Jul 29, 2013


The Lagos settlement week [hereinafter called LSW] cannot be discussed without recourse to the umbrella body which administers the settlement week. The Lagos Multidoor Court House [hereinafter called LMDC] came into existence in 2002 but it was not until 2007 that it was adopted and established as an organ of the Lagos State Government by LMDC law which came into effect on the 18th of May 2007.
The LMDC is a court connected Alternative Dispute Resolution Center with offices within the High Court of Lagos State and other suitable places.
The objectives of the LMDC are inter alia to enhance access to justice by providing alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms to supplement litigation in the resolution of disputes and to promote the growth and effective functioning of the justice system through ADR methods. The ADR mechanisms that we have include-: Mediation, Arbitration, Conciliation, Negotiation, Facilitation, Minitrial e.t.c. There are also Hybrid mechanisms like MedArb, ConArb, ConMed e.t.c . These hybrid mechanisms are a fusion of the different mechanisms we have. I would take an in-depth look into the LMDC and the different ADR mechanisms in another article because my focus here is on the LSW.

The LSW evolved as a result of a bid to popularize, encourage and mainstream ADR as a part of the disputes resolution infrastructure in Lagos State. LSW is defined in section 31 of the LMDC law of 2007 as "a week set aside by the Chief Judge of Lagos state High Court for specific courts to clear the backlog of cases through means, which include return to the LMDC for possible resolution through mediation, arbitration, neutrals evaluation or any other ADR procedure". 
LSW was conceived to achieve three (3) objectives namely-:
Decongest the court rooms and dockets
Mainstream ADR methods
Facilitate cost effective and early resolution of cases.

The first settlement week took place in 2009; thereafter we have had subsequent editions in 2010, 2011 and the most recent one that took place in 2012 from November 5th – 9th. The key officers of the LSW are the LSW administrator, Case managers and Mediators. I would do my best to outline the frame work of the LSW. Referral of Cases- LSW involves a lot of background work which is done before the commencement of the settlement week and this usually begins with referral of cases. The courts usually refer matters with great potential for settlement. The court officers under the direction of the judge/magistrate must identify cases suitable for referral because there are some disputes which by their nature are aggravating and peculiar and may not readily lend themselves to settlement by ADR. The cause or matter identified as suitable for referral must of course be an ongoing matter, one in which the originating processes have been served and in which the other side has appeared and submitted to jurisdiction- a stage before trial commences. A question might verily come to mind and that is whether a party can suo motu (of their volition) submit to the LSW without having their matter being referred in the first instance? The answer is YES. During LSW parties or counsel whose matters were not referred can submit to mediation during the LSW. The key thing in this scenario is that parties on either side must have agreed that their matter be submitted for mediation.

Step two of the background work done before the LSW involves the Registrars of the respective courts where the matters where referred from. The Registrars make copies of the relevant documents including pleadings in the courts' file and these are made available to the Case Managers. (Note that no Court file is taken out of the court at no time and not for any reason). Duplicate files are created for each matter to keep track of by the case managers. At this stage Case managers are to take an in-depth (screen) look into the matters referred to the LMDC for mediation during the LSW.

Who is a Case Manager? - He or she is a person with a highly developed oral and written communication style that enables the elicitation of information in a non- abrasive manner. A case manager helps identify appropriate doors for the resolution of disputes, discusses and advices the disputants on the available doors and is responsible for all the planning and facilitation towards ensuring that the disputants can access the recommended dispute resolution doors.When the case managers are done screening to determine the suitability of matters for LSW, the matters are then classed into suitable and non-suitable groups for LSW. 

The outcome of the screening by the case managers screening is then sent to the respective judges/magistrates (referral courts) identifying the matters suitable for LSW and those not suitable. The next step is that Hearing notices are issued by Registrars of courts to parties in respect of those matters classed as suitable for the LSW. The parties and counsel alike are to appear before the judge/magistrate who then must elicit cooperation of parties and counsel (judge/magistrate informs parties and counsel of the referral of their matters to the LMDC for LSW). Parties or Counsel therefore fill out a submission form and tick suitable dates on which they want their matters to be mediated on. Enrolment of order forms is filled and signed by the judege/magistrate which is the formal referral of the matter to the LMDC.

Mediators- Experienced mediators are usually selected to mediate on matters during the LSW. Even with their experience, the mediators selected are still made to go through training/workshop in preparation for the LSW. Mediation sessions are then scheduled; parties and counsel alike are informed on the date(s) their sessions would come up. 

During the sessions parties are given room to air or talk about the root cause of the matters which went on to court. Matters which cannot be settled during a particular session are adjourned for other sessions until an amicable settlement is arrived at. When a matter is settled, the Case manager handling the particular file draws up terms of settlement accordance with the agreement reached by parties during the mediation session. The terms of settlement is then entered as consent judgment in court by the judge/magistrate from whose court the matter was referred from.

It is important to note that ADR has come to stay therefore it is very key for counsel to embrace ADR wholeheartedly. ADR has not come to supplant or displace litigation; it has only come to make way for speedy and easy access to justice. Also worthy of note is the fact that LSW is absolutely free.
LSW is coming up again sometime this year. I strongly advice counsel and parties alike to make good use of this opportunity to ensure that their matters are mediated upon to ensure fast resolution of disputes.

O.C. Igbanor Esq.




Post a Comment

The Nigerian blawg

We are a law blog dedicated to educating Nigerians on their legal rights, duties and obligations under the law.

Join us in our bid to promote the Rule of Law in Nigeria by sharing our articles with your network. Legal practitioners can also contribute articles by sending a mail to legalnaija@gmail.com

Disclaimer:- Posts and comments by the publishers of this blog do not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship.


Luxury Street



Email *

Message *

Powered by Blogger.