The Chronicles of the Pre-Colonial Method of Settling Disputes: Nigeria as a Case Study
Published 24 May 2022
Since the late 1960s, the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process has gone through several distinct phases. In many Western jurisdictions, ADR has increasingly gained public recognition as an ‘alternative’ to litigation. In contrast, non-court adjudication has historically been the primary method of settling disputes/conflicts in much of Africa, using the form of the Traditional African Method of Settling Dispute (TAMSD). This article argues that Western jurisdictions have not sufficiently acknowledged the debt owed to the Traditional African Method of Settling Dispute (TAMSD).
The writer adopts an ethnographic (qualitative) research method, through observation of the process of dispute settlement in two communities from south-eastern Nigeria; Onicha-Ado n’Idu in Anambra State and Amaofuo in Imo State, to offer a detailed description how pre-colonial monarchs settled disputes.
This article provides an overview of ADR processes and their relationship to the Nigerian legal system. It addresses the question of whether the Traditional African Method of Settling Disputes (TAMSD) is a precursor of ADR and evaluates the post-colonial development of this model of dispute resolution. Can ‘court-connected ADR’ or ADR be validly regarded as a ‘legal transplant' from pre-colonial Africa?’
Finally, in line with socio-legal research, the work utilised the qualitative approach for data gathering and analysis as it analysed the research question for the first time on whether the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) has replicated the pre-arbitral method of settling disputes. It concludes with questioning why the Traditional African Method of Settling Dispute (TAMSD) is still notably effective, while at the same time highlighting some of the similarities with the modern ADR.