It is extremely difficult to criticize the precision, timing and genuineness of the purpose of the bill sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi representing Kogi West in the 9th Senate titled: ” A bill for an act to amend the law on Legal Education (Consolidation, etc.) by Establishing the Campuses for the Nigerian Law School and Other Related Matters’, which is currently in the Senate.
The bill is comprehensive and progressive in intent and purpose. In summary, it aims to create six more campuses to increase the existing six, bringing the total number to twelve campuses. What seems to have eluded me is the new Port Harcourt campus of the Nigerian Law School under construction, funded by the River State government led by Nyesom Wike.
The bill named the proposed locations for the campuses and specifically detailed the cost of building, establishing, and one-year overhead to operate the campuses, which total approximately $32 billion. naira. It goes further to elucidate the benefits to the nation in general and especially the quality of legal education in Nigeria. Unequivocally, the sponsor spoke of the impending disaster that awaits legal education if the bill is not quickly passed and implemented. Intentions don’t get any higher than this and I absolutely agree with the sponsor.
Incidentally, this is an investment project that must be considered side by side with the strength of the national treasury, which is a major factor, particularly the debt profile alongside the impending crises inherent in the continued proliferation of Nigerian law school campuses into the distant future. .
To highlight, the Debt Management Office (DMO) shows that the outstanding debt of the Federation stands at 33.1 trillion naira ($87.239 billion) as of March 31, 2021. FG is his alone responsible for 26.91 trillion naira of this debt, and this represents an increase of 658%. since the return to democracy in Nigeria. External borrowing soared from $7.3 trillion in 2015 to $26.57 trillion as of December 31, 2020, with an additional domestic debt of N7.63 trillion at that time. In July 2021, the Senate approved loan requests for 2,343 billion naira, or about $6 billion, another $8.3 billion and €490 million. In total, the current administration has seen a 366% increase in debt since 2015, and the president has presented the Senate with a new loan request for about $4.054 billion. The fact is that when it comes to finances, the nation is poor.
Arguably, the current model of legal education run by the country has a rich history, some of which was evoked by the legislature, which later culminated in the implementation of the recommendations of the Unsworth Committee of 1959. The Committee then approved a law school in the University of Ibadan and a law school in Lagos for professional training, but today there are about 70 accredited law schools operating in Nigerian universities and six law school campuses Nigerian.
While pointing out the shortfall of the six existing campuses for the many new law graduates as well as the number of remedial candidates, the official figures as outlined by the senator do not accurately reflect the situation. For example, apart from remedial applicants, several law schools admit above the admission quotas allocated by the Nigerian Law School. These excesses automatically create backlogs. The resulting backlog when graduates clash with others is a constant source of angst for a law graduate from a Nigerian university. Of course, the universities are guilty, but the law graduate pays the price. With various issues including ASUU strikes and delay in getting into law school also contributing negatively, after completion – call to bar for practice most of the time these delays get worse and ultimately deprive students of job opportunities by age barrier as most job offers come with an age clause for young people.
Prudently, a good alternative to spending 32 billion naira of scarce resources for six new campuses is to grant approval to deserving universities to run law schools, adding the law school curriculum to the faculty of university law, but under the strict supervision of the Legal Affairs Council. Education. Thus, law graduates from universities will also follow their professional training immediately after obtaining a Bachelor of Laws. The Legal Education (Consolidation etc.) Act L10 LFN 2004 should be amended to reflect these adjustments. For foreign law graduates, two options can serve – either to be considered at universities or on campus in Abuja, as is currently done to accommodate them. Then the federal government can convert the rest of the campuses for other purposes.
Of course, there will be no job loss as the existing Nigerian law school workforce will be immediately absorbed by the federal universities law school and the demand for competent law school staff will be high. On the revenue side, Bar I and Bar II fees will continue to generate revenue for the federal government. It’s not heterodox that you have to grope in the dark to try. It is a system that works in the United States, in several countries in Europe and Asia, as well as in the United Kingdom, the country of residence of Sir Edgar Unsworth, the chairman of the committee.
With the exponential increase in the number of law graduates from universities, we are indeed faced, unfortunately, with the need for six additional campuses at a time when the economy is limping. We are in 2021, about 22 years from the multi-campus concept, but the problems are still unresolved. If universities can effectively train doctors, pharmacists, architects and other professionals, they can also provide lawyers. Thus, the bill is timely to address relevant issues of legal education in Nigeria, but it should for all intents and purposes be titled; ”A Bill for an Act to Amend the Legal Education (Consolidation, etc.) Act by Empowering Universities to Operate Law Schools for Vocational Training and Other Related Matters”. Convincingly, this will relieve the federal government of greater impecuniosity and spontaneously and permanently resolve the problems posed by the current multi-campus arrangement.
Onyema writes from Lagos.