Young Yemi, a new wig, came to me recently feeling very unsure about what he wanted to do in his law practice. He was considering becoming a full-time litigation lawyer and wanted my take on whether that would be a step in the right direction in modern law practice. My response to him can be summarized like this, Mediation is the future of dispute resolution in Nigeria.
What has been obtainable and is most resorted to in Nigeria, over the years has been the adversarial method of dispute resolution, that is, the conventional method of going to court, but not anymore. In recent years, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has emerged providing a solution to the loopholes in the adversarial method of dispute resolution. These loopholes include; the delay in giving speedy judgments, the financial burden of litigation expenses, inadequate remedies, not addressing the real issues in dispute etc. ADR mechanisms used in Nigeria majorly include Arbitration, Mediation, Negotiation, Conciliation.
In Nigeria especially Lagos, Mediation has been at the forefront of helping to reduce the backlog of cases that are brought to court every day. Many of these cases can be easily resolved but for the problem of ego in our society. There are many less complex cases that do not necessarily have to be in court because the major issues are not questions of law but as a result of the fallout of trust between parties, and the ego-driven nature of some Nigerians that often stops them from admitting mistakes and choosing to work together to come up with a solution to their problems.
The successes of mediation in just Lagos State alone cannot be overemphasized with over 30,000 cases mediated upon across all the Citizens Mediation Centers in Lagos, in 2018. This shows that more people are opening up to the concept of amicable dispute resolution. In fact, except for grievous criminal cases, tax, and human rights violations, most corporate/commercial cases should be taken through Mediation because it is more convenient for parties who most likely are in business and need to just amend their contract to suit new situations.
The growing benefits of mediation, are also reasons to pick mediation over litigation anytime, and they include; ease, speed, cost-effectiveness, reduced formalities etc
Finally, one important fact that will make Mediation the future of dispute resolution is its link to some of the top 10 relevant skills in a few years to come such as; complex problem-solving skills, negotiation skills, and persuasion all of which are the must-have skills for any aspiring mediator/mediation advocate.
Undoubtedly, the future is Mediation and now you know why!