Stephen Olufemi Oni, Ilorin
The Kwara state Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KWACCIMA) has disclosed that it would meet with the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Abiodun Adebara, on the need for the establishment of a special court to handle disputes arising from businesses in the state.
The President of the Chamber, Barrister (Mrs) Ronke Adeyemi, who disclosed this in an interview with Journalists in Ilorin, the state capital, said issues pertaining to trade should not be tried in courts where theft and other related issues are heard.
Mrs Adeyemi explained that the establishment of commercial court was desirable in view of the frustrations litigants often experienced as a result of delay in adjudication on cases in courts.
She said: “We are planning to meet with the Chief Judge of Kwara State to designate what should be called a commercial court. If there is a trade dispute, it is a dispute about business matters; it shouldn’t be put in the same court where they are trying cases of theft and others.
“They will specifically train the judges to handle commercial matters and there would be timeline that such matters should be concluded within 180 days depending on the amount of money involved. Although, we have a court at the High Court that treats mainly financial issues such as cases of EFCC. That had made them very fast.
“Creating such court will boost the people’s confidence in doing business in the state. It will also encourage people to do business in Kwara because once people know that when they come to do business in Kwara and they had a problem, they won’t be locked up in court for ages, they will be willing to come here.”
Mrs Adeyemi, a former Chairman, Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Kwara state chapter, noted that the absence of rule of law in the country poses threats to business owners, adding that it is also discouraging business owners from bringing in partners into their enterprises owing to fear of sabotage.
KWACCIMA president said: “It is the rule of law that makes it impossible for a partner in America and Europe to sabotage the business because they won’t only be caught but will also be punished. But in Nigeria, when you bring in a partner, he will be looking for how to exterminate you and take over your business and nothing will happen.”
She, however, promised that the chamber under her leadership would work on the rule of law to discountenance the peculiarities of African society and system, which usually obstruct the carriage of Justice, saying that “if the rule of law isn’t working, business can’t thrive”.
Mrs Adeyemi also expressed her readiness to reinforce and encourage members to explore alternative dispute resolution as a viable option of settling issues arising from businesses rather than going to the Police or Court.
“We will also work on alternative dispute resolution. That is, when there is an issue concerning our job as business people, if it is criminal in nature, there is what we call ‘plea bargain’. Assuming someone stole N5million from your farm, how much can you forgo from the sum and let the person go rather than letting him go to jail, you won’t get a penny.
“But if the issue is civil in nature, we will go for alternative dispute resolution. We already have it set up in Kwara State but people often take marital cases there. Alternative dispute resolution is most effective for businesses. For example, in a case of breach of contract, instead of going to the Police, you can simply go to alternative dispute resolution.
“Our organization will partner the Nigerian Bar Association and train our lawyers to ensure that when they write business agreement for clients, they should put it there that in case of dispute the first option should be alternative dispute resolution”, KWACCIMA boss said.
The President also revealed that the chamber is planning to train business owners on the survival of their businesses even after they become incapable of running it or dead.
She also spoke on the exploits of the chamber to bring business owners together and discuss issues affecting them with the government.
Mrs Adeyemi said: “We have been able to bring people in the private sector together in order to discuss with government on several issues that are affecting people in the private sector such as taxation. Business people are always complaining about double and excessive taxation.
“We have had a series of engagements with relevant government agencies both at the federal and state level, and it has brought some changes and relief to our people.
“State House of Assembly has had to speak with us, seeking our input on laws that are affecting economic activities in Kwara State.
“We are also part of the team that helped the state government to draw up the list of things to do to make doing business in Kwara easier. They call it ease of doing business such that Kwara State is one of the top most States in Nigeria in terms of ease of doing business.”