Mediation Developments in Nigeria
Nigeria‘s Arbitration and Conciliation Act applies to the entire country on arbitration and conciliation, but not on mediation. Nigeria is a federal State with legislative power vested in both the national (federal) and the constituents (states). While there are no federal laws governing mediation across the entire country, some of the states that are major commercial centers, such as the Federal Capital Territory, Rivers State (Port Harcourt), Delta State, Cross River State and most significantly, Lagos State, have laws on mediation.
Most mediations are conducted as a private mediation or court-annexed mediation. Private mediation involves the parties seeking the assistance of an independent third party, who offers his or her services on a commercial basis, such as at the Lagos Court of Arbitration. Court-annexed mediation takes place when a court directs parties in a pending litigation to seek amicable settlement, or directs them to the Multi-Door Court House (which has been adopted by a majority of the states in Nigeria). Whatever mediation settlement agreement is reached by the parties is entered as the judgment of the court. For example, Section 24 of the High Court Laws of Lagos State provides that for any action in the High Court, the courts may promote reconciliation among the parties and encourage and facilitate an amicable settlement.
Mediation settlement agreements reached by parties at the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse are enforceable under the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Law (LMDC Law). Under Section 19 of the LMDC Law, any settlement agreement duly signed by the parties shall be enforceable as a contract by the parties and, when such agreement is further endorsed by an ADR Judge or any other person as directed by the Chief Judge, it shall be deemed to be enforceable as a consent judgment of the High Court of Lagos State. In addition, under Order 39 Rule 4(3) of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012, a decision reached at the LMDC may, by leave of a Judge, be enforced in the same manner as a judgment or an order of the Court.
There are also Mediation Centres established by the government, where disputing parties can request mediators, as well as conduct mediation proceedings. Such Centres also support the training of mediators. In Lagos, the Citizens’ Mediation Centre (CMC) provides a non-adversarial forum for the mediation and settlement of disputes between parties, who voluntarily agree to mediation.
By Tolu Obamuroh, Senior Fellow-Nigeria, Weinstein International Foundation