Quite recently it was reported in the print media that a communal clash in Otta gun State has claimed at least six lives. This is just a replica of clashes that have claimed thousands of lives in other parts of the country especially since the inception of the current democratic dispensation. The victims of these clashes lost their lives in circumstances which show that crimes have been committed. 

Some of the culprits have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, arson, assault and various other crimes, while some other alleged culprits are awaiting trial.

In another scenario, an outfit owned by two friends has successfully executed a lucrative contract. There arose a dispute as to how the proceeds of the contract should be shared. After sometime, one of the partners was allegedly killed by hired assassins and the other partner has been arrested and is standing trial for murder. These examples suggest that there is a relationship between disputes/conflicts on the one side and crime on the other side. But can we then conclude that all crimes can be traced to disputes? It can only be asserted that most conflicts or disputes arose from limited resources, values, esteem and perhaps communication/ information.

If these conflicts/disputes were well managed or adequately resolved, would it have helped to control crimes or foster security? Is there any connection between crimes and democracy? Is security more guaranteed in a democratic society? What role does Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) play in a democratic society? 

These are some of the questions I intend to examine in this paper.


The criminal code defines a crime to mean any act or omission proscribed by law and which attracts punishment for its occurrence. A crime may be considered as any act or omission which falls short of the acceptable societal norms and is met with penal consequences.

Criminologists have advanced various theories of crime but as God has created human beings differently so do individuals have their respective interests, aspirations, hopes etc. Sometimes, these interests and aspirations are in conflict. The inability to manage these conflicts effectively most times results in commission of crimes.

But is it possible to have a society that is crime free? The answer is unequivocally NO. Different societies have different rates of crime. The crime rate of Nigeria is different to that of Switzerland and even Kenya. Crime is relative to time and civilization. The nature of crimes in different societies reflects their level of civilization. While it may be meaningless to talk of cyber fraud in a remote village in Nigeria, the same cannot be said of USA, London, Abuja or Lagos. Conversely, the number of bank robberies in 2007 for instance cannot be compared with that in 1962 for obvious reasons. As new crimes emerge and old ones are committed in new ways, there is the need to invent ways of responding to them.

It also appears that different forms of government can instigate different forms of crimes. Democratic process can spark intense conflict when contestants respect neither the system nor each other in terms of some minimal norms of public behaviour. This does not in any way suggest that fewer crimes are committed in a military regime. If anything, human right abuses and suppression of perceived opposition in military regime are the direct causes of most crimes.

The difference lies in the response to crimes by the various regimes. Military regimes dispatch the coercive apparatus of the state by attempting to control crime by use of force and suppression. Democracy should approach this task of crime control differently.

Democracy is not an end in itself. It is a process whereby groups within a political enclave must work through representative institutions and within a legal framework that protects an increasing larger circle of interests over time. Democracy thrives on consensus and capacity building, cardinal products of ADR.

Democracy in its simplest definition is the government of the people The hallwat by the people for the people. It is the form of government that encourages citizens to select or elect their representatives who will in I democracy turn be accountable to the electorate. Nigeria’s current experiment * The with democracy is still nascent and an objective examination of its guarantee crime rate and control will show substantial improvements.


Security is vital in any society and sacrosanct in a democracy. Where there is lack of adequate mechanism to control crime insecurity will derail democratic growth. Without security in a democracy, the often talked about “dividends of democracy” becomes a mirage. Security fosters stability and growth and by this I mean political stability, economic stability and social stability. The interrelatedness of these concepts cannot be over emphasized. Political stability can instigate foreign investments more than that generated where the executive embarked on globetrotting. Political instability will constitute an impediment to economic growth.

It is the primary responsibility of a responsive government to secure the life and property of its citizens by controlling crime. The need for internal security accounts for the establishment of security agencies like the Police, Customs, Immigrations, Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) among others. The approach adopted by these establishments and organizations differ, What is certain is that might and coercion do not always achieve positive or favourable results. The Odi example is a case in point. There is therefore the need for paradigm shift to explore ADR in crime prevention and control.


Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) means all the methodologies of resolving disputes other than courtroom litigation. They are usually confidential, private, party-driven and aimed at resolving disputes primarily by agreement of the parties themselves other than that imposed on them.

ADR complements litigation and is not a substitute to litigation. It is a necessary part of any efficient framework for resolving disputes. Forms of ADR Processes

ADR processes vary in form and content. They are highly flexible and except for arbitration, there are usually no generally acceptable rules on their categorization. Although a wide range of ADR processes are known to exist, the popular and generally understood forms are Negotiation, Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration, Other ADR processes include Fast-Track Arbitration, Med-Arb, Early Neutral Evaluation, Expert Appraisal, Mini-Trial, Rent-a-Judge, Settlement Conference, MEDALOA and Dispute Review Board.


Traditionally, ADR processes by their nature appear more amenable to civil disputes and cases than crime. This has led to the misconception held in some quarters that ADR has no place in criminal justice administration. It is no longer in doubt that the formal integration of ADR processes into the judicial system by way of Multi-Door Courthouse has led to the tremendous achievements recorded in expeditious dispensation of justice in civil cases. Before the reforms in civil procedure, delay in the justice delivery system was grave. The reforms in civil procedures appear to gradually address this problem of delay especially in Lagos, Abuja and few other states.

Ordinarily, these reforms do not apply to criminal matters. But where a good number of cases are resolved out of court, it helps the courts to expeditiously dispose the criminal cases. While delay in civil matters is bad, it is not as grave as delay in criminal matters. This is because in criminal matters the liberty of the citizen is at stake. Since the delay on administration of justice in criminal cases has become chronic, a chronic solution ought to be sought.

Accordingly, ADR can be used as an effective tool for crime control both in the direct and the indirect sense. In the direct sense, the concepts of plea bargain and restorative justice should be examined.

Plea Bargain and Restorative Justice

A plea bargain is an arrangement or negotiated agreement between the prosecution and an accused person in certain criminal cases, whereby the accused agrees to plead guilty to a less severe offence than the offence charged and in turn the accused receives a lighter sentences or punishment than that which he ordinarily would have received. It is a feature of a criminal justice system that admits the concept of the plea. Some common law jurisdictions like the USA Canada and Britain have integrated plea bargain into their criminal justice system in varying levels.

Recently, the EFCC had resort to the concept of plea bargain while prosecuting some of the former governors for corruption related offences. The EFCC approach sparked off heated debate. On the one side are those who oppose strongly the adoption of plea bargain into our justice delivery system. Their strongest argument among others is that adoption of plea bargain leads to letting off criminal offenders with light punishments, which may not serve as sufficient determent in the circumstance.

On the other side of the continuum are those who see plea bargain as a ready answer to the chronic problem of delay in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria. Strong as this argument is, it will be wrong to suppose that the integration of plea bargain into justice delivery system will be an “all cure” for every problem. Plea bargain will however help in reducing the congestion of prisons especially the awaiting trial inmates. Furthermore, the cost of criminal prosecution and enforcement of custodial punishments and detention will be greatly reduced.

While plea bargain seeks to achieve “swiftness” in the administration of criminal justice, restorative justice programmes aim for restitution after a crime has been committed. There are three parties affected by the commission of a crime and in a criminal trial, these three parties all seek for justice whether directly or indirectly. Oputa JSC (as he then was) once said that justice is not a one-way traffic, neither is it a two-way traffic. He sees justice as three-way traffic: justice for the accused person, justice for the victim whose blood is crying to God for justice, and justice for the community whose norms have been desecrated. Restorative justice programmes attempt to satisfy the varying interests of the parties. Basically, restorative justice programmes endeavour to put the parties to as nearly as possible, the position they were before the commission of the crime. Thus, its principal object is highly analogous to the win-win situation achieved in civil cases by the mechanism of ADR.

Restorative justice programmes use restorative process. À restorative process is any process in which the victim, the offender and, where appropriate, any other individuals or community members affected by a crime, participate together actively in the resolution of matters arising from the crime, generally with the help of a facilitator. The facilitator here is usually a person who has acquired ADR skills.