I am Not Just Passionate About ADR, I Have Given My Life To It – Dr Ben Odoh

By Celestine Okeh

Dr Ben Uruchi Odoh is a legal practitioner,… currently, the Personal Assistant (Technical) to Ebonyi State Deputy Governor. He is also the initiator, “Settle with laughter” , an ADR advocacy radio and television program. Dr Ben Uruchi Odoh, In an exclusive interview with Celestine Chidi Okeh, shared his experience and opinion on Alternative Dispute Resolution ADR in justice delivery system and Conflict resolution mechanism.

Let’s meet you sir

My name is Dr Ben Uruchi Odoh. I am the personal Assistant (Technical) to the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State and the initiator, Settle with laughter.

What Is The Place Of ADR In Conflict Resolution Management

Alternative Dispute Resolution is part of our life. It is both scriptural and statutorily provided for. So, when as a lawyer, first do go into ADR more than litigation, you’re also fulfilling your statutory obligation. You’re also fulfilling your scriptural and religious obligation. Statutory in the sense that the law that regulate the Practice of legal profession in Nigeria is called the rules of professional conduct 2020 as amended, so rules 15 sub 3D provide that in his representation of clients, a lawyer shall not fail or neglect to generate Alternative Dispute Resolution option for his clients before resorting to litigation.

In the same rules of the professional conduct for legal Practitioners, rules 55 provides that the failure of a lawyer to generate ADR option for his clients before resorting to litigation is tantamount to professional misconduct. So, for lawyers, ADR is not optional. It is compulsory because we have laws creating it.

Another status that is making ADR to be part of statutory obligation as  lawyers, is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. Section 19D of the 1999 Constitution provides that the foreign policy objective of Nigeria shall be respect for International law and treaty obligation and seeking the settlement of International disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication. So, the Constitution mentioned adjudication last as an option of resolving international dispute. If the Constitution which is the mother of all laws in Nigeria can provide that all international disputes pertaining to Nigeria should be resolved, so which other laws are we looking for?. So, for lawyers, we have status for ADR. Aside that, for Muslim, when you Practice ADR, you’re fulfilling your scriptural obligation. Koran 49 vs 9 provide that, “there is nothing as good as the gathering of brethren in view of resolving conflict between one another in accordance with Allah's ordinance, keep doing it that Allah the most merciful will call you my beloved and reward you accordingly”. So, for Muslim, when you Practice ADR, you’re fulfilling your scriptural obligation as contained in Kora.

For Christian, Matthew 18 vs 15 says “when you have dispute with one another, meet the person you have dispute with and negotiate with the aim of resolving it. Verse 16 said, “if the person refused, invite a neutral third party to mediate over the dispute. Verse 17 said, “if he further refused, invite church elders to have settlement conference over the dispute”, which means, Matthew 18 vs 15 provide for negotiation an ADR option, verse 16 provide for mediation an ADR option and verse 17 provide for settlement conference an ADR option... So, ADR is part of us. 

If you look at other laws like in Ebonyi State, we have other laws that mainstream ADR to be part of our criminal justice system. If you look at Ebonyi State administrative of criminal justice law of 2019, that was signed into law by Engr David Umahi on 5th September 2019. That law provided for ADR option such as plea bargain, parole, restorative justice, victim offenders mediation, Community sentencing, forlorn in criminal matters. Before now, there was no doubt about general categorization of ADR, but lawyers had this limbrint  of doubt about the amendability of ADR in criminal matters. So, the signing of this bill into law made our ADR to move from civil jurisprudence to criminal jurisprudence, thereby creating a paradigm shift from retributive to restorative justice system. Retributive justice is a one way traffic justice system that uses punishment to correct offenders. Prior to the signing of the new bill into law, our law was all about arrest of criminal suspect, araign, try, convict and sentence offenders. It has no remedy for the victim of crime. That is why the late justice of supreme Court, Justice Chukwudifo Oputa said that justice should not be one way traffic system, not even two ways but three ways justice system. One, justice for an accused person, justice to the victim of crime and justice to the society or state where crime is committed. So, with the entrance of ADR into our justice system, it has moved from retributive to restorative justice system. Now we have tripertite justice system which gives justice to an accused person, justice to the victim of crime and justice to the society where crime is committed. So when give offender Community sentence and compensate the victim, justice is seemed to be served. With these, ADR have come to stay in our justice system.


In Ebonyi State,  there are some restrictions on ADR in custodian alternative and custodian measures. Those restrictions are, when we talk about kidnapping, armed robbery, ADR is not applicable to these. but in other states, ADR is applicable to both civil and criminal matters. 

Though generally, there are some ADR process in criminal justice system such as plea bargain, which is an ADR arrangements, a plea from an acused person admitting an offence committed by him or her in exchange for a lesser punishment. So, when you talk about ADR, we have ADR process in criminal and civil matters. In civil matters we have negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and the one we call high breed process, which are early neutral evaluation, expert appraisal, mini- trial, rent the judge, umboardsman. These are ADR process that are exclusively amendable in civil matters. We also have ADR process that are exclusively amendable in criminal matters,  these are plea bargain, coalition building, consensus building, lobbying, victim offenders mediation, Community sentencing. These are ADR process that can be used to resolve criminal matters.

In 1994, there was a serious genocide in Rwanda . Over 800,000 persons lost their lives and over 200,000 persons were arrested for being behind the genocide. So, there was big problem. They had to apply ADR. Remember, genocide is a capital offence. What they did was to mainstream ADR. They established what is called Garkaka Court. They constituted people who are not judges or lawyers but traditional rulers and community leaders to be in charge of those courts in various villages and to try those who were arrested as suspects. When found guilty, their were sentenced to the family who they killed their breadwinner to farm for them for a period of time and act like a father to them and then established a healing circle with the aim of restoring peace among the people. Within two years, there was a serious reconciliation in Rwanda. Today, Kigali, the capital City of Rwanda is the best City in Africa. This was achieved as a result of mainstreaming ADR into their justice system.  Nigeria Government, few years ago borrowed a leaf from that in resolving the criminal dispute created by Boko Haram insurgents that those surrendered were mainstreamed into the Nigerian Army as a way of restitution. So, the bottom line here is that ADR is applicable in both criminal and civil matters.


ADR builds a culture of amicable settlement of differences and guarantee Peaceful coexistence. One thing is to have a good case, another thing is to win a good case. When you resolve your matter through litigation, you end up achieving one thing. You will be a winner but will end up falling out of character with the adverse party. Litigation changes a harmonious relationship to acrimonious relationship but ADR brings an acrimonious relationship back to harmonious relationship. It also helps to promote access to justice especially, the poor and the needy who cannot afford the cost of litigation. When do your matter through ADR, they are lawyers that are ready to help and resolve it at no cost but if you go through litigation, it does not recognize if you're poor or needy, you must pay necessary legal filing fees and other legal charges. So, the cost of litigation is higher than ADR. Another beautiful thing about ADR is substantial reduction in the number of cases that clog the wheels of justice. It helps to decongest those cases that causes undue delay in justice delivery.

Another good thing about ADR is that, it contribute to prison decongestion. It promotes law and order. It also enhances police efficiency by reducing the complains that stretches the limited resources of the police.

It equally help in effective management of work place dispute, labour dispute, industrial unrest. It contribute to the reduction of ethics, social, political conflicts and strengthen public security, peace, development, rules of law and sound democratic culture.


One beautiful thing about this is that, I am not just passionate about ADR, but I have given my life to ADR.

ADR is a virgin area of law. I discovered that so many of us 'lawyers' are collectively guilty of one thing. There are about 28 methods and spectrum of resolving conflicts but those who formulated our syllabus and curriculum as law student in school geared towards one single direction of conflicts resolution, which is litigation. I asked myself, all my years of study from Bachelor degree to master and to PhD, I have been studying one method of dispute resolution out of over 28 methods, so I got angry and said no, we must not be, because there are many other ways of resolving dispute outside litigation. So, the implications of concentrating on one means of resolving Conflict out of the 28 other means is that we will end up becoming a problem fighter and not problems solver, we are meant to be. 

So, my passion for this is to correct the erroneous notion that lawyers are problems fighter and make the society to know that lawyers are problem solvers, and that lawyers should not only be remembered when situation are broken down irretrievably, to go and fight dirty because they are seen to be problem fighters.

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