Abuja Central Law School for Archaic Nigeria
For many years, the quality of lawyers produced and injected into the Nigerian legal profession has waned to such a geometrical state that worries even the most optimistic lawyers. Those who had the privilege of being trained in one of the hostels of the English court, as was the practice before the establishment of the Nigerian Law School (NLS) in 1962, could easily appreciate the magnitude of the depreciation of practical legal education and professional training system envisioned to shape the practice of law in Nigeria. In pre-Nigeria Law School times, the four Inns of English Court – Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple (often referred to collectively as the Inns of Court School of Law) – offered law graduates in England the Vocational Bar Courses and elements of training to become a lawyer in England and Wales.
In the case of Nigeria, the Inns of Courts admitted Nigerians with ordinary school certificates because at that time Nigeria had very few law graduate students who were invariably children of wealthy men who could travel to England to study. This is why most of our lawyers at the time did not have college degrees, but were able to obtain bar certificates otherwise known as BL from the Inns of Court. The four Inns of Courts offered a variety of lectures, residential defense training weekends, pitch sessions, debates, oral arguments and dinners, all of which were designed to expose aspiring lawyers to the practical skills of problem solving, sophistication and decorum necessary to optimize the practice of law. Nigeria’s independence from England in 1960 and the need to introduce Nigerian content into the education of lawyers resulted in the establishment of the Nigerian Law School under the Education Act Law of 1962, now the Legal Education (Consolidation, etc.) Act Cap L.10, Laws of the Federation, 2004. Since 1962, the Nigerian Law School has graduated over 70,000 lawyers, many of whom have achieved great success as lawyers, judges and leaders in key economic and political sectors.
Degradation of infrastructure and others
However, a combination of deteriorating infrastructure, lack of adequate funding, outdated curricula and lack of hands-on technology-focused training, population explosion – overcrowded classrooms and hostels, inadequate library facilities, limited pool of teachers qualified lawyers and the ruinous proliferation and politicization of legal education in Nigeria have led to a significant decline in the quality of recent lawyers produced by the Nigerian law school. Recent reports have indicated a sharp increase in the number of lawyers who cannot even make oral presentations or write a simple letter without significant grammatical and technical errors; the significant erosion of the centuries-old professional decorum and dress code of lawyers with lawyers now appearing in court with torn and rough dresses, different types of old wigs with old and dirty colors and brown bibs, tiny wigs on d huge colorful wigs; the decline in lawyers’ welfare and remuneration which has led to a significant increase in the number of poorly paid lawyers; rapid deterioration in the quality of law firms and law firms, many of which are glorified firms lacking modern facilities, libraries and modern ICT infrastructure.
In an article entitled “50 Years of Legal Education in Nigeria: A Review by Joe Kyari Gadzama, SAN in February 2014”, he wrote: “I feel very uncomfortable commenting on the competence or otherwise of some of my colleagues from the Bar, but that must be said without mincing words. Since 1962, it seems that the quality of lawyers recruited each year has declined. We have lawyers who can’t write minutes, who don’t speak English well and who argue illogically. A lawyer must stand out from the crowd, even if he is not in active legal practice. Unfortunately, this is not limited to entry-level lawyers. Even attorneys with 10+ years of post-appeal experience make these mistakes. The blame here lies largely with our educational institutions, especially our law schools and the Nigerian Law School. Universities law faculties have a duty to adequately prepare Nigerian law students for the largely procedural law that will be studied at the Nigerian law school and encountered in practice. Thus, the transition from substantive law to procedural law will not be too abrupt.
“The law school, in turn, has a duty to ensure that those who are eventually called to the bar are competent and can defend their certificates of call to the bar at any time. Every year (sometimes once, sometimes twice) more than 3,000 (three thousand) lawyers are released into society and it saddens me to say that many of them have no idea what the legal practice. In most cases, they must be retrained by their future Chambers. In my own experience, and indeed in the experience of many of my colleagues, our offices in most cases become an extension of law school as we have to reintroduce these young lawyers to the basics of the profession legal. That lofty sense of ethical responsibility that once permeated the legal profession has somehow gotten lost amid all the fanfare and celebration that greets every lawyer admitted to the Nigerian Bar.
“In the past three (3) years alone, two (2) senior attorneys have been temporarily stripped of the prestigious rank. Something is clearly wrong with our noble profession. In the past, disciplinary matters never involved senior counsel, but we have now seen two (2) of our senior counsel affected in three (3) years. Lawyers insult each other in court; there was even a reported case of two experienced lawyers exchanging blows on the court premises. It is now the norm for senior lawyers to refer to our younger colleagues as “my juniors”. I call my younger colleagues my colleagues. I sincerely hope not to be in the minority. It’s a classic case of “doctor heal yourself.” A lot of internal cleaning needs to be done if we want to improve the quality of our avocados.
You could beat your chest hard in the past and brag that lawyers would never be arrested or brought to justice for the kind of crimes you’d expect from an average lawless citizen, but that’s not the case now because the legal profession has been infiltrated by wolves. in sheep’s clothing that makes fun of its rules of ethics and its old traditions. Lawyers are now being arrested for crimes akin to tampering with clients’ money. It was unthinkable in the past, but it is now the norm. Something has to be done about the system that produces our lawyers so that society can see them again as the social engineers that they are. The legal profession has therefore suffered from the problems faced by legal training institutions.
Today, the legal education system in Nigeria is struggling compared to its counterparts around the world. The functional, practice-oriented and ethical legal training system inherited from the English legal training system has long been eroded and replaced by one that emphasizes quantity and the quota system before quality and functionality. Rather than implementing concerted efforts to ensure an urgent and innovative turnaround in the pedagogical and technological infrastructure, decay and rot of our legal education system, we have witnessed an increased politicization of education law in Nigeria with the recent approval by the Nigerian Senate of six new Nigerian Law School campuses in the six geopolitical zones of the country. This unprecedented attempt to turn legal education and the creation of law school campuses into constituency projects for the highest political bidder will not only further degrade the quality of lawyers trained in these new campuses established in the most remote areas. of Nigeria, it also represents a knee-jerk reaction to a complex problem that requires far-reaching reforms.
The best way to achieve a comprehensive and effective reform of legal education in Nigeria is through a complete overhaul of the professional education system and the bar in Nigeria. Rather than layering additional localized and ill-equipped law school campuses on top of existing ones, which are already grossly underfunded, we must ask the crucial question of whether other Commonwealth jurisdictions sharing similar legal cultures with Nigeria still use the rather archaic system of concentrating the bar process. training and skills development in the hands of a central law school. In the next edition, I will examine how centralized legal education in common law jurisdictions such as England, Canada, the United States, Australia, India and Kenya have reformed the antiquated centralized system of legal training in their countries.
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AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D (London.)