From Tony John, Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has inaugurated the state’s multi-door courthouse that would offer an alternative resolution to litigations bordering on trade deals and social relationships.

The inauguration event was held at the Rivers State High Court Complex in Port Harcourt.

Governor Wike said the establishment of the multi-door courthouse was a further demonstration of his administration’s commitment to put in place a comprehensive judicial system that would serve the dispute resolution needs of businesses and investments in the state, as well as parties from other states that may be willing to submit to its jurisdiction.

The governor maintained that the multi-door courthouse system will further expand the doors and frontiers of effective justice delivery to the people with players in the business and investment community as the greatest beneficiaries.

‘Rivers State cannot but join the expanding jurisdictions across the world where the multi-door courthouse system is becoming part of the dominant alternative to litigation and arbitration in the resolution of commercial disputes, including, even relationship conflicts,’ he said.

Governor Wike explained that the commitment of his administration to sustain the ongoing infrastructural transformation of the state has continued to attract more trade deals and investments into the state, while some existing companies are expanding their operations.

According to Governor Wike, expansion in business operations has naturally and inevitably, caused an increase in commercial and investment disputes that would require speedy, cost-effective and mutually mediated and accepted resolutions in the state.

‘This is more so when businesses cannot continue to burden their book balances with huge litigation costs in the midst of declining revenues and profit margins occasioned by the downturns in our national economy.

‘Furthermore, apart from being faster in relation to litigation, one of the profound advantages of mediation is that it preserves commercial relationships after the conflict, which is what every businessman or woman needs,’ he said.

Governor Wike said there is the need to sensitise the business community about the multi-door courthouse and what they stand to gain from its services.

Speaking further, Governor Wike reiterated his administration’s fundamental commitment to transforming the judicial system and make Rivers State a pre-eminent judicial hub in the southern region of Nigeria.

He also informed that two weeks after the State Executive Council approved the construction of a new magistrate court complex for the state as part of plans to decongest the State High Court premises, the contractor for the project has been mobilised and construction work began.

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‘When completed, this complex will accommodate all the magistrate courts presently domiciled in the State High Court complex and free-up spaces to accommodate more High courtrooms and expand access to judicial services for our citizens.’

The governor asserted that his administration has deliberately prioritised the welfare and comfort of judicial officers and magistrates in the state.

He said the law has been assented to make it a policy to provide status houses for every judicial officer of Rivers State origin, irrespective of the jurisdiction under which you are serving, whether Rivers State, the federal judiciary, or the judiciary of any other state of the federation.

In his speech, the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simeon Amadi, said the multi-door courthouse system would regulate, encourage and strengthen the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism in Rivers State.

Justice Amadi emphasised the core objectives of the Rivers State Multi-Door Courthouse, as provided in Section 2 of the law to include the following;

‘Enhance access to justice by providing alternative mechanisms to supplement litigation in the resolution of disputes, minimise frustrations and delay in the justice delivery system by providing a standard legal framework for fair and efficient settlement of disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

‘Serve as the focal point for the promotion of alternative dispute resolution in Rivers State, and promote the growth and effective functioning of the justice system through alternative dispute resolution methods.’

Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Prof Zacchaeus Adangor said it was the dawn of a new era for Rivers State as it joins the league of over 15 other states of the federation to commence the operation of a multi-door courthouse.

According to him, it was a court-connected mechanism that would promote an alternative peaceful resolution of disputes.

‘There is no gainsaying the fact that access to justice is a constitutional right and that the core elements of that right include speedy, efficient, cost-effective administration of justice.’

The leader, Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Rivers State and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Onueze Okocha, SAN, said the core reason for the establishment of the multi-door courthouse system is for the speedy delivery of justice and access to justice.

The highlight of the event was the conferment of Governor Wike as a fellow of the International Dispute Resolution Institute by Professor CJ Amasike.