Nigeria Shippers’ Council says ADR best for dispute settlement

L-R; Barrister Uwe Akan, Deputy Director(Legal) Nigeria Shippers’ Council; Rev. Anayo Winner, Deputy Director, Cargo Defence Fund, and Barrister Valentino Buoro, Associate Convenor/ Director, Standing Conference of Mediation Advocates at the one-day awareness seminar on ADR for maritime journalists, which held  at the LMDC, Lagos.

Mr Akin Olawore and Barrister Buoro at the event.

The Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) says the ADR mechanisms; particularly mediation remains a preferred option for settlement of commercial disputes among stakeholders in the maritime industry.
The Executive Secretary of the NSC, Mr Hasan Bello, made the remark at a one-day awareness training programme on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) organised by the Forwarder Law Partners for maritime journalists, and supported by the NSC.
Speaking at the event which took place at the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) on Sept. 11, the Executive Secretary reiterated the Council’s support to create awareness about the ADR.
Bello who was represented by Barrister Uwe Akan, a Deputy Director from the legal department of the NSC, said the Council supported the programme because of its interest in ensuring a speedy resolution of commercial disputes among parties in the maritime sector, and at low cost.

“The interest of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council in this programme cannot be over-emphasised. This is because the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has an enduring stake in the resolution of commercial disputes among parties in the maritime sector speedily without high cost,” he said.
The Executive Secretary further said that a lot more commercial disputes could be resolved through the ADR, with the right inputs of the stakeholders.
He urged the media to educate the stakeholders on the benefits of the ADR in order to gain their support and acceptance of it.
In her presentation, Mrs Adeyinka Aroyewun, Deputy Director, LMDC, encouraged that disputing parties should embrace any of the ADR options; negotiation, arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation and hybrid processes than going for litigation in settlement of disputes either in businesses or among individuals.
According to her, the judicial reform in Lagos State made the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Law come alive in 2007, to give legal backing to the ADR.
She noted that the ADR was a vital part of traditional Nigerian dispute resolution channels until the coming of the colonial masters, who relegated those channels to the background.
Her words: “ADR is not alien to the Nigerian society; in the three major tribes in Nigeria, it was at the heart of the traditional channels of dispute resolution, visible in its sensitivity, promptness and access.”
She said change however set in to revive the ADR following delay, inappropriateness and cost associated with litigation. She also stated the fact that besides negative publicity from litigation, relationships were destroyed. 
According to her, the introduction of the Lagos Settlement Week (LSW) in 2009 made it possible for cases that had otherwise been in the court for many years, to be resolved.
The LSW is a week set aside by the Chief Judge of Lagos State for specific courts to clear their backlog of cases through means including return to the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse for possible resolution through mediation, arbitration or any other ADR procedure.
In his paper, Barrister Valentino Buoro, Managing Counsel, Forwarder Law Partners and Associate Convenor, Standing Conference of Mediation Advocates (SCMA) noted that mediation had gained more ground over arbitration in ADR, which could be used to settle a lot of matters.
He said, “Mediation can be utilised in resolving a wide range of disputes including banking and insurance-related disputes; landlord and tenant matters; debt recoveries; libel and slander; employment and trade disputes; medical negligence; contracts enforcement; family and succession disputes.”
Appreciating efforts by the NSC to institutionalise ADR in the maritime sector, Buoro called for an urgent establishment of a Maritime Panel of Neutrals and a Roll of Maritime Mediation Advocates.
He said the challenges between the various segments of the industry would be best resolved by a structured process where industry disputes are managed by industry professionals who adequately understand the industry’s processes.
Speaking from the perspective of a non-lawyer, Akin Olawore, an accredited mediator and SCMA board member, said understanding a dispute first before attempting to resolve or prevent it was important. He also said that dispute was a result of perception rather than facts.
Olawore noted that people did not get their rights in litigation cases because     “A litigant cedes his right of hearing to his counsel and remains an observer in the determination of his fate.”
He however said that mediation was more satisfying, more effective, more workable, more flexible and more durable than an order imposed by a court or other tribunals.