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Sunday, 25 February 2024 12:39

[OPINION] The Plateau MultiDoor CourtHouse (PMDC) ‘Tori - Prince Charles Dickson

If you have read the book, A History of Alternative Dispute Resolution, the work offers a comprehensive review of the various types of peaceful practices for resolving conflicts. Written by Jerome Barrett—a long time practitioner, innovator, and leading historian in the field of ADR—and his son Joseph Barrett, this volume traces the evolution of the ADR process and offers an overview of the precursors to ADR, including negotiation, arbitration, and mediation. The authors explore the colorful beginnings of ADR using illustrative examples from prehistoric Shaman through the European Law Merchant. In addition, the book offers the historical context for the use of ADR in the arenas of diplomacy and business.

However, I am of the school of thought that ADR is simply our age long village square resolution method. I would have loved to delve into that debate especially given that the book says that it is the story of a political, cultural and social movement. It will be a story for me for another day.

One of my favourite stickers of all time is that “wetin lawyers dey do sef”. In the same vein, I should ask “wetin be MultiDoor Court system”, …better still what is a MultiDoor Court? What role does it play in the ADR Spectrum? What is ADR itself, and many questions I did like to answer but here I will speak to the efforts of the MDCH and in particular the PMDC Story.

It is safe to say that the Nigerian state is one big conflict, socially, culturally, politically, religiously, and otherwise. We are either fighting the big monster of corruption, or trying to handle ethnic jingoism, nepotic parapoism and leaders who are goat-heading and peppersouping, while the ordinary masses are left to wear flip flops of different faded colors and sizes trekking with no direction in sight.

The concept of Multi-Door Courthouse (MDCH), is a unique concept. It has the sole aim of providing alternative practice and procedures such as litigation, arbitration, negotiation and mediation in resolving disputes among parties in a courthouse. The Multi-Door Courthouse provides these other dispute mechanisms towards a faster, cost effective and user-friendly access to justice.

These centres are independently run and managed, but in cases are attached to a specific court (in the case of Kano, Abuja and Lagos - the High Court of each respective state). 

The first of such was the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) established on 11 June 2002, as a public- private partnership between the High Court of Justice, Lagos State and the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group (NCMG), a non- profit private organisation.

We have one in Ogun, we have in Katsina, Oyo, Edo, Niger and Enugu, I may have skipped some. 

In the bustling city of Jos, amidst the cacophony of legal disputes and grievances, a story of resolution unfolds within the walls of the Plateau MultiDoor CourtHouse (PMDC). Here, amidst the complexities of legal battles, individuals find solace in mediation and conciliation, guided by a vision of accessible and efficient justice.

Imagine a scenario where two neighbours, embroiled in a longstanding property dispute, find themselves at an impasse. Traditional litigation seems daunting, expensive, and time-consuming. Yet, within the PMDC, they discover an alternative path to resolution. With the assistance of trained mediators, they engage in constructive dialogue, seeking common ground and mutually beneficial solutions. Through mediation, they transcend adversarial postures, fostering understanding and cooperation, ultimately reaching a settlement that satisfies both parties.

The success of such mediation stories underscores the critical need for the effective take off of the Plateau MultiDoor CourtHouse. Spearheaded by visionary leaders, past and present, this institution embodies a commitment to innovation, efficiency, and access to justice.

Under the stewardship of the past governor, commendable efforts were made to lay the foundation for the PMDC's establishment. Recognizing the importance of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, the past administration championed the creation of the PMDC, recognizing its potential to alleviate the burden on traditional courts and expedite the resolution of disputes.

However, it is under the current leadership that the PMDC has truly begun to flourish. The sitting Chief Judge of the state, His Lordship, once a Council Member himself, alongside the Chief Registrar, has played a pivotal role in overseeing the operationalization of the PMDC. Their unwavering dedication to promoting mediation and conciliation as viable avenues for dispute resolution has been instrumental in driving the PMDC's success.

Moreover, the Council Chairman and his members have been instrumental in providing strategic guidance and support to the PMDC. Through their advocacy and collaborative efforts, they have ensured the PMDC's continued growth and relevance in the legal landscape of Plateau State.

It is imperative to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of former council members, as well as the dedicated staff and management of the PMDC. Their collective expertise, passion, and commitment have been instrumental in shaping the PMDC into a beacon of justice and reconciliation.

In addition to government support, non-state actors such as the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) have played a crucial role in advancing the PMDC's objectives. Through strategic partnerships and capacity-building initiatives, organizations like GIZ have contributed to the PMDC's capacity to deliver effective and accessible dispute resolution services.

As we reflect on the journey of the Plateau MultiDoor CourtHouse, it is evident that its success hinges on collaborative efforts and unwavering commitment. Moving forward, it is imperative for government and non-state actors alike to continue their support for the PMDC. By leveraging the expertise of the body of neutrals and embracing innovative approaches to dispute resolution, we can ensure that the PMDC remains a beacon of justice, empowerment, and reconciliation for all.

In the current governor’s mantra, one can effortlessly say that the time is now, we have before us the opportunity to make the judicial system green, green with envy that certainly, justice will not be delayed, that justice can be cheap, efficient and effective, that disputing parties can actually hold hands in reconciliation and beam with smiles because the settlement is pleasing to all parties.

The PMDC is a micro reflection of what we want to see of the Nigerian state in many ramifications, one in which, justice reigns supreme as a result of equity, fair play and one in which citizens’ rights are not trampled upon. The desire to contain our conflicts, is a tedious journey, a long one towards nationhood, mindsets need to change, we must unlearn, then relearn and learn new ways, ADR is one way, the PMDC is a learning and in part a puzzle that is being fixed so that—Nigeria may win!

 

 

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