.

Justice Acha stated that ODR is one of the ways people could have access to justice by having the mediation of their disputes online.

Acha noted that the objective of ODR was to improve the employment and income situation of MSMEs in Nigeria.

“One of the several approaches SEDIN uses to achieve its objectives is through access to finance and business services, strengthening entrepreneurial and managerial skills, and addressing key barriers in the business environment and investment climate of selected states in Nigeria.

“In line with this, SEDIN is partnering with Edo State Judiciary, being one of its focal states to improve the system for commercial dispute resolution and contract enforcement in the state.

“One of the key indicators used by investors globally in assessing national and state economies across the world is the ease of enforcing contracts.

“This basically deals with how easy it is to enforce commercial or business contracts among entities in terms of the number of processes, ease of the processes, as well as the cost and predictability of the processes. Focusing on these indices can help stimulate economic activities,” the acting chief judge said.

He disclosed that the judiciary had embarked on series of reforms including the establishment of Edo State Multi-Door Courthouse (ESMDC) and Small Claims Courts. He added that the reforms had improved the contract enforcement system in Edo State.

“Online Dispute Resolution is particularly well suited for commercial disputes because disputants can easily elucidate their interests, giving the neutral a speedier path to assisting disputants to reach resolution and simultaneously enhance contract enforcement in the state.

“There is an obvious link between effective justice delivery and ease of doing business.

“Therefore, ODR is certainly the way forward, particularly with the new realities presented by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

According to him, “the training is being funded by our SEDIN GIZ partners in collaboration with the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Councilors (ICMC) to drive capacity building”.

The Head of SEDIN-GIZ, Markus Wauschkuhn, explained that the beneficiaries of the SEDIN-GIZ Programme included the poor and vulnerable, who do not have the wherewithal to enforce their contractual rights through the formal justice system which he stressed is technical, expensive and adversarial.

The functioning Director, Edo State Multi-Door Court (ESMDC), Mrs Osazemen Olubunmi Achebo, said the training was organised through ESMDC.

“A multi-door court is a special type of court where people can settle their disputes without having to go through the regular judicial process; they can just state what their issues and interests are and both parties can sit down together to try to resolve it with the help of a highly skilled Neutral individual.

“A lot of people have businesses in Edo State and they run into commercial contract problems and it can stall business development.

“Imagine somebody having a business issue and it ordinary takes years to resolve, the parties can come to ESMDC come to settle it quickly and efficiently.

“We are now starting a system where people can simply go online from their various locations, they could be in The United States, South Africa, Lagos, London. They sit in front of their computers and mobile devices and the mediator who has been assigned to their case would try to help them resolve their issues.

“You can imagine how quickly an issue can be resolved when it is done this way.

“In the month of October, we are going to be launching this new system where cases can be settled online and it is called Online Dispute Resolution.

“We have designed the website and the ODR platform within the website and we are now training 100 persons in this regard.

“These persons already have training as Certified Mediators and we are currently teaching them how to use the internet through our Online Dispute Resolution platform to settle disputes through our Court,” Achebo added.

The training ended on September 18.

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