Great prospects for sustaining economic growth and justice in Nigeria
Danladi Plwag (Access to Justice British Council, Abuja. Nigeria)
His excellency,.... distinguished members of the Bar, My Learned Brothers and the members of the general public whose participation is critical to the success of this unique week, it is with great delight that I address you on this auspicious ocassion.
We are gathered here today to signal off the first event ever in the history of this great nation. It is most heartening for me to note that it is Lagos State Judiciary that is once again blazing the trail. As the Chief Judge of a distinguished judiciary , I am pleased to be part of this historic event, and much more, I share in the optimism of all that the purpose behind the event will be realised. As it has been sagely observed, life must be lived looking forward, but can only be understood looking backward. Distinguished audience, it is to the past that we must turn , to understand and appreciate the rationale behind the Settlement Week Project.
For long, permit me to mention that as judicial officers, we have lived through the increasing rise in court dockets. We have witnessed delay in disposal of cases in Law Courts, for whatever reason it may be. We have also experienced the effect of delay and cost of litigation on the redressing of wrongs or matters for which the people approach the Courts.
With the establishment of the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC), the coming into effect of its enabling Law, and the appointment of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Judges in the Lagos State High Court, allow me to also mention that we have seen significant prospects in the choice and use of ADR in deserving matters, over long, drawn-out litigations.
The Settlement Week is thus designed to encourage the settlement of cases pending litigation in the Lagos State High Court. Through the deployment of ADR mechanisms, the Settlement Week Project will explore with litigants and thier counsel, participatory and satisfying solutions, as well as timely and cost effective justice on a wide variety of disputes. The significance of this approach, distinguished ladies and gentlemen cannot be overstated. As a judicial officer for quite some years now, I am, of course, aware that giving a decision, after the trial of a case often leaves parties somewhat less than satisfied. Hence, it means that for the first time in the history of Lagos State Judiciary and indeed Nigeria, a week has been set apart where litigation is suspended, and litigants, with the participation of thier counsel, where necessary, are able to creatively work out remedies to thier disputes.
Without doubt, this will impact on the Justice System of Lagos State, by bringing about a definitive reduction of the case load of the Courts and costs within a specified time. Distinguished audience, the successful implementation of Settlement Week project will also demonstrate the viability in ADR for justice reform and possibly serve as a Model for other states of the Federation.
As torchbearers of this project, we must however note that a successful Settlement Week will depend so much on the cooperation of all the participants with stake in the justice system. With this, Ladies and Gentlemen and all honorable guests, I wish you all a rewarding experience.