Establishing law school campuses should not be seen as constituency projects
THE Senate recently approved the establishment of six additional Nigerian Law School campuses, in addition to the existing seven. By this development, two campuses namely Jos Law School Campus, Plateau State and Kabba Law School Campus, Kogi State have been established for the geopolitical area from the center-north; two campuses, namely, Yola Law School Campus, Adamawa State and Maiduguri Law School Campus, Borno State for the North East; Kano Law School Campus, Kano State and Argungun Law School Campus, Kebbi State for the North West; two campuses, namely Enugu Law School Campus, Enugu State and Okija Law School Campus, Anambra State for the South East; three campuses namely, Yenogoa Law School Campus, Bayelsa State, Port Harcourt Law School Campus, Rivers State and Orogun Law School Campus, the ‘Delta State for the south-south area, two campuses, namely the Lagos Law School Campus, Lagos State and Law School Campus, Ekiti State for the South West, and Bwari Law School Campus, Abuja FCT.
The establishment of these new campuses came in the wake of the proliferation of Nigerian tertiary institutions through the federal government, state government and legislative chambers with little or no sustainability plan. On the contrary, the creation of higher education institutions is now considered a mark of success of an administration in place. In past editions I have lent my voice to a few others who see the unhealthy development of the proliferation of ‘mushroom’ universities for what it really is, that is, universities are symbols of political achievements rather than serve its primary purpose.
Justifying the creation of the new law school campuses, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Affairs Committee reportedly noted that the decision was based on “the exponential increase in law graduates from our universities and foreign universities, coupled with the backlog that has existed over the years” and further that “existing campuses are overwhelmed and the infrastructure is not sufficient to accommodate thousands of law students graduating from universities”.
Apart from considering the proliferation of tertiary institutions throughout Nigeria and the recent extension of this unfortunate premise to the Nigerian Law School, the legislature’s decision to intervene in the creation of the said additional campuses is perhaps be even more alarming. previously established campuses were by administrative decision of the Board of Legal Education. This therefore leads to the compelling conclusion that the intervention of the Senate in a function that otherwise belongs to the Council on Legal Education is nothing more than an attempt to politicize the process and score political points. Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike last year as the ‘Legal Education (Consolidation etc.) Amendment Bill by establishing campuses for the Nigerian Law School and for other related matters”, whereby two campuses of the Nigerian Law School will be cited in each of the geopolitical zones, was adopted, he rightly noted that he was politically motivated. He further rightly noted that it is unfortunate that some senators want to politicize the establishment of Nigerian law school campuses, even when there is stark evidence that the federal government cannot adequately fund those that already exist. .
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Truly, unfortunate reports have been heard of the dilapidated structure of Nigeria’s oldest law school campus, the Lagos campus, as well as the underfunding and poor state of infrastructure at other existing campuses. In 2021, the Governor of Bayelsa State reportedly denounced the poor state of infrastructure at the Bayelsa Law School campus, stating that the federal government had not done much in terms of campus infrastructure development since 2011. In fact, the Chairman of the Board of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, in his comments on the deplorable state of the Bayelsa campus, reportedly noted that “…the deplorable state in which students at the Bayelsa campus right of Yenagoa are studying is worse than what the prisoners of Ikoyi prison experience.” So this is a cheap political point acquisition index towards the 2023 general election for the promoters of the bill in the Senate, perhaps out of oversight or complete indifference to the current state of underfunding of existing schools, to sponsor such a bill for the establishment of additional campuses for law schools. , there is There was even an indication that such moves did not have the blessing of the Council of Legal Education, which is the main body concerned with the management and control of the Nigerian Law School. Unsurprisingly, the direct stakeholders, namely the Nigerian Bar Association, the Body of Benchers and the Council of Legal Education, rejected the proposal to establish the new campuses. Specifically, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, while stating that the decision to establish additional campuses was unnecessary, further reportedly noted that: “With the required infrastructure, the law schools campuses across the country are sufficient to accommodate thousands of law students graduating from the various universities.Furthermore, the resources of the federal government which are dwindling cannot help to set up such campuses let alone to What is asked of the Senate, and by extension of the National Assembly, is through appropriations, to partner with the executive for adequate funding of existing law faculties.
Professor Ernest Ojukwu, former Chief Executive of the Nigerian Law School and former Principal of the Enugu Campus, also condemned the unsolicited intervention of the Senate which has now led to the proliferation of law school campuses. In his interview reported on www.thenigerianlaw.com, he rightly said, “There is no legislation establishing the Nigerian Law School or its campuses. So what are you modifying? Why do you need to establish additional law school campuses by changing a law that didn’t create the school in the first place?
“The next problem is the archaic and obsolete policy of continuing professional and professional legal education in schools, funded by the state, at this time of civilization. This policy has failed and trying to extend it by legislating on additional campuses is retrograde and backward. Current thinking is that we should instead review the existing Legal Education Policy and Act with a focus on an empowered Legal Education Council that will only prescribe a benchmark curriculum for professional/vocational legal education, accredit private training providers and administer bar exams. It is indeed time to abolish the Nigerian law school. It has outlived its usefulness and it will never outgrow its current incapacity due to the government’s continued approach to funding. The Nigerian law school is woefully underfunded and underfunded. Its training is still delivered in the form of lectures in stadiums because the school cannot fund infrastructure, classrooms and facilities for lessons in small classes. The school cannot employ the required number of teachers because the government does not allow the employment of at least more than 200 additional teachers and auxiliaries who will ensure the success of lessons in small classes. There is no way to prepare a lawyer in a one-teacher 1500-stadium strength class and achieve a useful outcome for standard legal training and a competent professional. But that’s the current state of law school in general.
The above aptly describes the poor state of the current law school campuses which, unfortunately, are being turned into mere constituency projects by the instrumentality of the bill which called for the creation of six additional campuses. Legislative intervention in the creation of these additional campuses is not only an act of usurping the functions of the Council of Legal Education, but is misguided, given the history and vocation of the institution.
To be continued…
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, FCIArb., FNIALS, LLD. D.Litt.