Alternative justice system can end succession disputes, says Justice Joel Ngugi

Justice Joel Ngugi

Justice Joel Mwaura Ngugi addressing practitioners of the Alternative Justice System in Nakuru City on July 22.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

Alternative Justice System (AJS) could unlock billions of shillings held in banks due to protracted succession disputes, Justice Joel Mwaura Ngugi has said.

Prof Ngugi, who is a presiding Judge at the Nakuru High Court, said many succession cases have dragged longer than expected in courts due to the non-application of an alternative justice system.

"AJS could resolve conflicts among families fighting for wealth in succession cases which have been pending in courts for decades," said Prof Ngugi.

He said: "Alternative Justice System is like a ministry of reconciliation and I'm happy Nakuru is leading the way in peacemaking."

He cited a succession case in Nakuru involving 10 siblings who are fighting for property worth millions of shillings left behind by their mother after failing to agree on how to share the wealth.

“This succession case of 2009 has been heard by many judges including Justice William Ouko, now in the Supreme Court, former Chief Justice David Maraga and current Chief Justice Martha Koome. I'm now handling the case," said Prof Ngugi.

He said the matter has never reached the hearing stage.

"I decided to send the family to elders and I gave them another hearing date of August 4 if they fail to agree," he added.   

Prof Ngugi said embracing AJS by the courts and litigants could save a lot of time and energy.

He said those fighting succession battles in courts cannot develop their land and buildings worth millions of shillings.

"Some families have properties in Nakuru and Nairobi worth more than Sh600 million but they cannot develop them because of injunctions. Nobody can use the property to take loans or even renovate it. Many resources are going to waste because of the conflicts. If families sit down and apply the AJS concept they would resolve these unending conflicts a long time ago," added Prof Ngugi.

"Sometimes when I hear some of these succession cases I tell the parties involved that the court is not the right place to hear succession matters. You don't need a judge. You need Jesus," said Prof Ngugi.

"It's shameful for family members to wash their dirty linen in a court of law as they fight over property left by their parents. Some of the issues raised by the families have nothing to do with the succession matter before the judge."

He said some succession cases before Judges do not help families, but only escalate problems in the family.

The judge was speaking in Nakuru City at the weekend during a workshop for AJS practitioners. The event was attended by lawyers, legal experts, law lecturers, magistrates, religious leaders, administrators and counselling psychologists, community paralegal and community leaders and civil society organisations.

The workshop was organised by Egerton University Faculty of Law Legal Aid Project (FOLLAP), with the support of the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a civil society organisation known as Amkeni Wakenya.

Egerton University Dean Faculty of Law Dr Ruth Aura said the project envisions justice and equality for all.

"I thank Dr Aura for anchoring the project at Nakuru Law Courts and I hope the collaboration will remain strong," said Prof Ngugi.

Prof Ngugi underscored the important role played by AJS saying it brings reconciliation, restoration and transformation into society.

"Courts don't resolve cases. Its judges who decide who wins based on the evidence brought before them," said Prof Ngugi.

"Most of our cases are resolved out of court and a survey done by the judiciary shows that only 21 per cent of people bring their matter to court and 79 per cent who have issues with the law don't come to court," he said. 

He noted that many victims of injustice have no recourse and that is dangerous and unfair.

"Anyone who has a grievance must have recourse. We want to encourage people to use the AJS mechanism to decide cases," he added.

"AJS will help in resolving the 21 per cent cases in court,” he added.