Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a concept referring to the modes of conflict resolution other than those associated with courts and tribunals.
In African customary law this concept has existed from time immemorial – indeed formal court system has never existed in Africa.
Village elders had devised ways and means of not only adjudicating disputes but even imparting redress and punishment. In the era of colonialists and even presently chiefs under the Chief’s Act settle disputes informally.
In civil jurisdictions, the Constitution provides the conceptional efficacy of dispute resolution and Article 159 (2) (c) states that courts shall be guided by alternative forms of dispute resolution including reconciliation, mediation, arbitration and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms.
Civil Procedure Act makes several references to ADR and stipulates that courts can refer parties to arbitration or parties can make a formal application to have the matter referred to arbitration or ADR before judgement is pronounced.
Such is the development of ADR that there exists the most modern system known as ODR - Online Dispute Resolution or e- ADR which uses electronic media to assist the resolution of disputes, usually without the parties meeting or speaking directly. ODR involves blind bidding, based on mathematical process or the use of real person who operates as a neutral party over the internet.
Contrast, this world of arbitration if you consider internet on one side and the busaa sipping wazees still solving boundary disputes between neighbours or brothers!
Alternative Dispute Resolution concept, in addition to ODR, has six other accepted methods – arbitration, adjudication, conciliation, early neutral evaluation (ENE), mediation and negotiation.
Arbitration involves an impartial independent and knowledgeable third party, often an expert in the field of dispute, chosen by the disputants, who hears both sides of disagreement. The Arbitration award is binding under the Arbitration Act. Good practice, reasonableness and non-adherence to technicalities and evidential rules expedite the process.
This method is now widely used in matters of building contracts, international disputes, employment rights and customer disputes.