Hon. Igo Aguma
The current process of amendment of the Legal Education (Consolidation, etc). Act L10, LFN 2004 (LEA) by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is ongoing; but, is the Senate not over-reaching itself by venturing into this task, which can be handled administratively by the Council for legal Education, when in actual fact, they hold the key to solving the issue of lack of admission spaces for Lawyers, through appropriation.
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Chairman of the Council for Legal Education (CLE), and many other Lawyers, including two senior Lawyers who are members of the Senate Committee, clearly pointed out that the current campuses have enough capacity, but, lacked the funds for infrastructure. The current meagre capital appropriation to the Council, cannot trigger any form of development of existing capacity. The power to appropriate to drive any development, resides in the National Assembly of which the Senate is a lead partner.
The Proposed Amendment to the LEA
The Bill clearly has an unanswered question, in terms of not recognising the existence of the Port Harcourt campus which had been established before it was debated on the floor of the Senate. However, the Senate beat a retreat, right from the opening remarks of the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Bamidele Opeyemi. This exclusion, improved the quality of attendance, which generated a more in-depth analysis into the actual situation in the Law School in terms of students’ admission. The preponderance of opinion, including the conclusion of the CLE, was lack of funding to expand capacity and not establishment of new campuses. In fact, the President of the NBA suggested a virtual campus in the near future which is possible through the internet, and this too will require appropriation.
The six campuses proposed in the Bill will require funding. One of the basic principles in law making, is that every Bill must be accompanied by a financial compendium. In this case, the Sponsor of the Bill might say the campuses will be funded through appropriation. The question then arises, if the existing campuses with excess capacity which have not been harnessed owing to extremely inadequate funding through appropriation, how much more establishment of six new campuses?
This Bill looked like a low hanging fruit for the Sponsor; more so, judging by the number of people in attendance from the towns and States where the campuses are proposed to be sited. It however, turned out to be a very tough one, as many differed with Senator Smart Adeyemi as to the solution to the paucity of admission spaces in the Law School. Whereas, the Senator sees the solution in establishment of new campuses, others, including the technocrat Lawyers and yours truly, see it as appropriation to fund the expansion of existing campuses and this obviously is a major challenge, as we are in an era where funds are quite scarce with the national budget in heavy deficit.
The intervention by the Government of Rivers State, needs to be highly commended. The Nabo Graham-Douglas campus in Port Harcourt is indeed, laudable. The foresight of the Governor is unprecedented in tapping into this need for more capacity, and turning it to an economic advantage for the State. We know what will happen to the economy of the State, arising from the establishment of the campus. Like Mr Femi Falana, SAN said, the State Governments of the proposed locations of the Law School campuses MUST indicate interest, and partner with the Council in establishing these Law Schools, otherwise it may only exist in law, but not in reality owing to funding.
Hon. Igo Aguma, Port Harcourt
One Law School Campus per Village?
Critics of the on-going move by the Senate to expand the number of campuses of the Nigerian Law School, have argued that it’s seemingly laudable objective – curbing the back-log of entrants to the School several years after graduating from University, amongst others – can be achieved by upgrading and expanding the facilities in the six existing campuses. Given that the impetus for the change came from a non-Lawyer, Senator Smart Adeyemi, many have read political motives into it. This was apparently confirmed when it emerged that the capital of his Kogi West Senatorial District – Kabba – along with the hometown of the Deputy Senate President (Orogun, in Delta State) have been earmarked to host two of the six proposed new campuses of the School.
What is the truth? Which of the two sides is correct? Even if facilities in the existing campuses are sub-par/grossly inadequate, should the panacea be horizontal or vertical or a combination of both? Above all, regardless of the solution, what is the appropriate legal provision, if any? Is amending the relevant Legal Education (Consolidation, etc) Act (the LEC Act) the best – or even the only appropriate way of going about it? What does that law itself say about the Law School? Does it envisage a multi-campus institution, as is presently the case?
Who, as between the National Assembly and the Council of Education, possesses the power to determine the need for additional campuses for the School, and/or their location? Given that – as some commentators have rightly pointed out – none of the other major professional occupations have comparable institutions to the Law School (their training being wholly done in Universities), is the existence of the Law School itself a legal aberration? Can the training it offers be conducted in Law Faculties of Universities, albeit suitably equipped and strengthened? What is the experience or legal framework for multi-campus tertiary public education in Nigeria? Can it, in any way, guide the present debate or does it impinge on its legal, if not constitutional, validity? So many questions. We shall attempt a few answers.
First of all, Section 1(2) of the LEC Act provides that the Council of Legal Education shall have responsibility for the legal education of persons seeking to become members of the legal profession. Section 2(5) of the Act provides, inter alia, that “the Council shall have power to do such things as it considers expedient for” the purpose of performing its functions. Section 4 of the Act provides that “the Attorney-General of the Federation may give the Council directions of a general character with regard to the exercise by the Council of its functions”.
It is clear that the Senate’s move to increase the number of Law School campuses, is informed by the foregoing provisions of the LEC Act. This is because, without amending the Act, the Senate (and by extension the National Assembly) would, obviously, be impotent to effect the change. But, is that power limitless? Can the National Assembly micro-manage public tertiary education in Nigeria in the manner it seeks to do, by directly prescribing the establishment of Study Centres or Campuses? Is that the intention of the framers of the Constitution? Is there any precedent for such legislation? Does it, at all events, constitute such an egregious legislative overreach that it is invalid, if not under the Constitution, but in relation to any other Code, such as the African Charter? We shall see . . .
History of Multi-Campusism in Nigeria
Several Nigerian Universities, have historically operated from more than one campus. These include the present University of Jos (which started as a campus of the University of Ibadan); Bayero University, Kano (which started as the Kano campus – then known as Abdullahi Bayero College) of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; the University of Calabar (which started as the Calabar Campus of the University of Nigeria); the University of Ilorin (which was the Ilorin campus – called University College – of the University of Ibadan). Beyond these, however, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka presently operates multiple campuses in two different States Aba (in Abia State) and Nsukka and Enugu (in Enugu State).
What is common to all these institutions is that, even though they were established by Acts of the National Assembly, in none of their enabling statutes did the Assembly directly prescribe the locations of their different campuses. Not even that of the National Open University of Nigeria (which has 57 so-called Study Centres, which are actually campuses in everything but name). In other words, in each of these cases, the Assembly – wisely, I submit – left the question of the geographical location of their individual campuses (and, even the decision to establish them, in the first place) to the Governing Councils or Boards of the particular institution.
I submit that for the National Assembly to purport to do so in the case of the Law School is simply illegitimate and is ultra vires, because it violates the right to equal protection of the law under Article 3(2) of the African Charter as validly domesticated in Nigeria. See NNPC v FAWEHINMI (1998) 7 NWLR pt.559 pg.598 at 616 and I.G.P v ANPP (2007) 18 NWLR pt. 1066 pg.457 at 500C. In the latter case, the Court of Appeal upheld the supremacy of the Charter, over Acts of the National Assembly.
Suffice it to say that, what is good for the goose should be sauce for the gander. Whilst the National Assembly is empowered to regulate the legal profession, it must do so in an even-handed manner, vis-à-vis other tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Since the Assembly does not dictate to those institutions as to when and where to cite additional campuses, it cannot and should not do so in the case of the Law School. That decision should be solely that of the Council of Legal Education – acting in concert with the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Abubakar D. Sani, Legal Practitioner, Kano
Proliferation of Law School Campuses: Unnecessary, Ill-Conceived Adventure
The Nigerian Law School was created under the Legal Education Act of 1962, now Legal Education (Consolidated etc.) Act Cap. L10, LFN 2004 (LEA), to provide practical training for graduates of Law who aspired to become legal practitioners in Nigeria, and also because of the necessity to have a legal institution where knowledge gap in the legal training of those Nigerians who studied law abroad, could be filled. Section 1 of the LEA created the “Council Establishment and of Legal Education” with the “responsibility for the legal education of persons seeking to become members of the legal profession”.
At its inception in 1963, The Nigeria Law School was situated at No. 213A, Igbosere Road, Lagos. The campus was later moved to Victoria Island, Lagos in 1969, due to increase in number of aspiring Lawyers, and the need to expand its facilities to meet demand for practical legal training. The School was later moved to Abuja, in 1997. On the request by the CLE, three other campuses were established by the Federal Government in 1997, Lagos, Kano and Enugu, and in 2009, Yola and Yenagoa campuses were established.
Is the Planned Establishment of more Campuses Necessary?
Recently, newspapers reported the planned law by the Senate, to establish more Nigerian Law School campuses. It was reported that the Senate in actual fact, has passed for second reading, a Bill which seeks to establish six additional Law School campuses in the country. The said Bill was sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi, who represents Kogi West in the upper legislative chamber. According to him, about 5500 Law graduates are produced from 55 Universities, and the records of the Nigerian Law School indicated the it has the capacity to admit 6510 students yearly, which he agreed meant that the existing Law school Campuses would have been adequate to accommodate all the prospective Law Graduates, but for about thirty percent (30%) yearly failure rate which would have to repeat the Bar Exams. He therefore, proposed six additional campuses to be sited at Kabba, (Kogi North Central), Maiduguri (North East), Argungu (North West), Okija (South East), Orogun (South South), and Ifaki (South West).
Evaluating the proposed Bill on its merit, the first question that will come to an objective mind, is whether the facilities in the existing six campuses have been effectively utilised, such that they are now overstretched to cope with requirement for practical legal training in the country. This writer strongly believes that the problems highlighted by the Distinguished Senator as necessitating his proposed additional campuses, existed because of inadequate management of the existing Law school campuses’ facilities and land resources.
The land mass within the existing campuses, have not been effectively and fully utilised. It is a fact that apart from the Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law school which has limited undeveloped land within its compound due to its location in the high-brow, mixed-use Victoria Island area of Lagos State, the other existing five campuses in Abuja, Kano, Enugu, Yola, and Yenegoa have large undeveloped land masses which can be effectively maximised, by building modern infrastructural facilities on them, including expansion of lecture theatres, administrative buildings and hostels for students to cater for increasing University law graduates aspiring to acquire practical legal training. Hostel and administrative buildings could be designed to be high-rise, and existing infrastructural facilities in school upgraded and expanded to meet international standards of legal educational institutions. Establishing more campuses, would amount to a waste of the nation’s hard-earned resources.
The other pertinent question, would be whether the CLE which has responsibility for legal training in the country, has identified inadequate campuses as the major challenge facing the Council in the performance of its statutory function of ensuring quality and quantitative legal training in Nigeria, and has made formal request for more campuses.
The CLE is statutorily positioned, to identify its challenges and needs for additional campuses. Moreover, this writer is of the opinion that the topmost challenge facing the Council of Legal education in Nigeria, may most likely not be inadequacy of the number of Law School Campuses, but inadequate funding, shortages of manpower to cope with existing demand for practical legal skills, decayed and unfit-for-purpose teaching facilities, overcrowded students’ hostels and lecture theatres, lack of modern infrastructures to cope with increasing technological development in legal training in Nigeria among others. Therefore, it is submitted that the Council should be allowed to determine its needs and priorities.
The plan to increase the number of the Law School Campuses from the existing under-funded and under-equipped six campuses is an unnecessary, selfish, politically motivated rather than for national interest crave for a deeper bite of the commonwealth, and ill-conceived adventure that would not serve national interest, but political interests. Rather than scheming for the creation of more Law School campuses to be located in the villages of the politicians to satisfy their personal and tribal desires, our politicians would do well by using their positions to canvass and lobby for increased funding for the existing Law School campuses.
Another issue of concern in the crave for more campuses is the likelihood of rendering the additional school campuses being proposed to be created unfit-for-purpose legal training institutions. If care is not taken, proliferation of law school campuses may result in the compromise of the standard of legal education in Nigeria which would end up making a mockery of our judicial system. The Law School may eventually become like many universities established in this country which are nothing but “glorified secondary schools’.
In conclusion, it is high time our politicians, particularly our legislators changed their selfish, tribal and political desires and imbibe national interest in the use of their power over national commonwealth. Nigeria cannot afford investments in new Law School campuses now, when the existing ones with capacities to train and accommodate many more potential legal practitioners than they are being used to achieve presently, are under-funded and under-utilised. Therefore, embarking on the establishment of additional Law School campuses at this time of economic downturn of Nigeria is an unnecessary, selfish and ill-conceived adventure which is not in the national interest. With the responsibility of the CLE for legal education in Nigeria, it is logical that the necessity for addition Law School campuses should originate from the Council, and even when such requests are made, their consideration should be based on evaluation of how effective the existing land and human resources in them have been utilised.
Bayo Owojori, Legal Practitioner with a specialisation in Construction and Real Estate Law
Proliferation of the Nigerian Law School
The Briefcase Newsletter
In 2014, when there was a mass failure in the Nigerian Law School I had said in, The Briefcase, the Newsletter I ran as a Publicity Secretary of the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association: “There was gnashing of teeth recently, over the mass failure in the Nigerian Law School. One is not surprised that we are paying the price for the refusal to stand our ground, when the idea of decentralising the institution was first brought up. I belong to the school of thought, that kicked against the decentralisation. But, since we live in a country where every community in Nigeria is agitating to have its own State, the same polities was brought into the Legal Education in Nigeria, and as such, the Law School is now everywwhere in Nigeria i.e. Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu, Yola and Bayelsa, to the best of my knowledge. Perhaps, if another President is elected, he too may decide to take another Law School to his home town.
That is Nigeria for us all. If we may ask: Is this how other important institutions are being decentralised? I am of the view that rather than continue to proliferate the Nigerian Law School, it is better we revert to a Centralised Law School. If we insist on multiple campuses for the institution, let Lagos and Abuja stand and scrap the others. All we need to do is to merge and expand the infrastructure in Lagos and Abuja campuses. A centralised Law School will unite us, more than the decentralised one. With the latest call to the Bar of about 3433 new wigs into the profession, we pray for more manna to fall from heaven, so that they will have the cause to thank God for being part of the profession. The new wigs are most welcome”.
Well done, Governor Wike
To date, my opinion has not changed on decentralising and the proliferation of the Nigerian Law School. While one must commend the effort of the Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State for recently coming out to say: “You will never allow your slave to attend the campus in Yenagoa. And, I want to thank the DG for being a true Nigerian. As I speak to you today, Rivers State Government is investing no less than N5.1 billion in the Yenagoa campus. What is our interest? Our interest is to contribute to the development of legal education in Nigeria”. According to him, the said amount is being used to build a 900-bed space hostel and 1,500 capacity auditorium for students in Yenogoa. This has gone to show the level of lack of infrastructure, in some of these law school campuses. If not for politics and lack of vision, why must Bayelsa State have a Law School in the first place, when the Rivers State was there? (Those visionary leaders that established the first generation Universities in Nigeria never thought of locating them in their own home towns out of patriotism, or are there not leaders who have established private ones for themselves at the expense of the public ones? ) It is Rivers State that is now planning to use about N16 billion to build a new Law School in Port Harcourt, which it has the capacity to do. If given the fiat, how many States in Nigeria can afford such huge sum to establish a standard Law School, even when it has been said that the institution is not getting more than N61 million annually from the Federal Government to fund it ?
I can say without fear of any contradiction, that most States in Nigeria today were not created out of patriotism and vision, but by the desires of those that created them to satisfy their friends and in-laws, which is the reason why most of them are not viable economically. How many of them are developing the natural resources they are blessed with, in their various States? No wonder that some people are now calling for the merger of those States, for proper and real development in the true sense of the word. What matters most in legal education is the quality of the Law School and not quantity of the Law School, so that value will be added to the training of people into the legal profession in Nigeria.
Proliferation of Nigerian Law School Campuses: Panacea to Decaying Legal Education?
The incremental agitation for the establishment of more campuses of the Nigerian Law School has become a troubling national issue; particularly at a time when the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, offered and indeed, reportedly got the nod of the Federal Government of Nigeria, to establish a new Law School campus in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. As though jolted from slumber, there are now ceaseless calls for a replication of such gestures in other States of the Federation, as if though, it is a clamour for Police Barracks. This campaign has taken an even higher dimension, with lobbyists seeking the intervention of the National Assembly with the sponsorship of a Bill to amend the Legal Education Act, to statutorily provide for the establishment of Law Schools in all the geo-political zones.
Unsworth Committee Recommendations
As a member of the Legal Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), this author is aware of the current leadership of the NBA’s stride to reimagine the curriculum; both at the University and Law School levels. It is troubling that many of the agitators of the proliferation of the Law School campuses have not taken time to read the recommendations of the Unsworth Committee established in 1959, with the mandate to rejig Nigeria’s legal education system. This Committee proffered far-reaching recommendations, that formed the basis of the enactment of the Legal Education Act and the Legal Practitioners Act. A significant recommendation of the Committee’s report was on vocational training of Lawyers, and the requirement for the regulation of Faculties that administer law programmes. To ensure quality assurance in the persons to be admitted to the Bar, the report recommended close monitoring of the administration of vocational training at the Nigerian Law School, and general principles of law at the Universities.
The focus of this article is not to determine the legality of the establishment of more Law School campuses. The Legal Education (Consolidation etc.) Act (LEA), is silent about the number of Law School campuses and the mode of their establishment, and therefore, it will appear that the Attorney-General of the Federation, in exercise of his statutory powers under Section 4 of the Act, can give directions to the Council of Legal Education (CLE), to take certain action(s) in that regard. The focus is whether the proliferation of Law School campuses will re-birth the gateway for the much-needed quality assurance, to equip aspirants to the Bar with the necessary legal and moral education to meet the expectations of 21st century legal practice.
Legal education involves not just the knowledge of legal principles, but also the inculcation of ethical values in the law student. The nobility of the profession, rests squarely on the wings of knowledge and ethics. Debra Burke of Western California University once said that: “the reason this profession is called a learned profession, is that they are held to such high standards and there is a high degree of trust reposed in this profession.” The serial complaints therefore, of a decline in the standard of our legal education, rests squarely on the significant failure of training of the practitioner’s brain or mind, or, in the worst-case scenario, both.
The proponents of the proliferation of the Nigerian Law School, have also argued that it will clear the backlog of law students. Sadly, this is true. This backlog is only traceable to the continuous infidelity of Deans of Faculties of Law, whose actions have continued to put a strain on learning facilities in their Faculties and at the Law School as well as on their academic staff teaching the courses. Whilst the rush for providing physical infrastructure for CLE may be viewed as a welcome development, the real question that must be asked is whether the jostle for campuses of the Law School will create a concomitant effect of reviving the standard of legal education, which experts believe has significantly declined.
The establishment of more Law School campuses is therefore, not the solution to the problem we all face – the issue of quality assurance at the Law School level. This is not to say that, infrastructural decay in the Law School campuses should not be addressed. Rather, it is a further ploy to accommodate the excesses of Faculties of Law, that continue to defy the quota allocated to them by the CLE. Even if there are Law School campuses in all the States of the Federation, the campuses will soon be overwhelmed by the population of unregulated admission of candidates to study law by accredited Universities that continue to place the profit of having more students admitted studying law, over and above the need to ensure that only those who are intellectually and morally capable of studying law are privileged to be admitted.
The legal training model of Nigeria, cannot be divorced from the English legal education system. The English legal education system where aspirants are called into different Inns has survived the centuries, because the system ensured fidelity to its traditions and principles. May the day never arise where they compromise their principles and practice, and they will find themselves struggling to keep the standards like we presently are in Nigeria.
In closing, we must focus on building the infrastructure of the mind(s) of Lawyers, as opposed to building physical infrastructure. The legal profession must protect its sanctity, integrity, reputation of quality and the pride of the adroitness of its members. A Law School created for all Tom, Dick and Harry, cannot compete favourably with their foreign counterparts whose legal education is adequately regulated.