LITIGATION V ARBITRATION I: BENEFITS OF ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISM, HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE
In 2011, Chief Uchendu gave Kingsley Ikechukwu a parcel of land in Victoria Island, Lagos State. The gift was a free and friendly transaction without execution of any document of transfer of land. Kingsley built a house on the land and started living there. The good relationship continued until 2016 when the two parties had a slight misunderstanding.
Chief Uchendu through his Attorney instituted an action in the High Court praying for an order of Court to declare Kingsley Ikechukwu a trespasser on his parcel of land at Victoria Island (the one he already gave to him) and also to perpetually restrain him from the land and the property erected on it applying the principle of quicquid plantator solosolo cedit. Also, claiming general and special damages for a sum of N100 million. Kingsley Ikechukwu through his Attorney also joined issue claiming that the land had already been given as a gift although he didn’t attach any document or eye witness account.
The Learned trial Judge understood that the parties were related by blood. In his wisdom, he transferred the matter to Multi-Door Courthouse. While conducting the mediation, it was discovered that the cause of action was not about the land or the building (although it is enough to constitute a reasonable cause of action), Chief Uchendu is very rich and can afford to do away with the land without feeling its effect but Uchendu was angry because the poor Ikechukwu he took from abject poverty in the village had accused him of involving in money rituals (Ikechukwu while drunk once told his friends in the village that Chief Uchendu’s riches could be as a result of money ritual since he had no formal education). As simple as those words are, they constituted the suit worth hundreds of millions.
Without much ado, Ikechukwu pleaded with his uncle, the matter was settled and was withdrawn from the cause list and the parties went home happily.
The above scenario saved the parties a lot. Some of the benefits the parties enjoyed include the following:
- SAVED MONEY
Litigation is very expensive in Nigeria, the cost of engaging a lawyer, paying filing fees, appearance fees, etc. had been adequately avoided by the alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
- MUTUAL SATISFACTION
Issues resolved through the alternative dispute resolution methods/techniques end up bringing satisfaction to the aggrieved parties. The parties at the end of the day reached a common agreement and each of them is satisfied with the outcome. This may not be the case for matters resolved in a law court, where one wins and the other loses. One of the parties is happy about the final decision of the Judge while the other is left aggrieved. Sometimes, the aggrieved party looks for opportunity for further litigation, through appeals in higher Courts of law. Issues of appeal do not suffice in alternative dispute resolution as the parties reach a mutually beneficial agreement that satisfies their aspirations.
- SAVED TIME
As a practicing lawyer, I have conducted cases in Multi-door court and regular Courts. To initiate and conclude an action in Multi-door court may not take more than 6- 7 appearances while conducting an action in High Court may not even be predictable. You never can tell when the matter will end based on the number of witnesses to be called, number of parties, adjournments at the instance of counsel, court and many other unforeseen factors. Looking at a statistics,
Taking together a total of 208 Supreme Court judgments surveyed, we found that it took an average of:
18 Years (from year of commencement) to finalize land cases
14 Years (from year of commencement) to finalize other civil cases
10 Years (from year of commencement) to finalize criminal cases.
The question that bothers the mind is what value a litigant can get from the judgment of 18 years? The outcome will be a sheer waste of time, money, energy, emotions, and other valuable resources of all the parties directly or indirectly involved including the supposedly victorious party, except of course, the lawyer.
Courts over the years have also played major roles in encouraging Mediation. In Dunnet v. Railtrack Plc, although the defendants won the case, it was denied the cost in the Court of Appeal because it refused invitation to mediate.
 Seun S. Lawal: Alternative Dispute Resolution I, National Open University of Nigeria study material Printed 2011 at page 10
 (2002) 1 WLR 2434 at 2436-7 CA e%J]
By Leke Oyeniran, Esq, LLM.