Expanding frontiers of ADR: National Industrial Court of Nigeria’s approach (2)



THE Hon. President of the Court in setting in motion the establishment of the ADR Centre stated thus: “The Alternative Dispute Resolution technique is arrived at assisting parties in dispute to arrive at mutually acceptable agreement in less costly, speedy and efficient manner thereby preserving and engendering industrial peace and harmony, providing a veritable platform for economic development, and more beneficial interpersonal relationship between parties”.

An examination of the contextual framework of the ADR Centre will be apt to enable a better appreciation of its establishment. In doing this, the definition of some terms from the Instrument becomes very imperative.
“Alternative Dispute Resolution” includes mediation or conciliation that involves the use of mediator, conciliator or neutral who may facilitate the resolution of a dispute before the centre.

“Conciliation” means bringing two opposing sides together to attempt settling the matter without proceeding to trial. It is also a process of an amicable settlement of disputes in a friendly and win-win situation.

“Mediation” is a dispute resolution technique in which an impartial third party, the mediator, or conciliator, neutral appointed by the President of the Court in line with this instrument facilitates negotiation or mediation between or amongst the parties in a dispute, and in order to help them to arise at an amicable and acceptable settlement.

“Neutral” means an impartial and unbiased individual appointed by the President of the Court in accordance with the provisions of National Industrial Court of Nigeria, ADR Centre Instrument to mediate or conciliate in a dispute or issue referred to the centre.

These are the three main dispute resolution mechanisms established and recognized by the instrument establishing the ADR Centre by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
Establishment and Responsibilities of the ADR Centre:

Article 2 of the Instrument establishes the centre with its headquarters at the premises of the Court in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. A remarkable step is the establishment of Centres at the six geo-political zones of the country to wit : A) North Central Zone – Abuja ADR Centre. B) North East Zone – Gombe ADR Centre. C) North West Zone – Kano ADR Centre. D) South East Zone – Enugu ADR Centre. E) South South Zone – Warri ADR Centre. F) South West Zone – Ibadan ADR Centre.
The responsibility of the Centre shall include the resolution of disputes by applying mediation and/or conciliation mechanisms of alternative dispute resolution.

Article 3 makes provisions for the personnel of the Centre, conditions of service and organogram . The staff of the Centre are to be drawn from the present staff strength of the Court who shall be deployed to the Centre. The Centre shall be headed by a Director whose responsibilities are equally provided for. The Zonal ADR Centre shall be headed by Assistant Directors who shall report to the Deputy Director. Provision is also made for the appointment of ADR Centre Officers, Centre Mangers, and Registrars of the Centre, amongst others.
Mandates and Functions of the Centre

Article 4 of the Instrument specifically provides that “the mandates and functions of the ADR Centre shall amongst other things be the application of mediation or conciliation technique in the settlement of disputes between or amongst parties, and-1). To enhance and facilitate quick, efficient and equitable resolution of certain employment, labour and industrial relations disputes within the jurisdiction of the Court; 2). To minimize, reduce, mitigate and eliminate stress, cost and delays in justice delivery by providing a standard ADR framework for fair, efficient, fast and amicable settlement of disputes; 3). To assist disputants in the resolution of their disputes without acrimony or bitterness; etc.

Article 4(5) states that the Centre shall only have the power to mediate or conciliate on the subject matters on which the Court has jurisdiction as provided for in the 1999 Constitution, as amended by the Third Alteration Act, 2010. This is of course obvious as the Centre cannot have jurisdictions and powers over matters which the Court does not have jurisdiction and power.

The Centre shall not have power to entertain any interlocutory application or grant order or interpret any matter before it. Any interlocutory application on any matter shall be entertained by the Court before the referral of such matter to the Centre. Provision is also made for a whole lot of other sundry issues under this article.

Articles 5 and 6 make provisions for the role of Counsel and Parties before the Centre respectively. A detailed examination of these provisions shall be taken care of in our subsequent write-up.

Articles 7 and 8 are about the Fees of Counsel and Finances of the Centre respectively. While the last two articles make provisions for Miscellaneous and Interpretation.

The National Industrial Court of Nigeria Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centre Rules, 2015.

As earlier on indicated, the President of the Court has also drawn up a set of rules for the Centre, to wit: National Industrial Court of Nigeria Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centre Rules, 2015. The Court has before now made the National Industrial Court Rules, 2007, which regulates the operations of the Court in its adjudication capacity. The present rule shall apply to all proceedings referred to the ADR Centre for settlement of disputes including all part -heard causes and matters in respect of steps and proceedings to be further taken in such causes and matters for the attainment of a just, efficient and speedy dispensation of justice.

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