What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process in which two or more parties involved in a dispute work with an impartial party, the mediator, to generate solutions in settling their conflict. It is a type of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) but unlike a Court or an arbitrator whose decisions subject one party to win and the other party to lose, mediation is about finding a solution that works for both parties.
Cases may be self-referred by anyone who is involved in the dispute or by counsel or judge by contacting the Centre for Conflict Resolution. There is a mediation centre in the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere Complex and also in the F.C.T High Court, Abuja.
Cases mediated upon are usually civil in nature, Mediation is not applicable to criminal matters under Nigerian Law. Mediations may involve tenants and landlords, families, neighbourhoods, juvenile offenders, the workplace, corporate, employment, construction, real estate, health care, church and community disputes. It is not necessary for cases to have legal issues and/or lawsuits pending.
Mediation is always an option if you are thinking about taking your dispute to court. It is a better option if you want to preserve a relationship being affected by the conflict, if the dispute is upsetting and affecting your daily life, if you cannot afford the time and cost involved with litigation, if you would like to speak to the other party so they may hear your concerns, or if you would like to resolve the dispute yourself without a third party judgment.
The mediator's role is to facilitate communication between the parties, not to impose solutions. Mediators do not advise, take sides or render a judgment. Instead, the mediator will work with all the parties to help them reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
Mediators are certified, trained volunteers from various professional backgrounds including attorneys, social workers, human resources specialists, therapists, teachers, managers, executives, ministers, doctors, consultants, police officers and students.
The Mediation Process
The participants in the mediation are the actual parties involved in the dispute. At a minimum there are two parties involved; however, mediated disputes may include multiple parties. Participants of the mediation must have full authority to settle the case at the mediation session.
Stage 1: Mediator's opening statement. After the disputants are seated at a table, the mediator introduces everyone, explains the goals and rules of the mediation, and encourages each side to work cooperatively toward a settlement.
Stage 2: Disputants' Opening Statements. Each party is invited to describe, in his or her own words, what the dispute is about and how he or she has been affected by it, and to present some general ideas about resolving it. While one person is speaking, the other is not allowed to interrupt.
Stage 3: Joint Discussion. The mediator may try to get the parties talking directly about what was said in the opening statements. This is the time to determine what issues need to be addressed.
Stage 4: Private Caucuses. The private caucus is a chance for each party to meet privately with the mediator (usually in a nearby room) to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of his or her position and new ideas for settlement. The mediator may caucus with each side just once, or several times, as needed. These private meetings are considered the guts of mediation.
Stage 5: Joint Negotiation. After caucuses, the mediator may bring the parties back together to negotiate directly.
Stage 6: Closure. This is the end of the mediation. If an agreement has been reached, the mediator may put its main provisions in writing as the parties listen. The mediator may ask each side to sign the written summary of agreement or suggest they take it to lawyers for review. If the parties want to, they can write up and sign a legally binding contract. If no agreement was reached, the mediator will review whatever progress has been made and advise every one of their options, such as meeting again later, going to arbitration, or going to court.
Adedunmade Onibokun Esq.