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Informal Channels for Conflict Resolution in Ibadan, Nigeria

 | 
Isaac Olawale Albert
, 
Tinu Awe
, 
Georges Hérault
, 
et al.

4. Mediators and the Media: Conflict resolution through television and radio programmes

Full text

1. Television Programmes

1There are three television stations in Ibadan: The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA); The Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS); and Galaxy Television (a private station which just started broadcasting in 1995).

  • 1 It is important to note that the word used in relation to conflicts is SETTLED. When amicable settl (...)

2Both NTA and BCOS air programmes which may be termed open court systems where conflicts (real or imaginary) between persons are resolved1 by the employment of the Yoruba omoluabi philosophy. Agborandun is shown on NTA every Saturday at noon for one hour while So Da Bee is shown every Sunday afternoon by BCOS for one and a half hours. Both programmes are transmitted in the Yoruba language and are enjoyed by a large number of viewers, primarily because they are shown at the weekend.

1.1 Agborandun (Those who help others to solve their problems)

  • 2 My gratitude goes to Mr Gbade Alli, producer of Agborandun for background information on the progra (...)

3Agborandun was started by the NTA over eighteen years ago.2 It is a public service programme, like most NTA programmes, but is specifically targeted at those unable to afford professional legal assistance, although the participants cut across the social strata. The present depressed economic situation of the country has greatly increased the number of people who may be termed poor/financially disadvantaged.

4The procedure for seeking redress on the Agborandun programme is as follows:

    • 3 These departments are Finance, Programmes, News, Engineering, Commercial and Marketing and Administ (...)

    A complainant goes to the NTA offices at Agodi in Ibadan before the programme is recorded. He takes a number tally and waits patiently with other complainants in a wooden shed where the initial screening takes place. The screening panel is composed of representatives from each of the six television station departments.3 When the panel is ready to begin, the complainant moves to the seat provided in front of the screening panel and tells them his problem in Yoruba. (If the complainant does not understand Yoruba, whatever he/she and the screening panel says is translated into Yoruba).

  1. The screening panel cross-examines the complainants in turn; they are not bound by precedent and can take any step which, in their opinion, the matter warrants including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. They may tell the complainant to come back two days later with two brown official envelopes to collect an invitation letter which is addressed to the person against whom the complaint is brought, stating very briefly what the matter is about and requiring the respondent to appear before the screening panel at the station within a stated period.

    • 4 Agborandan does not handle cases involving the use of supernatural means known as ogun among the Yo (...)

    They may tell the complainant that they do not handle cases of the type that he or she has brought before them.4 Agborandun does not treat family cases. The reason for this is because in Yoruba culture family matters are not discussed in public and have to be settled within the family circle. Also the panels do not treat cases which may be treated by the Welfare Services Department of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Social Welfare. We were informed that such matters do not require legal expertise, thus the complainant may deal with them without incurring legal charges. Additionally, the producers may conclude that the Welfare Services Department is doing a satisfactory job and that the duplication of such services would not be a reasonable way to apportion the meager resources available to the programme.

  2. If the complainant has brought a case against someone already known for his nefarious activities and who has been called to the programme before (for example, in Ibadan there are some wellknown dubious land speculators), the producer considers it a waste of time to invite them before the panel again. Thus, the complainant is informed of this and told that the panel would be unable to help.

  1. If the complainant succeeds in convincing the panel, he then comes back two days later, and is given the invitation letters, one for himself, the other addressed to the respondent. He is told to make a photocopy of the letter and return on the day when the respondent is requested to appear.
    If the respondent appears for the appointment, the respondent and the complainant are asked to give their versions of the dispute to the screening panel. On the basis of this, the panel tries to settle the dispute amicably. All matters not directly related to the subject at hand are extricated and Yoruba proverbs are used to warn, persuade and exhort both parties. Islamic and Christian injunctions are also employed to get the parties to agree to a settlement

  2. If, after the mediative role of the screening panel, the parties are able to come to an agreement, the proceedings are put down in writing and the matter is settled. The matter does not necessarily stop there; for example, where the claim is for payment of money, the terms of payment are set out in the agreement. This money is paid to the producer of Agborandun for onward transmission to the claimant. There is no rigidity about the agreement. If either party is unable at a later date to keep to its terms, another agreement is drawn up for the parties until the matter is finally settled and the screening panel and the producer are informed of this.

    • 5 The Yoruba say, Bi omode ti e ni aso bi agba, ko le ni akisa bi agba (Even if a child has as many c (...)

    If the parties are unable to come to an agreement, the matter is marked down to go on air. On air a different panel sits, made up of three or four men and women who are not on the staff of the NTA. They are middleaged and elderly persons of responsible character who are believed by the producers of the programme to be able to contribute meaningfully to the process of conflict resolution.5 They are briefed by the producer and other members of the screening panel on what has occurred. On air, the panel members ask questions and try to persuade the parties to reach an agreement.

  • 6 This is a form of substituted service but it costs nothing at all.

5This is the typical scenario of conflicts brought to Agborandun. However, the outcome in any case will depend on its merits. A typical example of a dispute which was brought before the panel for Agborandun is as follows. A woman, a petty trader, brought a case against some members of her family who she claimed were trying to take over the cocoa farm that she had inherited from her stepfather. Upon examination of her claim by the screening panel, they formed the opinion that, while her claim might have been true, she lacked complete control of her mental faculties. They, therefore, aired6 her complaint through the News Department rather than through Agborandun; they also wrote letters to her family. An appeal was made to the family members to come and meet with the panel immediately. The family came and agreed to get medical treatment for her and thereafter to come to discuss any dispute concerning the cocoa farm. This was how a family matter was resolved on compassionate grounds.

6The programme may not follow the procedure described above because one or other party does not show up. Most of the time it is the respondent that falls to show up. The complainant may then be given another letter to give to him or he may be called on air to come and state his case before the screening panel for settlement purposes. However, some respondents may not show up despite all the appeals or the complainant may also decide to drop the matter.

7There are a couple of points to note about the modus operandi of the programme:

8a. The omoluabi philosophy underlies the entire process of mediation by the Agborandun panels. The appearance of anyone called as a witness or respondent is entirely voluntary. If the party does not wish to come and have the matter settled by the Agborandun panel there is nothing that can be done. Recalcitrant respondents are often appealed to come forward on the air. It is usual to hear a member of the on-air panel who is making the request say:

A pe yin nitori Olorun ati oruko dada ti eni, ki eje ipe wa. Tieko ba ro ti awa ti a joko bi igbimo si ibi bayi e wo ti awon omo Nigeria ati ti Olorun eleda yin.

9meaning:

We appeal to you because of God and because of the good name that you have, please come and answer our call. If you do not heed us who sit down here as a panel, think of the Nigerians who are watching and of God who created you.

10In the true spirit of omoluabi among the Yoruba such a person is expected to answer this appeal to his conscience. There is no compulsion. Legally, the Agborandun panels cannot compel anybody to appear before them because they are not a legally constituted adjudicative body. The use of compulsive measures would defeat the voluntary nature of appearance associated with omoluabi.

11b. The decision by either party to keep to the terms of settlement as defined by either of the Agborandun panels is purely voluntary. It cannot be enforced by any of the parties (see, however, the concluding chapter to this work). Thus any of the parties who keeps to the terms of the settlement is exhibiting omoluabi behaviour. Just as family heads (mogaji and baálé) can only socially excommunicate members of their families who do not keep to their decisions, Agborandun panels use the television media to practice social blackmail and exhortation.

12Thus, it is common for the panels to resort to appeal and subtle praise when problems of enforcement are encountered. At a session we watched, one of the on-air panelists made the following statement:

A o mo idi ti e fi se gege bi ileri yin. Omoluabi ni yin, idile to si da ni eti wa, a sini igbagbo wipe e ma se bi eti wi, o kan da biwipe nkan fe nira die ni asiko yi

13meaning:

We do not know why you did not keep to your promise. You are a man of good character, you are from a good home, [notice subtle praise] and we are of the firm belief that you would do just as you have said you would do. We are sure that you are just experiencing a little difficulty with keeping your promise at this point in time.

14The importance of these statements aired to viewers of NTA can only be properly understood if one recognizes the importance which the Yoruba traditionally attach to family and to their position within the society both as individuals and within the corporate unit of a family. Traditionally, as omoluabi, people do not do things which are regarded as aseju (acting in a manner that shows a lack of control and moderation) and that would bring them public disgrace. Thus the Yoruba say: aseju baba asete: acting in a manner which shows a lack of control or moderation is a prelude to suffering public odium or disrepute.

15Thus, once a person has made an ileri (promise), he/she would feel compelled to keep to its terms. Thus, as an omoluabi you have to keep your promise immediately, especially after such a public appeal lest you fall into public disrepute or odium.

16Closely interconnected with the individual ileri concept is the family. Individuals in Yorubaland do not exist in isolation. Thus, when a party makes a promise and does not keep it, he tarnishes his family name (O ba oruko ebi je). Therefore the statement by the panelist above: Idile to si da ni etiwa... (you are from a good home...) is simultaneously a form of subtle praise, social pressure and blackmail. No omoluabi wants to bring his family into social disrepute, so he voluntarily clears his family name by taking the necessary steps to keep his promise.

1.2 The advantages of Agborandun conflict resolution methods

1.2.1.Low Cost

  • 7 0ne petty trader informed us that she would rather let Agborandun settle her case than to recover t (...)
  • 8 Wale Ojo-Lanre. High Cost of Justice: Litigants groan under the financial jackboots of lawyers, cou (...)

17The most important advantage of this form of conflict resolution is that the services rendered are completely free. The only cost which the complainant(s) and the respondent(s) bear is the cost of transportation to the television station for the period of mediation, two brown official envelopes required for the invitation letter from the panel to the respondent(s) and photocopies. For the poor in Ibadan this is a great advantage. When asked why they went to Agborandun rather than to a lawyer or the police, the complainants replied that they had no money. For the average market woman, bus conductor, petty trader, painter or vulcanizer7 legal costs are daunting and such a person might have forgone8 his/her claim if not for a programme such as this.

1.2.2.Publicity, Information and Education

18As noted above, Agborandun is a television programme. However, only about 20-25 % of the total number of cases brought before the screening panel are sent to the on-air panel for consideration. The effect of publicity is three-fold:

  1. The threat of publicity by the screening panel is in most cases sufficient to force certain recalcitrant people to comply with what is expected of them for their own and their families’ sakes. Thus settlement is achieved quickly and permanently.

    • 9 The Yoruba say: An ki, an sa, o loun ko mo eni ti o ku: We are praising him, we are hailing him yet (...)
    • 10 This view was confirmed by Mr. Gbade Alli, producer of Agborandun, who stated that people whose dis (...)

    Publicity is also important in relation to social justice9. When two parties come on television and state their case, the general public discuss the matter among themselves and by a sort of ‘trickle down process’ the disputants and their families get to know the popular settlement alternative which is usually the view of the on-air panel. Through social pressure, justice is brought to bear and the disputants are compelled to settle in a socially acceptable manner in order to avoid earning a bad name for themselves. To all financially disadvantaged persons that we interviewed, this element of social justice was extremely important. The ability to put a perceived cheat or oppressor into public odium was believed by most of them to be just as important as obtaining the settlement. When questioned why they came to the programme for redress the participant’s usual answer was ‘mo fe ki gbo gbo omo Nigeria ri bi won se re mi je, ki won ri bi awon olowo ilu yi se re talaka je; ‘I want Nigerians to know how I have been cheated, I want them to know how the rich cheat the poor in this country’.10

  2. The publicity generated also serves as a medium of information and education for the general public. For example, land matters form about 60-70 % of all matters heard by the Agborandun panels. Over the years useful information about the formalities attached to ownership or transfer of land have been imparted to the public. Thus, when a complainant pays money for land and experiences problems exercising his rights on that land because he did not obtain a receipt, other members of the public are informed that obtaining a receipt is very important. Also, if the panelists feel that the particular behaviour of one or both of the disputants is morally reprehensible, they upbraid them and advise the viewers about such behaviour and warn them to desist from it. This educative/informative duty is extremely important and is an advantage which this form of dispute resolution has over the remoteness of the court system. Advice given by the courts is not available to the general public.

1.2.3 Speed and Flexibility of Approach

19The method adopted by the panels creates a situation whereby matters are speedily and flexibly disposed of.

20Firstly, all matters having no direct bearing on the conflict at hand are dispensed with and disputants are sternly reminded not to let other matters cloud the issue at hand.

21Secondly, people are put ‘on the spot’, they are not allowed to make unnecessary excuses or make comments without such being properly scrutinised. They are also made to commit themselves.

22Thirdly, rules controlling the presentation of evidence and procedure are kept to a bare minimum. Actually, the only rule of procedure kept to all through the resolution process is the rule of fair hearing: audi alteram partem, meaning hear the other side. Such rules as to the admissibility of evidence whether documentary, oral or hearsay, are applied in a very flexible manner. Also witnesses may be called and asked to testify. There is no limit to the number or social class of people who may be called as witnesses. The reasoning underlying this flexibility is, as the panelists always remind the disputants:

Awa ko mo yin ri, awa pe jo pe ki nkan toro latin yin ni. Nti o ba de mu ki irepo wa larin yin la ma se.

23meaning:

We do not know you, we are here so that the dispute between you may be settled.

  • 11 Note that when one party is not cooperative, e.g., if he decides not to appear despite being called (...)

24This flexible approach ensures that there is speedy disposal of cases once both parties are cooperative.11 Also the speed and flexibility of approach, compared to the formality and intimidating atmosphere associated with the courts by some people, ensures that disputants feel comfortable with the process.

1.2.4. Focus on Faimess and Morality

25The programme focuses on giving all the disputants a fair hearing and also on morality. To resolve a conflict situation in a court of law, a claimant must bring his claim within one of the recognized classes. With legal ingenuity a claim, which appears tenuous within the recognized classes, may be fixed but an ingenuous lawyer is expensive. Furthermore, if the case is within the broad area of negligence it is said that the categories of negligence are never closed in the courts.

26Agborandun does not have to focus on whether the claim is legally recognized, it is simply concerned with fairness and morality. Thus, claims which cannot be entertained in a court of law, could be heard. Although frivolous claims are not entertained, a genuine complainant who feels cheated and violated and unable to claim through the formal system is attended to.

27In the case of visa applications to foreign countries the programme has been of valuable assistance. Although most foreign countries have embassies in Nigeria it is common knowledge that many people experience difficulty obtaining visas on their own. The visa application procedure in most embassies requires individuals to make personal applications. Most embassies warn that no monies other than the official visa application fees, for which a receipt would be issued, should be paid for visas.

28However, the difficulties experienced have led to people patronizing agencies which claim that they can obtain visas for individuals on the payment of a fee usually several hundred times above the official fee. It is not uncommon for a poor young man to pool all his savings and those of his family members in order to pay the agency fees in the hope of obtaining a visa to travel abroad. Many poor urban people believe that entry into a foreign country will bring an immediate end to the economic woes which they face at home. The poor are also the major clients of these agencies because many embassies refuse their visa applications on the grounds that the applicants will be unable to maintain themselves in the foreign country. In one session we attended, a woman brought a complaint against the son of the proprietor of a travel agency who had collected some money from her to obtain a visa to the United States. He did not obtain the visa and he refused to give her the money back. The screening panel requested the man to come and see them, which he did. An agreement was reached between the parties and he agreed to return her money. As at the time we stopped our field work he had paid her two of the three instalments of money due.

29In a court of law, this contract might not be recognized as it could be seen as an attempt to subvert the laid down process for obtaining a visa for which a court of law would not render any assistance. At Agborandun the panels consider the fairness of the matter; was it fair to allow a man to trick a woman into believing that he could obtain a visa for her, then collect money and go off with it without obtaining the same? The answer was negative, so the Agborandun panel decided to take it up.

30We were informed that in the 1970s, the panel dealt with several cases involving essential commodities (popularly known as essenco). The government policy at that time was to provide import licenses to persons/ companies to import various commodities. However, the system became subject to abuse, when the government laid down procedures were not followed. Some individuals collected money from people on the promise that they would provide them with the commodities; this was against government regulations which specified that they could only be supplied through specific outlets. The panels were able to settle a large number of these cases on the basis that it is immoral to allow a person to cheat another out of his money.

31An important point to note is that the Yoruba dispute resolution process lays great emphasis on the these twin concepts of morality and fairness. It does not appear to the ordinary person that the formal system has the same emphasis, despite equitable doctrines which are employed to lessen the hardship the litigants may face in certain cases.

1.3 Disadvantages/handicaps

32One of the disadvantages of Agborandun is the lack of subpoena/enforcement powers. The panels lack the power to order anybody, respondent or witness, to appear before them because they are not legally constituted adjudicative bodies. They also lack the power to enforce decisions taken by them.

33As noted previously, the panels work on conscience (eri okan) as an integral concept of the omoluabi philosophy. Therefore, the philosophy of the programme prevents any use of force. However, this philosophical basis may operate as a handicap to the programme. As an old woman complainant commented:

Iwa omoluabi ti sa lo ni ilu yi, eniyan pupo ni eri okan won ki je won rara.

34meaning:

The omoluabi behaviour has disappeared in this country, a large number of people exist whose consciences do not nag them.

35In a situation where a person is requested to appear several times, such a person may decide not to go to the television station and there is nothing that can be done. According to Gbade Alli, the producer, the programme appeals to people’s consciences. Nothing can be done to those who refuse to act on their conscience, or who insist on settlement by the formal system such as the courts. It is not uncommon in such a situation to hear a frustrated panelist say:

A ti pe yin titi titi e da hun. Eyin ara orita merin ikan ninu awon eniyan yin re o, a si fa le yin lowo ati kotu Olorun Oba to da gbogbo wa.

36meaning:

We have called you [name mentioned] several times and you did not reply. You people of Orita Merin [an area in Ibadan] this is one of your people, we put the matter in your hands and in the court of God who created us all.

1.4 How Can the System Be Improved?

1.4.1 Funding

37A lot of improvements that can be made to the programme center around the issue of funding. NTA is a Federal Government owned station. It depends on the grant which the Federal Government allocates to it and on the revenue it makes from commercials, advertisements and notices.

  • 12 In 1985, fifty naira was worth approximately $12.50 and was adequate remuneration for transport.

38To air a programme such as Agborandun which is unsponsored, puts a heavy strain on the meager resources available to the station. At different times, management has toyed with the idea of having a corporate sponsor for the programme, or introducing fees for the services. However, the possibility of introducing bias in the attitude of the panelists and the realization that Agborandun is a public service programme have stopped the management from implementing any of these alternatives. Initially, (in 1977, the mediators were paid a token sum of fifty naira12 to cover their transportation to the station. However, the downward turn in the economy in 1985 further curtailed public funds and all such token fees were suspended.

  • 13 Gbade Alli says that the maximum number of mediators on each programme is four. Where only one turn (...)

39From our observations, it does not seem as if this has affected the quality of mediation, but as Gbade Alli13 noted the greatest problem they have with mediators is absenteeism. This might not be unconnected with the fact that these mediators are not retired and they may be unable to sacrifice their time for unpaid work when paid duty calls.

40Additionally, no efforts are made to get people with backgrounds in conflict resolution such as school principals and lay customary court judges as arbitrators on the panel. If the level of financial buoyancy of the television station permitted payment, such people could be brought in to bring their experiences and expertise to bear on the mediation process.

41The downturn in the economy has also affected the secretarial services to the programme, which were cancelled in 1985. Previous to 1985, the entire record of proceedings were taken down and continuity was possible between different panels from week to week. The importance of documentation in a programme of this nature cannot be overemphasized. Presently, the only record of the proceedings is the Register of Entries (i.e., just names and addresses of parties, very brief description of the claim; if money is paid into the hands of the producer; amount, payee, date of payment and date of receipt).

42Over the past ten years, the economy has continued to deteriorate. There are a myriad of infrastructural needs which could enhance the quality of the programme. The station does not possess any working professional video camera. Very few, if any vehicles are available to the mediators if they want to visit the area from which a particular complaint arose. The furniture in the room where the deliberations take place is insufficient and uncomfortable. Even stationery is scarce, previously three letters of invitation to a respondent/witness were given out, but now, because of the need to conserve funds, only one letter may be given in most cases and if there is no response, then the addressee will be called on air. As the Yoruba usually detest anything that may put them under public scrutiny, a respondent may not appreciate his name being announced over the air; using such a method for notification is likely to cause the respondent to be hostile before the panel.

1.5 Limited official recognition

43As noted previously, Agborandun panels are not capable of ordering respondents or witnesses to appear before them, nor are they capable of enforcing their decisions. However, without doubt they are rendering a vital public service to Ibadan indigenes. Their efforts might eventually be frustrated because their arbitrations cannot be enforced legally. It is proposed that limited official recognition be accorded to the Agborandun panels in order that they might exercise certain judicial powers.

  • 14 Note the comments of Justice Kolade and Barrister Fred Ladapo which state that there are already co (...)

44It is pertinent to note that all the practitioners14 in the formal channels, including lawyers, judges and policemen, felt that the bestowing of judicial powers on unrecognized bodies such as Agborandun, could be open to abuse. What is being suggested is that more cooperation between the formal and informal avenues of settlement should be initiated. Thus, if a person is requested to appear several times before Agborandan and refuses, an application could be made to a judge to make this person appear before the panel. Also, to satisfy legal practitioners that everything is done equitably, a legally trained person could sit with the mediators as an adviser. The police could also be employed to serve the letters of invitation where either party experiences difficulties.

45It must be noted, however, that the above changes, no matter how limited, would represent a deviation/departure from the consensual nature of the omoluabi philosophy which underlies the whole programme. Before any steps are taken therefore, there is a need to decide whether the number of people requiring such action to be taken against them is great enough to warrant the employment of such measures.

46From our observation, and in the opinion of the producer and panelists, the number at present would not warrant such intervention.

1.6 Lack of para-legal training

47The Nigerian Television Authority does not have a legal adviser attached to this programme. The key personnel of a programme such as Agborandun should receive some form of para-legal training. The reason we suggest continuous para-legal training, rather than a permanent legal adviser, which may be more desirable, is because of financial constraints and in order not to subsume the programme within the formal system.

  • 15 Justice SA. Kolade. Note that Barristers Muyiwa Abimbolu and Dejo Akanbi were even more vehement in (...)

48The producers receive a lot of mail from lawyers who write on behalf of their clients. Most of these letters state that the clients do not wish to appear before the panels and that any grievances should be settled in court. These letters are ignored as a matter of policy. Before a decision is taken to ignore such letters, it is sometimes necessary to obtain legal advice on an individual letter. As one of the judges15 spoken to observed, this manner of treating cases against the wish of one party may put the panel in a position dangerously close to facing allegations under the law of defamation.

49Additionally, in practice the following cases are not treated by the panels:

  1. cases of matters already in court

  2. cases receiving the attention of the police

  3. cases which are subsequently taken to court after hearing at Agborandun begins

50In cases (a) and (c) above it is not legally advisable for the programme to entertain such cases as they are sub judice (i.e., a legally constituted court with jurisdiction is dealing with them) and any attempt to hear such matters will bring Agborandun panels into contempt of such a court.

  • 16 Note that Kayode Esho (Justice of the Supreme Court as he then was) in ADEGBEMI V FASANMADE [1988] (...)

51However, where a court of law has finished with a matter and given its judgement, any attempt to hear the matter by the Agborandun panels would be a violation of the Latin legal maxim res judicata pro veritate accipitur, A judicial decision is conclusive until reversed by a superior court, and its veracity cannot be contradicted.16 Any attempt to vary the orders of such a court would amount to contempt.

1.7 Publications of decisions

  • 17 A myriad of cases are settled by the Agborandun panels as well as the So da bee panel discussed bel (...)

52Another way of improving this programme would be to publish the decisions taken every year. This would serve the purpose of garnering credibility for the programme when people, especially legal practitioners in the formal sector of conflict resolution, see the sheer volume and type of cases17 that are settled by the panels and measure their level of success. It would also serve as a means of publicising the programme to people who are unaware of it.

2. So Da Bee? (Is this a fair way of doing things?)

53The So Da Bee programme was started in 1983 by the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS). The station operates on the basis of a tripartite set of objectives. Any programme aired by the station must be educative, informative and entertaining. So Da Bee satisfied these criteria before the station commenced broadcasting. The station views the programme as a public service being rendered within its transmission area.

2.1 Procedure

54The business of So Da Bee is conducted in one room and a studio at the offices of BCOS in the Bashorun area of Ibadan. The first room has an almost court-like setting. This is the place where initial screening, similar to Agborandun, takes place.

  • 18 At present only men are on the panel. We were informed that the programme has had problems with wom (...)

55The screening panel is composed of retired senior citizens18 who have worked in areas where they acquired conflict resolution experience. They include a retired head of a personnel division in a state ministry, a retired Chief Inspector of Education, a retired school principal and a barrister who has retired from practice. When a complainant arrives he tells the producer and other officials of the station working on the programme about his problem. After asking him a couple of questions as to his claims in order to verify the truth or falsity thereof, he is given an invitation letter to give to the person against whom he has complained (respondent). This invitation states briefly what the case is about and requires the respondent to come to the offices of the station on the next recording day (one week later).

56After the officials have dealt with people who have come with new complaints, they talk to those who had come previously to make complaints and whose respondents have now come to the station in reply to the invitation letters issued.

57The two parties (if both are present) then move to the area where the screening panel is seated. Both sides state their case and by a process of questioning, appeal, persuasion, warning and exhortation richly laced with Yoruba proverbs and Quranic or Christian injunctions, the mediators try to settle the matter. This process may lead to any number of outcomes including, but not limited to the following:

  1. The matter may be settled with both parties undertaking to do whatever is required of them and to report to the panel on their progress.

  2. If the matter is not settled the panel may set it down for recording on air.

    • 19 In one such case, the panel required a complainant in a very summary and decisive manner to go to h (...)

    The matter may require the production of documents/witnesses or the taking of an action19 before the panel would be able to hear the matter completely.

  3. If the respondent does not turn up, the producer gives the complainant another letter addressed to the respondent in the same terms as the first letter. If the respondent does not answer the second letter, the producer gives a third letter to the complainant. If the third letter does not produce any reaction, the complainant is put on the air. He does not state his case but he appears and the panelists appeal to the respondent to come and state his case concerning the complainant shown. In most cases, the respondent comes after this.

  4. When the panelists have finished with matters which may be settled or partly heard off air, they move to the studio and begin hearing matters set to go on air. The methods adopted are very similar to that described for Agborandun. It should be noted that if a respondent does not appear, So Da Bee adheres very strictly to the principles of fair hearing. Unlike Agborandun, which after three attempts to get the respondent to appear, would hear the case of the complainant and advise/judge the matter on the basis that what the complainant says is true, the So Da Bee panel will not do this and such matters are closed. In addition, So Da Bee has only one panel. This panel screens matters and also appears on air. It is our opinion that this makes for continuity unlike Agborandun where the producer serves as a link between both panels and there is a possibility that some vital aspects of certain cases are not included in the producers’ brief to the on-air panel.

    • 20 One such case concerned a woman trader aged between 35-40 years. She complained that the lady whom (...)

    Where it is necessary to have flexibility in the mode of operation another mode, may be adopted. Thus it is not uncommon to have cases which are brought straight onto the air for reasons of urgency,20 or which are discussed in private with only the disputants and the panelists present.

58There are a number of areas which the So Da Bee panel does not take any action upon, such as:

    • 21 Note that Agborandun treats such cases mainly concerned with police brutality and we were informed (...)

    Human rights cases (where the respondent is the government) are not treated because the producers have decided that such cases are better treated through the formal legal system which has all the coercive tools at its disposal.21

  1. The panel does not hear cases which involve traditional rulers. This is because traditional rulers in Yoruba society are referred to as Igba keji Orisha; second in command to the gods. They are also believed to be the representatives of the gods here on earth, thus it would be a great lack of respect to involve them in any such matter on television. However, such matters are addressed through discussions with people close to the traditional ruler who might try to get him to do something about the complaint.

2.2 Points to note

59Just as Agborandun, the omoluabi philosophy underlies the So Da Bee method of dispute resolution. The panel has no enforcement powers to order persons (respondents or witnesses) to appear before them.

60The methods adopted to cajole or persuade persons to appear or to keep to the terms agreed with the So Da Bee panel are very much the same as discussed above with Agborandun.

61As with Agborandun, the services are free. An added advantage, of course, which might seem trivial to the privileged, is that the letters sent out to respondents do not require official brown envelopes. As such the only costs are for the photocopy of the letter of invitation and transport to the station.

  • 22 A case which was settled very quickly on So Da Bee due to this publicity factor involved a lawyer a (...)

62With respect to public enlightenment, So Da Bee, like Agborandun is a public service programme. In particular, So Da Bee, because of the tripartite objectives of the television station referred to above, the duties of informing and educating the public are taken very seriously and time is devoted to this.22 Thus at the end of most controversial cases it is common to hear the presenter question the panelists in this manner:

Eyin ojogbon, kini arigbamu ti elero wipe awon ara ilu le ri ninu oro to dele gege bi awokose, ikilo tabi arikogbon?

63meaning:

You wise men [the panelists] what is the solid point which you think the members of the public can hold onto from these your deliberations on this case as to educating them on how to behave, warning or informing them?

  • 23 A land case we witnessed was settled in the record period of two months. The complainant bought a p (...)

64As with Agborandun, the process of conflict resolution is speedy and very flexible.23

2.3 Focus on morality and fairness

65Like Agborandun, So Da Bee is more interested in fairness than the fine points of the law. A typical example is the case which involved a dealer and a driver/hirer in a hire purchase agreement. The dealer repossessed his car from the hirer for non-payment of instalments. In the first place, it did not seem as if the provisions of the law on hire-purchase were followed; in law, this vitiates any hire-purchase contract. The hirer agreed that due to financial difficulties he had been unable to meet his payments. However, he wanted the panel to help him get some money from the dealer to offset some debts he had incurred on the car. The panel appealed to the dealer who eventually agreed to give the hirer some money. In a law court, non-payment of instalments under a hire-purchase contract is a condition under which repossession can operate.

66However, the concept of fairness and of doing good to a fellow man (ire si omonikeji in Yoruba culture) enabled the panel to get the dealer to accede to the wishes of the hirer.

67In the true Yoruba fashion of dispute resolution, the mediators take care not to apportion blame. Unlike what often happens in court, there is usually not much disaffection and bad blood generated. In a session we sat in on, a young man brought a case against an old man who had sold a piece of land to the younger man’s wife. The wife was killed by unknown assailants on the land when she went to inspect it. Earlier, some unknown people had threatened her and told her to keep off the land claiming that it belonged to them. The complainant was of the opinion that the old man had resold the land to these other people and even suspected him of complicity in the murder of his wife. He wanted to reclaim the land and wanted the panel to do this for him. By the time he brought his complaint, somebody had started building on the land. Naturally, in a case of this nature involving bloodshed and allegations of complicity, there was much rancour and bitterness between the parties. The complainant, for example, refused to speak directly to the old man, he only spoke to him through the Chief Imam of their community. With the mediation of the panel, however, the parties started communicating and the old man undertook to destroy the building on the said land in order to clear himself of any allegations made by the complainant. As at the time we finished our field work, both parties were in the process of selling the piece of land and were due to report the progress on this to the panel.

68As quoted in the introduction to this work, the Yoruba say:

Ko si awaiye maja. Be si ni kosi aja mare.

69Meaning:

No sojourner on earth is immune to dispute.
No disputants remain enemies forever.

70All parties on Agborandun and So Da Bee are constantly reminded that they should still be friends.

3. Ways in Which the System Can be Improved

3.1 Funding

71Like Agborandun, funding is a serious issue; however, the impression we obtained from our interviews with the presenter of the programme, Oyekunle Azeez, and the Administrative Manager of the station, Lanre Babalola, was that the problem of inadequate funding was not acute. The funding of the station by the Oyo State Government is reasonable and can support the activities of the station and the programme at present. However, they could not rule out the possibility that in future it might be necessary to make some additional funding provisions.

  • 24 An interview with Mr. Babalola, Administrative Manager of BCOS, revealed that the selection of elde (...)

72Additionally, BCOS has never paid the mediators on this programme and there is no plan to do so in the immediate future.24 No plan has been made to raise revenue by charging for the services. There are no secretarial services for the programme, although the officials (producer, presenter, etc.) and the mediators take notes and keep files on some cases.

73However, like NTA, they are unable to keep a permanent file of their recordings, as this would be too expensive. For a programme acting in an advisory/quasi judicial capacity such as this, it is very essential to keep records and tapes as has been emphasised above.

3.2. Official recognition

74Similar to Agborandun, the formal judiciary sector does not recognise the legality of the decisions taken on So Da Bee.

3.3. Para-legal training.

75The key personnel in So Da Bee like Agborandun should have some paralegal training. We observed a case where one party in a matter being heard by So Da Bee had started legal action (the matter thus became sub judice). Twice thereafter, the panel heard the matter from the side of the party who had not gone to court. As explained above, such a situation is a contempt of court for which the station could be fined.

76Additionally, we witnessed another case; a matter of divorce, in which a customary court had made the order of divorce as well as maintenance and custody orders. The wife, being dissatisfied with the arrangements, took custody of the children from the man, contrary to the court order. She then brought a complaint against the man for lack of maintenance before the So Da Bee panel. The panel heard the matter and varied the order of the court albeit with the consent of both parties. It was decided that the woman should keep the children and that the man should pay a monthly maintenance allowance to the woman for each child through the producer of the programme. This action is in contempt of the customary court which made the initial orders. As will be discussed in the following chapter, customary courts are inferior courts of record and as such they cannot summarily punish for contempt actions not committed in the face of the court as occurred in this case. However, they can try to convict persons for the offence of contempt on a charge duly laid before them.

77The decisions of the panel were reached with the input of both parties (husband and wife). To avoid situations which could discredit the programme, some legal training is essential.

3.4 Publication of decisions

78Like Agborandun, the proceedings of So Da Bee are not published. However, for the benefit of the listeners and to enhance the effectiveness of the programme, the decisions of So Da Bee should be published annually.

4. The BCOS Radio OYO Agborandun Programme

79The BCOS has a radio programme which also goes by the name Agborandun. The focus of this programme is to proffer advice in all situations, including, but not limited to situations of conflict. It is not an open court by any description since the approach adopted in conflict resolution is quite different.

80However, the omoluabi philosophy underlies this programme and is employed in all situations.

81According to the presenter/producer of the programme, Alhaji Azeez Ariyayo, it was started about five years ago as a public service to the community. Initially, when the programme was started, it was an advice/resolution programme for problems which arose out of male and female relationships. In 1995, a new management policy extended the ambit of the programme to cover a wider range of human relationships.

82The programme is aired every Friday at 11 a.m. for one hour. It is conducted in the Yoruba language and a large number of people listen to it while going about their daily duties.

4.1 Procedure

83Any person/group of persons who has a problem writes to the producer of the programme. The letter will include the name of the writer, (which at the writer’s request may not be mentioned) a brief statement of the problem, and what the writer would like Agborandun to do about the problem.

84When the letters are received by the producer he may take any of the following steps:

  1. Based on the contents of the letter, he may decide to set the letter down for discussion by the panelists on air.

    • 25 Interview with presenter/producer, Alhaji Salahudeen Ariyayo Azeez.

    He may decide that no serious issue is raised in the letter to warrant the devotion of air time to its discussion. We were informed25 that this decision depends on whether more pressing problems are on hand. For example, there was a lady who wrote saying that she had lent her friend two empty crates of soft drinks and she wanted Agborandun to appeal to the lady to bring them back. In the light of other problems before the producers, that matter was considered too trivial and was not addressed.

  2. He may address the matter on his own. For example some cases may involve well known persons or traditional chiefs/rulers. In such situations, the producer will try and see the persons involved and settle the matter on a personal level. We were informed that there was a letter written about a police officer who was in the habit of collecting bribes from passers-by. The writer lived in the area where the police officer was operating and had had to pay money to the police officer at various times. The producer took the matter up personally with the Police Public Relations Officer for Oyo State who dealt with the matter promptly to avoid the matter being aired and brought to the notice of the public.

85In general, Agborandun follows (a) above; the programme has a number of panelists who work on a rotational basis. At any time, three panelists sit with the presenter of the programme to deliberate over the letters and give advice. These panelists are usually elderly people who have had varied experiences which they bring to bear on the advisory process. They include religious leaders from both the Muslim and Christian faiths, retired civil servants, sports’ commentators, administrators and traditional chiefs. When a letter is to be treated on air, the presenter reads out the letter, then invites the panelists to comment on it and give advice. Some examples are presented below.

  1. The Landlord and Tenants Association (L.T.A) of Oke Itunu area of Ibadan wrote to the presenter imploring the Agborandun panel to appeal to one retired major who owned a house on the only good road in Oke Itunu. The drainage system in his house was faulty and this caused the road to be flooded most of the time. The L.T.A was concerned that if the flooding continued it would spoil the road and cause untold hardship to the residents of Oke Itunu, as accessibility in and out of Oke Itunu would be greatly hampered. The panelists appealed to the major; they told him to make sure he got the drainage system repaired. They also said that it was unfair of him to build a house and not care about it simply because he did not reside there. all this was said with appropriate Yoruba proverbs and exhortation. Like a true omoluabi, the major in question appeared at the BCOS offices the next day (note that he was not requested to come). He said that he would repair the system once the rainy season was over. This was announced during the next recording session and the L.T.A. was asked by the presenter to give the panel a feedback on the matter after the rains.

  2. A tenant in a face me I face you (apartment buildings found in most major cities in Nigeria in which tenants may live in one room and share the toilets, showers and cooking areas; such buildings are typically inhabited by low-income people) building in Challenge area of Ibadan wrote a letter complaining that his landlord who lived in the building had refused to repair a faulty soak-away (septic tank). He wanted the panel to appeal to the landlord to make the necessary repairs because of the terrible smell, the possibility of disease and infection and the fact that a small child had narrowly escaped death upon falling into the soak-away. The panel appealed to the landlord and told him that this was a reprehensible way to behave especially after receiving rents. They also admonished the sanitary inspection authorities responsible for that area (Challenge) for not doing a thorough job. The day after the recording, we were informed that the landlord in question called on the presenter alleging the contents of the letter were false. He urged the presenter to come and have a look at his house. The fact of the landlord’s visit and the statements he made were announced on air the next week and the tenant was invited to write another letter in support of his contentions. As at the time we finished our fieldwork, the tenant had not written another letter.

  3. From the Oja’ba area, the inner core of the city, chiefly populated by indigenes of Ibadan, a man wrote a letter complaining about a barber who had a shop in the area. He said the barber always played very loud music in his shop at all times of the day. He was particularly peeved that even on Sundays, when the neighbourhood church held services, the barber’s music still disturbed the neighbourhood. He also claimed that all entreaties to make the barber see reason had failed. The panelists called upon the barber appealing to him to stop this public nuisance. They appealed to his conscience saying: O fe se Olorun, meaning: You want to offend God.
    They hinged their comments on the fact that he disturbed worship and advised him very strongly to stop doing this. We were informed by the presenter that a few days later the barber called at the station. He told the presenter that it was untrue that he played his music so loud as to disturb the neighbours. He however, gave an undertaking that he would stop playing the loud music. A report was made of his visit and undertaking during the next recording of the programme. The writer of the letter was invited to write back to inform the panel on whether or not the barber had fulfilled his undertaking. He had not done this by the time we finished our fieldwork.

    • 26 In Nigeria abortion is a criminal act. See sections 228-230 of The Criminal Code Act. Cap 77. Laws (...)

    A lady wrote wanting the panel to help her to solve her problem with her boyfriend. She claimed that she got pregnant and this displeased her boyfriend’s family greatly. The family conspired with the boyfriend to trick her into taking some pills. These pills caused her to abort²26 the pregnancy. Her boyfriend subsequently abandoned her, and she claimed that she was now very ill as a result of the abortion and that medical personnel had told her they needed to know the name of the pills administered to her before they could treat her condition. The lady supplied the name of the boyfriend and two of his friends as well as the name of his employers; a reputable publishing company in Ibadan, she, however, requested that the boyfriend’s employer’s name should not be mentioned unless he refused to heed to the advice the panel gave. On the day this letter was treated, there was a lady panelist sitting; she berated the boyfriend for treating a woman in this manner, in particular she questioned why he should treat a fellow human being in this way and if he would like his sister to be in such a situation. She reminded him that God above is watching whatever we do to our fellow human beings and that abortion is a criminal offence for which he could be imprisoned for several years if the police became involved. The other panelists made comments to the effect that this was very reprehensible behaviour to a fellow human being. Thereafter, the boyfriend was advised in his own interests to come on a particular day to the BCOS to meet with the lady who was also invited to come, and the presenter, Alhaji Azeez, so that the boyfriend could tell the lady what the pills used were and contribute towards the lady’s medical expenses. He was reminded that failure to come would mean that the name of his employer would be announced and that being a reputable company, his employer might react adversely to his behaviour.

  4. A man wrote claiming that he had won thirty-thousand naira (N30 000) in a competition organised by Cadbury Nigeria PLC., a manufacturer of confectioneries. He had experienced difficulties claiming his money and required the panel to help him to get the prize. The panel appealed to Cadbury, imploring them to remember its status as a transnational company and that the non-payment of such a small sum should not be allowed to stain the good reputation of the company built over the years. They informed the writer of the letter that they had no doubt the company would keep to its promise to pay under the rules governing the competition.

  5. A man wrote a letter claiming that there was a forest reserve near his home in Igbo Ora. He claimed that a forest attendant in charge of this reserve was colluding with some people to cut down the trees and sell them and that this was affecting him because the trees provided shade for his house. The trees were also government property which no one should touch. The panelists appealed to the attendant to desist from this bad behaviour and they also advised members of the public to stop colluding with him. He was sternly reminded that he was breaching his duties as a public servant.

4.2 Points to note

86Certain factors in the Agborandun mode of conflict resolution are worthy of discussion. Both parties are.hardly, if ever, present at the station to discuss the issues causing the conflict on or off air. Thus it is difficult to know whether a dispute has actually been settled.

  • 27 Note that the Public Complaints Commission was created in order to hear complaints which members of (...)

87As seen above from the case studies, the method adopted is to assume that what the writer of the letter says is true and then to give advice based on the situation as presented by the writer. The writer is encouraged to write back and inform the panel if the other party heeds the advice and the problem is settled. However, as noted in the introduction to this work the Yoruba say: Agbejo enikan da osika eda. Meaning: He who judges a case on the facts as presented by one side is a wicked creature. It would seem then that the mode adopted here runs counter to established Yoruba dispute mechanism processes. It is because of this limitation, that Agborandun does not hear cases which are complicated. As can be seen from the cases set out above, most the cases presented indict some public authority27 for not doing its work; are reasonably straightforward; are easily settled; require more advice and appeal than resolution. We were informed that when a writer raises issues which are controversial or allegations which are grave, requiring verification or denial from other persons, that such cases are referred to the So Da Bee programme, whose methods are better suited to deal with such cases. This is not to say that Agborandun does not handle controversial cases.

88Case (d) above is one of such cases. As noted above, the two parties, writer and boyfriend were invited to come and see the presenter off-air to receive advice on how to settle the matter. Also in case (b) it was pointed out that the landlord visited the station and informed the producer that there was nothing wrong with the soak-away in his house. Thus, there is some interaction with the respondent if he/she chooses to respond to the issues raised on the programme. It is probable that such interaction will increase in the future as the programme becomes more involved in conflict resolution. The station is presently considering inviting people in for the purpose of confirming the facts before letters are recorded and during recording for the benefit of the general public.

  • 28 Alhaji Ariyayo Azeez who is the current producer/presenter has had varied work experience on radio (...)

89It must also be noted that the presenter/producer28 plays a very active role. It is he who decides which letters are important enough to go on air for the discussion of the panelists, it is he whom people come to see when they react to a letter (e.g., the landlords in cases (a) and (b) above discussed with the presenter/producer who gave advice to them and passed on the end result of their deliberations to the general public on air) and it is he who may decide to take up a matter privately with the person complained about in a letter rather than air such a letter. Thus, the producer/presenters’ role is very central to the conflict resolution process and he is more than a mere moderator.

4.3 Advantages

90The programme has all the advantages which have been discussed under Agborandun of NTA and So Da Bee. However, the following points must be noted on the publicity the programme engenders. Firstly, as noted for the television programmes the issue of public enlightenment/education is also very important. However, it is doubtful whether the effect is the same as under Agborandun of NTA and So Da Bee. This is because most matters are concluded during one programme rather than over two or three episodes. Also listeners do not have the benefit of listening to or observing the miens of both sides and forming a complete opinion as to which side to believe. Secondly, this programme is attractive to and caters for persons who do not desire the adverse publicity, which an appearance under the kleig lights of So Da Bee and Agborandun of NTA would bring.

4.4 Disadvantages

91There are no powers to enforce decisions reached by the panelists. In addition, there is no way of knowing if the matter has been settled because no feedback is required although some people write to give a feedback.

4.5 Ways of improving the service

92As the panel has just become involved in conflict resolution in the real sense, it is still in a developmental stage. However, para-legal training as discussed under So Da Bee and Agborandun of NTA is essential. To date, we were informed that there has never been a court order requiring the BCOS to appear in court in connection with Agborandun either as a party to a case or as a witness. This might not be unconnected with the fact that conflict resolution under Agborandun only started at the beginning of 1995. However, as it becomes more active in this area, the importance of para-legal training will be realised.

Notes

1 It is important to note that the word used in relation to conflicts is SETTLED. When amicable settlement occurs justice, whether legal or not, is achieved. This concept of settlement underlies the Omoluabi philosophy discussed in the introduction to this work.

2 My gratitude goes to Mr Gbade Alli, producer of Agborandun for background information on the programme.

3 These departments are Finance, Programmes, News, Engineering, Commercial and Marketing and Administration. In an interview with Mr Gbade Alli, we commented on the rather young ages of the panelists compared with the mogaji or baálé of a family. We were informed that they were all between 45 and 50 years old and made up for their apparent youthfulness with the multi-disciplinary approach which they bring to the resolution of problems.

4 Agborandan does not handle cases involving the use of supernatural means known as ogun among the Yoruba or criminal matters which are directed to the police. The Assistant Police Public Relations Officer for Oyo State, Inspector Micheal Azubuino, confirmed that they had received correspondence from Agborandun relating to criminal matters.

5 The Yoruba say, Bi omode ti e ni aso bi agba, ko le ni akisa bi agba (Even if a child has as many clothes as an older person, he/she cannot have as many rags). This proverb is used to show the importance of having elderly people on the panel. They can contribute more meaningfully than young people to the process of conflict resolution because of the varied experience they have had in their longer lives.

6 This is a form of substituted service but it costs nothing at all.

7 0ne petty trader informed us that she would rather let Agborandun settle her case than to recover the money she had deposited with a ‘falled’ community bank; because if she went to court and was still unable to obtain her savings, it would be like throwing good money after bad.

8 Wale Ojo-Lanre. High Cost of Justice: Litigants groan under the financial jackboots of lawyers, court clerks, bailiffs, police and the judiciary in their quest for justice. Nigerian Tribune, 26 July 1995, p.5.

9 The Yoruba say: An ki, an sa, o loun ko mo eni ti o ku: We are praising him, we are hailing him yet you say you don’t know who died. This saying is employed in situations where there is a popular view about the way in which a matter should be decided and all efforts to make one side see this view prove abortive. The essence of the saying is to make the recalcitrant party behave in line with the public opinion, to avoid public condemnation.

10 This view was confirmed by Mr. Gbade Alli, producer of Agborandun, who stated that people whose disputes had been settled on the programme enjoyed the settlement as much as the publicity generated, whether good or adverse.

11 Note that when one party is not cooperative, e.g., if he decides not to appear despite being called several times, the Agborandun on-air panel listens to the story of the party who does come and takes a decision based on what that party says. Usually after such has happened, the party who had not appeared shows up and the matter is thereafter settled.

12 In 1985, fifty naira was worth approximately $12.50 and was adequate remuneration for transport.

13 Gbade Alli says that the maximum number of mediators on each programme is four. Where only one turns up the programme may be postponed as one mediator alone will not suffice. As the Yoruba say: A ma po gbon ni, a ki po go; The more we are, the wiser we become.

14 Note the comments of Justice Kolade and Barrister Fred Ladapo which state that there are already courts within the formal system which attend to the needs of the less privileged members of society (customary and magistrate courts). They opine that all aspects of the formal system should be strengthened (infrastructure, funding, numerical strength of participants, computerization, etc.) rather than to imbibe formal powers into the informal system. They stated that the formal system is not averse to other modes of settlement. People may begin action in court and eventually settle out of court through informal channels. This is in itself an interplay between both formal and informal systems and they feel that at our present level of development it is unsafe to go further. Mr Bola Longe, Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Police Force in Oyo State also drew conclusions along the same lines.

15 Justice SA. Kolade. Note that Barristers Muyiwa Abimbolu and Dejo Akanbi were even more vehement in their assertions on this point.

16 Note that Kayode Esho (Justice of the Supreme Court as he then was) in ADEGBEMI V FASANMADE [1988] 3 Nig. Weekly Law Report (Prt.81) p.129, declared that even where the decision of a competent court is void it cannot be disregarded [by anybody including the parties and Agborandun] until it is set aside by another court.

17 A myriad of cases are settled by the Agborandun panels as well as the So da bee panel discussed below including those involving land, employment, hire purchase, debt, recovery of professional fees and Personal injury.

18 At present only men are on the panel. We were informed that the programme has had problems with women mediators who left. However, efforts are being made to get women who could make meaningful contributions.

19 In one such case, the panel required a complainant in a very summary and decisive manner to go to his previous employers and do a handing over stock. This complainant had brought a complaint against his employers about the non-payment of his retirement benefits. The employers came to the hearing. The panelists all being very knowledgeable, senior, retired men (and whose mediative techniques we found to be extremely informed and of the highest quality) asked the complainant whether he had, as the outgoing store keeper of the company, done stock taking and handed over to his successor. This he said he had not done and was told to do so by the panelists in very stern language and no uncertain terms. If his benefits still remained unpaid he was asked to return, since at present his employers had no case to answer.

20 One such case concerned a woman trader aged between 35-40 years. She complained that the lady whom she had grown up with and believed to be her mother had pasted printed leaflets all over Ibadan claiming that she was not her mother. Owing to the severe emotional distress which the complainant was going through and the fact that the matter was already public knowledge the complainant was allowed to go on air on her first visit.

21 Note that Agborandun treats such cases mainly concerned with police brutality and we were informed with some measure of success. No such case was observed during our field work.

22 A case which was settled very quickly on So Da Bee due to this publicity factor involved a lawyer and a politician (a gubernatorial aspirant in Oyo State of which Ibadan is the capital city). The lawyer had rendered some services to the aspirant for which the latter refused to pay. The lawyer came to So Da Bee and was given an invitation letter. Immediately the aspirant received the letter he sent a cheque via his personal assistant to the producer for the lawyer. Thus the matter was settled quickly because as the personal assistant explained, they did not want anything to jeopardize the chances of the aspirant. It would be interesting to find out how many gubernatorial aspirants had cases involving fraud or debt in court at the time of the elections which the public did not know about.

23 A land case we witnessed was settled in the record period of two months. The complainant bought a piece of land from the respondent and noticed a couple of months later that somebody had started building on it. She approached the respondent who said he would give her another piece of land. Dissatisfied with this alternative because it was marsh land, she complained. The matter was settled when the respondent gave her another suitable piece of land the conveyance of which was shown on T.V.

24 An interview with Mr. Babalola, Administrative Manager of BCOS, revealed that the selection of elderly people was based on the belief that such people are usually more Godly and act without fear or favour regardless of economic inducements. Interviews with the producer, Mrs Funmi Ibiyode, and the presenter, Mr Oyekunle Azeez, also served to elucidate this point.

25 Interview with presenter/producer, Alhaji Salahudeen Ariyayo Azeez.

26 In Nigeria abortion is a criminal act. See sections 228-230 of The Criminal Code Act. Cap 77. Laws of The Federation of Nigeria 1990.

27 Note that the Public Complaints Commission was created in order to hear complaints which members of the public have against any public authority. Many letters received by the panel are on matters which could properly be addressed by the Commission. We wondered why many of them find their way to Agborandun rather than the Commission; we interviewed one of the panelists Alhaji Bayo Animashaun (J.P) who informed us that he had cause to use the services of the Commission in the past and that he found there was too much delay in the dispensing of their services. Thus the urban poor may prefer the faster methods employed by Agborandun. See also chapter 5 below.

28 Alhaji Ariyayo Azeez who is the current producer/presenter has had varied work experience on radio and television which he brings lo bear on Agborandun.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1995

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