Dispute Resolution

The conflict has been with mankind since its first inception following man’s fallout with God in the Garden of Eden as a result of the conflict of interests. Conflict is as old as man himself. The dictionary defines conflict as a serious disagreement or argument or a clash. We cannot rule out conflict in our day-to-day activities as we interact with each other.

A good starting point is to make the often disregarded distinction between a “dispute” and a “conflict”. According to learned authors Collier and Lowe, a conflict signifies “a general state of hostility between the parties.” It often involves long-term, deep-rooted problems generally resistant to resolution. A dispute on the other hand is “a specific disagreement relating to a question of rights or interests in which the parties proceed by way of claims, counterclaims, and denials and so on.

In Nigeria, ADR is a mandatory first step in dispute resolution before resorting to Litigation. To resolve a dispute between parties and entities the Dispute Resolution Mechanisms was put in place to resolve differences. It is generally known, as an out-of-court alternative to litigation to resolve disputes between parties or External Dispute Resolution. One of the major ways of settling a dispute in many countries of the world, most especially Nigeria is Litigation. The most common mechanism of settling disputes are:

  • Arbitration
  • Mediation
  • Conciliation
  • Negotiation
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Each of these mechanisms has its pros and cons. To determine which method is best depends on the parties to the dispute and the nature of the dispute involved.



Environmental law is a vast and dynamic topic that usually addresses the consequences of human activity on the environment. It is an area of law that provides the base for responding to all the problems caused as a result of climate change, pollution, exploitation of natural resources, etc. Environmental disputes are very complex and many times difficult to resolve because of their effect on the interests of the individuals, communities, etc. However, the process of Alternative to Dispute Resolution (ADR) deals with it in a hassle-free and systematic manner. Environmental disputes generally involve a vast-ranging variety of parties, from private individuals to the general public or various other communities and can take place under various jurisdictions (both local and International). One person’s environmental dispute may be someone’s industrial dispute and can also be impacting a nation’s sovereignty. Environmental Dispute Resolution (EDR) such as mediation is perceived as forward-looking and designed to anticipate future policy or practical conflicts.

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Years ago, litigation was the popular means of settling an environmental dispute, because ADR was not a popular concept then. Now, ADR has been absolved in many countries of the world because ADR provides flexibility to the parties in a way that litigation cannot. It is not as formal, time and money consuming as litigation. In litigation, due to the burden of the pending cases, the process becomes long and tedious. ADR also provides an opportunity to restore the relationships between the parties. It is much more confidential, and the consequence of ADR is dependent on and determined by the parties. There are many examples of ADR being applied to resolving environmental disputes. A relatable example is seen in the Niger-Delta environmental pollution dispute which continued from the oil spills from the activities of multinationals have also cast doubt on the impact of the clean-up exercise.

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Major Causes of Environmental Dispute are Environmental pollution and degradation, Inadequate community-level involvement, Compensation regime, under development and neglect of the area

Mediation is one of the most effective ADR techniques. It has been defined as a “structured process in which the mediator assists the disputants to reach a negotiated settlement of their differences”. It is a non-compulsory procedure in which an impartial, neutral party facilitates the design of solutions in dispute which are acceptable to all parties. Mediation is now widely used to negotiate and settle conflicts Research has it that 10% of environmental disputes subjected to Mediation are successful especially in Nigeria. Which makes litigation still more effective.



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