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4. Game-changing services proposed

Civil Justice Transformation in Ogun State / 4. Game-changing services proposed

Photo: Sebastian Voortman from Pexels

What are key elements of the Civil Justice Innovation Goals formulated in the strategy? What can be learned from experience in other countries? And what can be done to strengthen these proposals, in light view of the targets set by the stakeholders?

4.1 Game-changing services initially proposed and considered

Court procedures and legal services by lawyers can be effective. In most countries, they struggle to achieve sufficient scale: they reach few people. Research on the most promising justice services, how to standardise them and how to fund them is ongoing4.

The enrolment interviews also offered stakeholders the opportunity to relay their take on potential game-changers for Ogun State. Digitisation, ADR and more effective use of multi-door courthouses were mentioned most often. What is important is not necessarily the number of game-changing services identified, but more vital to people-centred transformation is ensuring that they are implemented, they work, and the people are able to measure them as accessible, easy and affordable.

In the stakeholder interviews and during the first dialogue, various ADR services were mentioned:

A next step might be to investigate how many people use these services. For multi-door courthouses, data are available, for instance in this paper (Emilia Onyema and Monalisa Odibo, How Alternative Dispute Resolution made a comeback in Nigerian Courts, 2017; see box below for a summary).

Interviewed experts routinely mentioned the multi-door courthouse as the best example of ADR in Ogun State. In the words of the Olota of Ota:

I think one of the best ways that we are witnessing now is the multi-door courthouse. Because people like us can adjudicate over issues and we are eager to ensure that people get justice.

Other experts concurred:

Of the options available, the multi-door court house is still the most preferred to the court and the police in achieving solutions for civil justice problems in Ogun State. If the Multi-Door Court House is effective, it remains one of the best amongst the available options.

Among the positive elements of multi-door courthouse, the experts highlighted the low costs for disputants, the informal nature of the process, and the relatively quick manner in which disputes are resolved. Experts also stressed that resolving disputes through ADR and the multi-door courthouse helps to build and maintain relationships that might be damaged if the dispute is taken to court. At the same time, awareness about its existence and the opportunities it offers was highlighted as one of the major challenges for the multi-door courthouse, together with funding. In the words of the President of the Customary Court in Ota:

Interviewed experts routinely mentioned the multi-door courthouse as the best example of ADR in Ogun State. In the words of the Olota of Ota:

The multi-door courthouse has been trying, but unfortunately most people are not aware of its existence. The police is out of it entirely, but unfortunately that is still the first point of call of litigants when problems arise. When they leave the police with their issues, they would still be referred back to court to have their issues resolved.

Another major challenge raised by several experts was the lack of adequate funding for the multi-door courthouse. It seems that the Ogun State multi-door courthouse is a promising and widely supported initiative, which still has some room left to become a truly effective dispute resolution service.


We gathered the following findings on the multi-door courthouses in a number of states in Nigeria:

A number of game-changing services are increasingly on the radar screens of reformers in civil justice and criminal justice. These services exist in some form in most countries and have the potential to deliver effective solutions in a scalable and sustainable way. 

Community justice services, one-stop dispute resolution services and people-centred innovation and advice are most likely to contribute to improvements in civil justice delivery. For land conflicts, user-friendly documents may be relevant as well. In many countries, such services already exist and can be scaled. This may require standardisation, investments and better models for ensuring sustainable revenues (for more information on scaling services see this chapter in HiiL’s 2021 trend report).

Community Justice Services

Community justice services are all about delivering high-quality, standardised forms of informal justice close to people’s homes. Although community justice services exist in different forms in different countries, they can be identified by three key characteristics:

Community justice services tend to be more common in rural settings than in cities. 

Community justice services can suggest a recourse to formal courts or could be under the supervision of formal courts. They can also be connected to local or central government, with the potential to scale across borders. At the same time, their rootedness in specific communities may limit their potential to be really scalable.

HiiL’s online dashboard has a dedicated page for community justice services

Platforms offering mandatory one-stop dispute resolution

People seeking justice often need to find different services in completely different places, making the process of seeking justice unnecessarily complicated. Bringing these different services together in one place would therefore greatly improve and simplify the process for people lost in the justice system. This is why one-stop shops, platforms offering different dispute resolution services in one place, are a great way to improve access to justice.

At one location, these platforms connect the different stages of the justice process: diagnosis, advice, negotiation, mediation and adjudication. They can focus on all types of civil justice problems. The aim is to create an integrated ‘treatment’ that focuses on reaching an agreement between the parties, rather than a judgment. To facilitate such agreements, evidence-based approaches are used. One-stop dispute resolution platforms can be supported online as much as possible.

HiiL’s online dashboard has a dedicated page for platforms offering one-stop dispute resolution with examples and tools to develop business cases/financial models.

People-centred online information

As the number of people able to access the internet continues to grow around the world, the number of justice services offering online information, advice, or representation has equally mushroomed. 

The provision of people-centred online information and advice, combined with follow-up services, can really help people solve their legal problems in a step-by-step way. Such services can be run by law firms, motivated individuals, legal start-ups, charities and non-profit organisations, and sometimes even by the government.

Despite the potential of such websites and apps to offer a helpful starting point for people with legal problems, they require substantial investment to become effective self-help guides leading to higher rates of resolution. As a result, examples of these are still rare, even in high-income countries.

HiiL’s online dashboard has a dedicated page for people-centred online information.

4.2 Integrated resolution for neighbour disputes

In Ogun State, the yearly expected number of neighbour disputes is at least 140,000. Stakeholders aim to increase the number of disputes dealt with in communities. 

Ogun people will develop and use informal/local dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve neighbour disputes.

To increase the capacity to solve and prevent neighbour disputes, stakeholders proposed:

Community justice services exist in many countries (see map on HiiL dashboard). Seven organisational models exist (see table below). One model is a generic informal justice model, depending on how informal justice is organised in each single community. Two models ensemble lawyer-representation models. One model is an interdisciplinary one. Three models are based on links between neutral courts and informal justice. These models are most close to what stakeholders proposed: local (informal) courts, justices of the peace and judicial facilitators.

Nokukhanya Ntuli (Africa: Alternative Dispute Resolution in a Comparative Perspective, Conflict Studies Quarterly 2018, p. 36) advises to build on existing informal justice mechanisms, as they exist already in many African communities. She warns against implementing “foreign” ADR concepts, without considering the lessons learned about ADR. One of these lessons is that the incentives to use ADR or informal justice need to be increased. 

Scroll left and right to view the whole table.

Local delivery model
Focus justice problems
Focus in services
Follow-up services if not successful
Main revenue streams
Civil legal aid lawyers
Disputes and crimes
Mediation, advocacy, navigating adjudication
Legal aid lawyers, formal court adjudication
Fees, NGOs, Ministry of justice
Community paralegals
Disputes and crimes

Issues with companies and state institutions
Education, mediation, monitoring, advocacy
Legal aid lawyers, formal court adjudication
NGOs, Community contributions
Informal justice by local leaders and others
Disputes and crimes
Mediation, adjudication
Time from volunteers and officials
Justices of the peace
Minor disputes and crimes
Mediation, adjudication
Referral to formal court adjudication
Judicial facilitators
Disputes and crimes
Education, mediation
Integration with local court adjudication
Local (informal courts)
Minor disputes and crimes
Mediation, adjudication
Enforcement in community
Local government
Houses of justice
Disputes and crimes
Information, advice, referral
Ministry of justice

Her article is one of many overviews of existing mediation and adjudication practices in various regions that can help in understanding the variety of informal justice mechanisms that exist. Many attempts have been made to map community justice mechanisms in Yoruba communities (see Adeyinka Theresa Ajayi and Lateef Oluwafemi Buhari, Methods of Conflict Resolution in African Traditional Society, African Research Review 2014, p. 138 for one example).  

The following elements of the proposal are very much supported by the literature: 

The following suggestions can strengthen the proposal:

4.3 Preventing and resolving land conflicts

In Ogun State, the yearly expected number of land disputes is at least 100,000. Disputes over boundaries/access, land titles/ownership, use of land and land grabbing are most frequent. Stakeholders aim to increase the number of disputes dealt with in communities, whilst strengthening the capacity to keep records of land ownership locally. Claims interests could be registered locally and linked to the formal land registry. This should be combined with local dispute resolution.

to keep local records of land ownership for the people of Ogun State.

In order to increase the capacity to solve and prevent land disputes, stakeholders proposed:

Research on “what works” to resolve land disputes is not easy to find. The literature on land mapping and land registration systems is extensive. The WorldBank, UNHabitat, and research institutes have invested heavily in know-how about so-called “fit for purpose land registration systems”. A good summary of this know-how is a publication by Bob Hendriks, Jaap Zevenbergen, RohanBennett and Danilo Antonio (Pro-poor land administration: Towards practical, coordinated, and scalable recording systems for all,  Land Use Policy 2019, pp. 21-38). Findings from evaluation studies they mention include:

Research on “what works” to resolve land disputes is not easy to find. The literature on land mapping and land registration systems is extensive. The WorldBank, UNHabitat, and research institutes have invested heavily in know-how about so-called “fit for purpose land registration systems”. A good summary of this know-how is a publication by Bob Hendriks, Jaap Zevenbergen, RohanBennett and Danilo Antonio (Pro-poor land administration: Towards practical, coordinated, and scalable recording systems for all,  Land Use Policy 2019, pp. 21-38). Findings from evaluation studies they mention include:

The following elements of the proposal are very much supported by the literature: 

The following suggestions can strengthen the proposal:

4.4 Preventing and resolving family (separation) conflicts

Based on the Nigeria JNS survey, the expected yearly number of divorce/separation disputes in Ogun State is 15,000. Stakeholders proposed increased use of mediation in family disputes, more awareness of prenuptial agreements and an information portal for couples.

Ogun people will have access to improved resolution of family disputes (related to both formal and traditional marriages)

To increase the capacity to solve and prevent family disputes, stakeholders proposed:

Ugochinyelu Anidi (Towards the institutionalization of divorce mediation in Nigeria: a case study of Enugu State, Dissertation University of Cape Town, 2020) provides a critical review of the bottlenecks in the current legal system for divorce and separation in Nigeria. She proposes that a good divorce law should:

She evaluates a divorce mediation process against these criteria and recommends a mandatory mediation process, which she describes in detail. This design could be a starting point for developing a prototype. 

The stakeholders can make use of the growing literature on dispute system design. Three leading books are:

Many training manuals exist that describe the techniques and interventions that mediators can use. For example, UNODC has supported a training manual by the National Judicial Institute for alternative dispute resolution in Nigeria that lists the interventions and skill sets needed. 

Justice services to deal with separation and divorce are described in the earliest codifications. Over the past 50 years, separation and divorce have become a field of interdisciplinary study. Typing in “separation divorce courts” leads to 202,000 publications on Google Scholar. Increasingly, this literature is interdisciplinary; legal research is combined with empirical research by social scientists.

HiiL and others worked on recommendations for justice practitioners for the key dilemmas they identified in their family justice practices. We  followed accepted methods to promote evidence-based practice through guidelines. The quality of the evidence from research was considered. Recommendations (and the literature that has been investigated) include the following topics:

There is little research on marriage contracts or prenuptial agreements that can be relied on. Most of this research focuses on recognition of traditional marriage arrangements in courts. Scholars have not deeply investigated how agreements concluded between spouses can be promoted, with appropriate protection against abuse. Much of the literature focuses on preventing child marriage. A more general approach can be found in a draft for a uniform law on prenuptial agreements in the US. The setting for marriage contracts in Ogun State is likely very different, however, so using this example is not recommended.

The following elements of the proposal by stakeholders are very much supported by the literature: 

The following suggestions can strengthen the proposal:

4.5 Responsive services for domestic violence

On the basis of the Nigeria JNS survey, the expected number of domestic violence problems in Ogun state is 14,000. There is a vast literature on domestic violence worldwide and there are hundreds of studies on domestic violence in Nigeria in particular. O.R. Ashimolowo and G.A. Otufale (Assessment of domestic violence among women in Ogun State, Nigeria, Greener Journal of Social Sciences, 2012) report rather low levels of domestic violence in farm families in rural areas of Ogun State, but domestic violence is often underreported.  A much cited paper on domestic violence prevalence is the one from Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba cultures is Collins Nwabunike and Eric Y. Tenkorang (Domestic and Marital Violence Among Three Ethnic Groups in Nigeria, Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2015, pp. 1–26). The paper notes that women with domineering husbands were significantly more likely to experience physical, sexual, and emotional violence. Similarly, those who thought wife-beating was justified were more likely to experience all three types of violence. 

Another paper by Tenkorang, Sedziafa and Owusu (Does Type and Severity of Violence Affect the Help-Seeking Behaviors of Victims of Intimate Partner Violence in Nigeria? Journal of Family Issues 2017, pp. 2026–2046) finds that about 65% of women did not seek help after experiencing intimate partner violence. Most women who sought help did so from informal sources only (31.3%), compared with formal sources (1.9%). From this literature, a detailed analysis can be made of the groups that are most vulnerable and the social settings in which domestic violence occurs. 

Ogun State people will have fast and effective access to protection in the event of domestic violence.

To increase the capacity to solve and prevent domestic violence problems, stakeholders proposed:

Stakeholders propose a one-stop solution for victims of domestic violence, with interdisciplinary services addressing the different needs of victims and also aimed at prevention and law enforcement. This should be combined with awareness raising to ensure the services reach the target groups. 

The literature on effectiveness of responses to domestic violence is equally abundant. The World Health Organisation, Global strategy for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health (2016–2030), recommends the following approaches:

Many systematic reviews have been made of research on effective interventions for domestic violence. Reviewers complain that outcomes of interventions are not well defined, so the effectiveness of different methods cannot be compared or even monitored. 

Kiani et al (A systematic review: Empowerment interventions to reduce domestic violence? Aggression and Violent Behavior, May–June 2021) find that interventions that empowered women in terms of their economic capability were more effective in reducing violence than those that did not involve an economic perspective. Community interventions reduced the amount of violence and were cost-effective but were time-consuming. 

What types of responses have been found to be effective? A review of policing interventions by Australian researchers shows that police attendance by itself has a major preventive effect on persistent domestic violence. Arresting the perpetrator, bringing charges and punishments do not seem to add much to that effect. Protection orders are moderately effective, in particular when the perpetrator and the victim are not in an intimate relationship (anymore). The review also contains evidence on the effects of victim statements, witness statements and ways to collect evidence on police decisions to follow up on cases. See also this systematic review of Gender Responsive Policing initiatives commissioned by UKAid. In the United States, the use of mandatory arrest and other criminal justice interventions is seriously questioned (see also the book from Leigh Goodmark: Decriminalizing domestic violence: A balanced policy approach to intimate partner violence, 2018). 

An important trend in domestic violence responses is to increase victims’ voice and participation in determining what should happen  (see M.P. Koss, J. White, and E.C. Lopez, Victim voice in reenvisioning responses to sexual and physical violence nationally and internationally, American Psychologist 2017, pp.1019-1030). Victims are likely to want a say in how interventions: 

Ogbe et al (A systematic review of intimate partner violence interventions focused on improving social support and/ mental health outcomes of survivors, PLoS ONE 2020) find that support services that have strong linkages with communities and are community focused seem to have significant effects on mental health outcomes and access to resources for victims. 

A recent publication in the British Medical Journal (2020) reviews the literature on the implementation and effectiveness of the one stop centre model for intimate partner and sexual violence in low- and middle-income countries. This article finds 15 barriers and seven enablers, which seem relevant to the proposal. Three models are discussed: the hospital-based centre, the stand-alone centre, and the NGO-run centre. The main barriers to scaling one-stop-centres are poor connections to justice sector services (the police), staffing (availability of all disciplines in the centres), availability in communities (in particular for the hospital based centres), and financial sustainability. 

The study recommends investigating lower cost alternatives, such as service delivery through primary healthcare providers. Enablers found in a previous study (Manuela Colombini  Colleen Dockerty  Susannah H. Mayhew, Barriers and Facilitators to Integrating Health Service Responses to Intimate Partner Violence in Low‐ and Middle‐Income Countries: A Comparative Health Systems and Service Analysis, Studies in Family Planning 2017, p. 178 ff.) include:

The following elements of the proposal are very much supported by the literature: 

The following suggestions can strengthen the proposal: