The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, said the new Court of Appeal Mediation Centre would herald a new era for court-connected Alternative Dispute Resolution in the country.
Onnoghen made this known in an address at the inauguration of the center on Thursday in Abuja.
The CJN, represented by a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, said the centre was a proof that the country’s judiciary was fast becoming a legal system able to deploy multi-modal justice delivery.
According to the CJN, the innovation will ensure that the wheels of justice are accelerated to meet the demand of citizens.
He said: “I applaud the novel introduction of the Appellate Mediation at the Court of Appeal under the leadership of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bullachuwa.
“I also observe that the overall goal of the Court of Appeal Mediation Centre is to improve the efficiency in the court system.
“It is also meant to promote conflict resolution and thereby provide a more effective justice delivery our appellate court.
“No doubt, in other climes, there has been an appreciable progress in the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution, even at an appellate level, over the past decades.
“The emphasis has been on the use of arbitration, conciliation, mediation and hybrid formats in the resolution of legal disputes often driven by the exponential increase in appeals.
“It is also needed with increased desire on the part of parties to reduce the cost of disputes by recourse to Alternative Dispute Resolution rather than traditional litigation.
“It is hoped that this initiative will see the centre grow to become a veritable alternative to the rigours of courts actions.”
The CJN further said, the Nigeria Judiciary, as with many other jurisdictions globally was consistently adopting ADR as an integral part of the justice delivery architecture in the legal system.
On her part, Bulkachuwa said the initiative was first of its kind in the entire West Africa sub-region, adding that the system was be used to decongest dockets at the appellate court.
She said the centre would also be established in Lagos and Port-Harcourt jurisdictions as part of the first phase experimentation, adding that the centres would be established in all appellate jurisdictions subsequently.