The Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) concept was initiated by the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group (NCMG) and presented to the Judiciary and the Legal community nationwide.
The LMDC was launched as the first court-connected Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) center in Africa in 2002.
Inspired by the “Multi-door” concept enunciated by Harvard Law Professor , Frank Sander at the Pound Conference in 1976, the LMDC founder in the person of Kehinde Aina, a partner in the law firm of Aina, Blankson & Co, established the Negotiation & Conflict Management Group(NCMG) in 1996 as a Non-governmental organization engaged in ADR advocacy in Nigeria.
The high point in the existence of the LMDC came in May, 2007 when the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Law was enacted. The Legislation encapsulates all the ideals of the organization and provides a legal framework for its operations.
By the provisions of the law, the LMDC is established to serve as a focal point for the promotion of ADR in Lagos state and to support the growth and effective functioning of the justice system through ADR methods.
The LMDC maintains a Panel of Neutrals (Mediators and Arbitrators) which consist of reputable professionals who are familiar with ADR proceedings. It is instructive to note that the composition of the panel is not limited to lawyers but rather a rich blend of personalities who have distinguished themselves in various fields of endeavor, most of whom have been accredited by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR).
There are three ways through which matters can be referred to the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse. They are;
- WALK-IN: any party to a dispute may initiate Mediation, Arbitration, Early Neutral Evaluation or any other ADR services by visiting the LMDC or writing to its Director. Matters from other reputable ADR organizations may be filed at the LMDC for settlement.
- COURT REFERRAL: disputes are referred by Judges of the High Court or Magistrate Court to the LMDC in appropriate circumstances. Apart from the High Court and Magistrate Court of Lagos State, matters may be referred to the LMDC from the Federal High Court or Courts of other jurisdictions outside Lagos.
- DIRECT INTERVENTION: the LMDC through the Director may in circumstances where the public interest or the interest of the disputing parties so demand, approach the parties with a view to assisting in the resolution of their dispute.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO NOTE ABOUT THE LAGOS MULTI-DOOR COURTHOUSE (LMDC) ESPECIALLY FOR LAWYERS AND MEDIATION ADVOCATES
- Section 16 of the LAGOS MULTI-DOOR COURTHOUSE (LMDC) 2007 specifies amongst others that it is the responsibility of the Judge of the High Court of Lagos to control and manage effectively proceedings in court and issue orders which would encourage the adoption of ADR methods in dispute resolution, including the mandatory referral of parties to explore settlement at the LMDC whenever one of the parties to an action is willing to do so.
- In a similar vein, Section 32 of the TENANCY LAW 2012 provides that in proceedings under the Law, the court shall promote reconciliation, mediation and amicable settlement between parties. By virtue of this provision, the High Court or Magistrate Court may refer tenancy proceedings or any part of it to mediation at the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) or to the Citizen Mediation Centre (CMC).
ENFORCEMENT OF SETTLEMENTS
- Section 16 of the LAGOS MULTI-DOOR COURTHOUSE (LMDC) 2007, settlement agreements reached at the LMDC and duly signed by the parties are enforceable as contracts between the parties and when such agreements are further endorsed by an ADR Judge, they become enforceable as judgments of the High Court of Lagos State.
- Section 15(5) of the LAGOS MULTI-DOOR COURTHOUSE (LMDC) 2007 also provides that, any Settlement Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding duly signed by disputing parties shall upon being filed at the LMDC, be presented to an ADR judge or any other person as directed by the Chief Judge, for enforcement as the consent judgment of the High Court of Justice, Lagos State.
- Another interesting extension of the enforcement provisions of the LAGOS MULTI-DOOR COURTHOUSE (LMDC) 2007 Law is Section 4(1) b which allows Terms of Settlement and Memorandum of Understanding reached by other ADR Organizations be filed at the LMDC and endorsed by the ADR Judge to become the consent judgment of the High Court Of Lagos State.
- Such referrals to mediation under the provision of the Law shall not require the consent of the parties to the proceedings and after the Mediation session, the Mediator shall submit the Mediation agreement to the High Court or Magistrate Court for endorsement and enforcement within 3(three) days after execution by the parties.
The LMDC handles various types of cases. They include but are not limited to the following;
- Banking disputes
- Civil Rights
- Matrimonial Causes
- Family Disputes
- Intellectual Property/Technology
- Personal Injury
- Product liability
- Professional liability
- Professional malpractice/negligence
- Real property
- Libel and slander
- Administration of Estate
- Accident and tort
- Medical negligence
- Contracts enforcement
- Small claims
- Landlord and Tenant amongst others
Mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can NEVER replace the courts but should be seen as part of the court system which is primarily aimed at resolving disputes. ADR is achieving Justice by Consensus and the hope of the LMDC is that only cases which should be in the courts get to the courts.
Footnotes:* Standing Conference of Mediation Advocates (SCMA) *The Lagos Multi- Door Courthouse Law (LMDC) 2007* The LMDC Practice Direction on Mediation Procedure* The Multi Door Courthouse Code of Ethics for Mediators* Guidelines For Enforcement Procedure *Guidelines for Court referrals to Alternative Dispute Resolution *Principles of Alternative Dispute Resolution by Stephen J.Ware *Effective Mediation Advocacy by Andrew Goodman.*The Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Neutrals’ Handbook.