The New Year is approximately three weeks old already and with the full resumption of commercial and sundry other activities, misunderstandings and disputes are as certain as daylight. Every day, humanity processes disputes and misunderstandings and resolve a number of them on the go. However a significant proportion requires third party intervention through processes such as litigation, mediation and arbitration to make any headway in their resolution.
The year 2019 portends to be a great year for the advancement of alternative dispute resolution in our jurisdiction. Insider information indicates this much. For instance the industry awaits the birth of the Federal High Court ADR Centre for which a Seven Man Committee had since March 2018 submitted its report. It is also on record that the draft rules of the Centre have also been approved by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. What this writer cannot confirm is when the Centre will be officially launched.
No doubt, the coming on stream of the Federal High Court ADR Centre will revolutionize the practice of alternative dispute resolution in Nigeria. It shall be the mother of all ADR Centres since the Centre is expected to be located all around the States of the Federation. What is more, the mandate of the Federal High Court in all commercial and financial transactions of the nation’s economy makes the Centre the place to go. The Federal High Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all matters relating to the revenue of the government of the Federation. Inclusive in its mandate are issues pertaining to maritime, insurance, banking, aviation, taxation, company and allied matters, diplomatic, consular and trade representation as well as immigration into and emigration from Nigeria, etc.
A concomitant effect of the Centres’ establishment will be that the proactive work of some regulatory organizations such as the Nigerian Shippers Council in the promotion of ADR will be given a further bite. What this means is that matters resolved through Industry ADR processes may now be given judicial enforcement once they are registered at the Federal High Court for pronouncement as consent judgment of the Court.
As we await the coming of the Federal High Court ADR Centre, it is apposite to also draw the attention of our readers to developments in the maritime industry’s complaints processing architecture. In what easily is a clinical approach to unclogging the hurdles of doing business in the nation’s seaports, the Nigerian Shippers Council has since put in place a fast track approach to the processing of complaints and disputes in the shipping sector.
Under the new regime, you no longer require to waste several hours trying to reach appropriate authorities to lodge complaints on any infractions in your import or export business transactions. This is courtesy of the Port Service Support Portal (PSSP), designed to take off the stress of time-conscious international businessmen and women.
According to its mission statement, ‘’the Port Service Support Portal (PSSP) is a complaints management and Port service support solution aimed at addressing business to business transaction problems in Nigeria Ports. The portal allows stakeholders to submit and track the status of complaints, enquiries and port service request in an online real-time manner. The portal will over time acquire data which when aggregated will generate complaints statistics. The statistics will then be used to guide authorities in decision making and will also indicate individual agencies/organizations/companies’ levels of service efficiency and contributions to efficient service delivery in the Ports’’.
Put differently, the portal in a special way lifts off the veil of anonymity on each and every organization rendering services at the port. An interesting feature the portal uses in achieving this objective is that every relevant port organization or agency has been made to publish its standard operating procedure as a guide to port users. By this innovation, users no longer have to grope about whose responsibility it is to deliver certain services or to hold accountable those whose mandate it is to so do.
When a Complainant sends his request through the Port Service Support Portal, he receives an acknowledgement for submitting the complaint. An Escalation alert will be triggered notifying the relevant department within the Nigerian Shippers Council of the complaint. The relevant department escalates the complaint to the appropriate Agency to resolve the matter and a feedback subsequently sent to the Complainant.
In order to ensure a seamless process, it is advised that relevant Officers of complaining Organizations must be accessible when needed in the process of handling complaints. It is also emphasized that complaints must be made only for legal and genuine business transactions. The Shippers Council which manages the portal provides alternative dispute resolution to service providers and users of ports services in all appropriate cases. As it now stands, it is no longer the case that there is corruption at the Nigerian seaports, rather it is whether or not the stakeholders are ready to play by the rules.