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Industrial Court mulls dispute resolution centres

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TOWARDS a faster resolution of industrial and labour-related cases, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has concluded plans to establish Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) centres within its court premises.

President of NICN, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, disclosed yesterday at the valedictory session in honour of retired Justice Oluseun Adefolake Shogbola of the Abuja division that the establishment of ADR was non-negotiable in the dispensation of justice.

According to Adejumo, speaking during the court’s inaugural valedictory session since inception about 30 years ago, the establishment of ADR in its court is historic in many respects.

“Firstly, the constitutional empowerment of the court to establish an ADR centre is historic, novel and unparalled in the development of court-connected ADR in Nigeria,” he noted. “It is the first time any court in Nigeria will receive a constitutional mandate to establish and apply ADR for the resolution of matters over which it has jurisdiction.”

He added that ADR development and usage would definitely receive a huge boost in this regard because, “noteworthy in this perspective is that court-connected ADR, particularly mediation, is fast becoming a feature of courts in countries like the United States, Germany and South Africa, (among others).

“Secondly, the development will certainly aid and fasten the resolution of cases with a view to voiding the usual problem of over-filled dockets and delayed justice delivery. It helps in settling disputes without bitterness and rancour.”

He added: “It is pertinent to mention here that machinery has been set in motion towards the realisation of this significant constitutional mandate. Efforts are on to designate certain office accommodation within some judicial divisions of NICN as ADR centres.

“The ADR centre of the court will be situated at the headquarters in Abuja, with branches in each of the six geo-political zones of the country. It will be saddled with settling disputes referred to it by any judge of the court using mediation conciliation. The relevance of mediation and conciliation to voluntary and amicable settlement of disputes cannot be over-emphasised.

“The court would be deploying some of its staff, including principal officers, to work at the centres. To this end, some of these members of staff have been trained at home and abroad to acquire cutting-edge skills in mediation and other ADR processes.

“Preparatory to the take-off of the ADR centre, the instrument setting up the centre and the rules to guide it have been drafted and will soon be gazette, which will signify the commencement the centre.

“The rules will set out the types of cases that may be referred to the centre, the procedure for such referrals, the stage at which cases could be referred, the mediation process, roles and responsibilities of parties, counsel and mediator(s) before, during and after mediation. We are also working on developing a code of ethics for mediators and other staff of the ADR centre.”



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