The judicial powers of the Federation and States are vested in courts established by section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and other courts established for the Federation by an Act of the National Assembly or in case of states, the law made by the relevant State House of Assembly. Due to the influx and consequential protraction of cases, the judicial powers gradually had to be shared with emerging tribunals established for particular purposes. This development consequently brought about a dual parallel system of adjudicating institutions operating side by side.
Multiplicity and increase in litigations which generated incessant undue protraction of cases in courts, has posed an imminent threat to the breakdown of law and order that may ultimately lead to anarchy in society. Under this compelling situation, an alternative means to decongest the courts became absolutely inevitable. Nigeria resorted to, inter alia, benchmarking the British experience to establish tribunals to handle some specific cases requiring more expeditious determination like election petitions, breach of code of conduct by public office holders, capital market cases, etc.
Election tribunals stand unique in the administration of justice in Nigeria. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the successive Electoral Acts 2002, 2006 and 2010 have provided a fast-tracking procedure to ensure prompt disposal of election petitions and appeals due to their sui generis nature. A thorough appraisal of election cases has been done from first-instance tribunals to appellate tribunals.
The time-honoured tradition of the Nigerian people of dispute resolution also enjoys formal patronage by establishing dispute resolution centres like the Lagos Multi-door Court House and the Abuja Multi-door Court House by the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group (NCMG), etc. Since the formal establishment of various resolution centres, all hands have been on deck to resolve most disputes by providing prompt, easy and friendly resolutions. The various aspects of alternative dispute resolution have been examined, and the several advantages of the alternative system of administration of justice have been identified. The problems and difficulties that cause hiccups have been discussed, and solutions proffered.
The common problem running through the operation of every tribunal is a delay in the trial proceedings. This work aims principally at evolving ways of minimising delays in the disposal of cases in tribunals and dispute resolution centres and, at the same time, enhancing the quality of adjudication as a tool for decongesting the courts in order to promote peaceful and more harmonious co-existence amongst the Nigerian people.The Role of Tribunals and Dispute Resolution Centres in the Administration of Justice in Nigeria