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A massive programme of court modernisation is underway in Nigeria, aimed at stamping out delays and corruption in the legal system.
The changes are the result of civil justice reforms brought in earlier this year, the most significant of which is the introduction of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) centres handling mediations and arbitrations in the High Courts in Abuja and Lagos. Similar facilities are also proposed for Ibadan and Port Harcourt.
It is anticipated that the ADR centres will reduce the volume of court litigation and the amount of time spent handling disputes. At present, a first instance case takes about six years to be heard and a further three years to be appealed.
Some critics claim the centres are more efficient than England’s equivalent system, which arose out of the Access to Justice Act.
Tony Allen, director of the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, which has recently started providing ADR training in Nigeria, said: “The centres are built in the same buildings as the courts. Therefore, a judge can simply refer a case to the room next door rather than to another country [as sometimes happens in Europe].”