In response to your inquiry, the Court can indeed assist parties part-way into the case, to reach a negotiated settlement without going through a full trial. This it can do by encouraging parties to explore the alternative means of dispute resolution popularly known as ADR and in some instances refer parties with their consent, to participate in ADR where the Court is of the view that the matter before it can be more appropriately resolved by ADR.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009), Alternative dispute resolution or ADR refers to a “procedure for settling a dispute by means other than litigation, such as arbitration or mediation.”

The definition from the Black’s Law Dictionary is not exhaustive as ADR also encompasses arbitration, mediation, conciliation, negotiation and a hybrid of any of the earlier mentioned four mechanisms.

ADR has become an important part of dispute resolution to the extent that it is now contained in the Rules of Court in some jurisdictions and enjoys the full backing of the Courts[1].

In recent times, some states in Nigeria have attached ADR as part of the dispute resolution system available to the Courts through the Multi-Door Court System[2].  Under the Multi-Door Court System, parties to a pending litigation acquiesce to a third-party or non-third party mediated settlement outside the court room, within a stipulated time. At the end of the process, parties report the outcome to the Court. If the parties are able to settle, the terms of settlement will be entered as Judgment of the Court and where the parties are not able to settle, they can request for the litigation to continue.

ADR is usually deployed in commercial transactions and in some limited instances, it is applied to criminal matters and assists the Courts in the following ways:

  1. It reduces the case-load on the Court’s docket
  2. It generally assists the Court in resolving disputes faster
  3. It reduces the work load on the Judges, etc.

Hence the Courts are always happy to assist parties reach a negotiated settlement without going through a full trial.


[1] See for instance, Order 3 Rule 11 and Order 25 Rules (1) and (2) of the Lagos State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012 and Order 26 Federal Capital Territory (High Court Civil Procedure) Rules 2018.

[2] The High Court of Lagos State pioneered this practice with the opening of the first Multi-Door Courthouse in Nigeria in 2004.



Written by:

Enitan Randle