BY ONYEMA SYLVESTER IKECHUKWU
It is extremely difficult to criticize the precision, timing and authenticity of the purpose of the bill sponsored by Senator Sam Adeyemi representing Kogi West in the 9th Senate titled: “A Bill for a Bill to Amend the Law ‘legal education (consolidation, etc.) by establishing Nigerian law school campuses and other related matters’. The bill is detailed and progressive in intent and purpose. In summary, it aims to create six additional campuses to increase the existing six, bringing the total number to twelve campuses. What seems to have escaped my mind 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 construction, establishment and one-year overheads for operating the campuses, which totaled approximately $ 32 billion. nairas. He goes further to elucidate the benefits for the nation in general and especially the quality of legal education in Nigeria. The godfather unequivocally spoke of the looming disaster that awaits legal education if the bill is not quickly passed and implemented. The intentions don’t get any more noble than that and I totally agree with the sponsor.
Incidentally, this is an investment project that should be considered alongside the strength of the national treasury, which is a major factor, especially the debt profile as well as the looming crises inherent in the continued proliferation of Nigeria Law School campus in the distant future. .
To emphasize, the Debt Management Office (DMO) shows that the federation’s outstanding debt stood at 33.1 trillion naira (87 239 billion dollars) as of March 31, 2021. FG alone is alone. responsible for 26.91 billion naira of this debt, and this represents a 658% increase since the return to democracy in Nigeria. External borrowing increased from $ 7.3 billion in 2015 to $ 26.57 billion as of December 31, 2020, with additional domestic debt of 7.63 billion naira at that time. In July 2021, the Senate had approved loan requests of 2,343 billion naira, or about 6 billion dollars, an additional 8.3 billion dollars and 490 million euros. In total, the current administration has recorded a 366% increase in debt since 2015, and the president has presented the Senate with a new loan request of around $ 4.054 billion. The point is that when it comes to finances, the nation is impecunious.
Arguably, the current model of nationally run legal education has a rich history, part of which was hinted at by lawmakers, which later resulted in the implementation of the 1959 Unsworth Committee recommendations. then approved a law school at the University of Ibadan and a law school in Lagos for professional training, but today there are around 70 accredited law schools operating in Nigerian universities and six campuses of the faculty of Nigerian law.
While highlighting the shortfall of the six existing campuses for swarming new law graduates as well as the number of candidates for seat renewals, the official figures as sketched by the senator did not accurately reflect the situation. For example, in addition to remedial applicants, several law schools admit above the admission quotas allocated by the Nigerian Law School. These excesses automatically create arrears. The backlog that results when groups of graduates collide with each other is a constant source of anguish for a law graduate from a Nigerian university. Of course, the universities are guilty of this, but the law graduate pays the price. With various issues including ASUU strikes and delay in gaining admission to law school also contributing negatively, after completion – the call to the bar for practice, most of the time, these delays worsen and, ultimately, deprive students of the employment opportunity by age barrier as most job postings have an age clause for students. youth.
Cautiously, a good alternative to spending 32 billion naira of scarce resources on six new campuses is to grant approval to deserving universities to run law schools, by adding a law school program to the law school. universities, but under the strict supervision of the Legal Education Council. . This will require law graduates from universities to also undergo professional training immediately after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in law. Law L10 LFN 2004 on legal education (consolidation, etc.) should be amended to take these adjustments into account. For foreign law graduates, two options can be used – either to be considered in universities or on the Abuja campus, 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 Federal Universities Law School and the demand for skilled staff will be high. As for revenues, Bar I and Bar II fees will always generate revenues for the federal government. It is not heterodox that we 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 homeland of Sir Edgar Unsworth, the chairman of the committee.
With the exponential increase in the number of law graduates from universities, the need for six additional campuses indeed confronts us, unfortunately, at a time when the economy is limping. It’s 2021, about 22 years away from the multi-campus concept, but the issues are still unresolved. If universities could effectively train doctors, pharmacists, architects and other professionals, they could also provide lawyers.
Thus, the bill is timely in addressing relevant issues in legal education in Nigeria, but it should for all intents and purposes the content and objectives be titled; “A bill to amend the law on legal education (consolidation, etc.) by empowering universities to manage law schools for professional training and other related matters”. Convincingly, this will relieve the federal government of a new impecuniosity and, spontaneously, permanently solve the problems posed by the current multi-campus arrangement.
Onyema written from Lagos.