In an attempt to tackle the backlog of cases in Lagos’ courts, the High Court of Lagos State Civil Procedure Rules 2012 (the 2012 Rules) have replaced strong encouragement to attempt ADR with mandatory ADR. The Rules were presented to the public by the chief judge of Lagos, Justice Ayotunde Phillips at a stakeholders’ summit held on 19 September 2012.
Under the 2004 rules, disputing parties are required to consider alternative means of settling the issues between them, and where they are desirous of doing so, the court may refer them to an appropriate ADR centre. The 2012 Rules now provide that ‘all originating processes shall upon acceptance for filing by the Registry be screened for suitability for ADR and referred to the Lagos Multi Door Court House or other appropriate ADR institutions or Practitioners in accordance with the Practice Directions.’ Whilst there remains a screening process, commentators believe that given the promotion of ADR elsewhere in the 2012 Rules (notably Order 25 Rule 7), in reality all cases will be referred to ADR. It remains to be seen how the 2012 Rules ‘bed down’, in particular, whether the courts will embrace fully the use of ADR in resolving appropriate or ‘suitably qualified’ disputes. The 2012 Rules are yet to become operational, and there is no fixed date yet for their coming into force.