Positioning Law School as centre of excellence in the provision of cutting edge legal education

Being statutory report of the Council of Legal Education presented by Nigerian Law School’s Director General, Olanrewaju Onadeko to the NBA AGC held in Owerri, Imo State on August 29, 2014

 

Preamble   

The Nigerian Bar Association has continued to provide the requisite robust synergy for the seamless discharge of Council’s mandate through its active representation on the Council by gentlemen and ladies whose contributions over the years remain invaluable.

Permit me to profoundly appreciate the unwavering support of the NBA as a body and those of well-meaning individual members of the Bar to the CLE and the NLS at all times.

In this report, I have attempted to highlight our modest efforts in the last eight (8) months since assuming office, of building on the formidable efforts of my predecessors, through the support and direction of the CLE, to position the NLS as a centre of excellence in the provision of cutting edge legal education that is suitable to the needs of society in the 21st century and beyond.

 

Consolidation of the Legal Education Reform:

The past five (5) years have witnessed a concerted effort at repositioning the NLS through curriculum review for a responsive legal education that will equip Nigerian –trained legal practitioners to adequately compete with their counterparts in the global legal market. Realizing the imperative for this paradigm shift, the NLS under the supervision of the CLE has continued to emphasize hands-on legal vocational training of aspirants to the Nigerian Bar.Review of the NLS curriculum has been an on-going project of successive Directors cum Directors – General of the institution. I acknowledge and commend the huge sacrifice and commitment of all my predecessors in office –Mr. Rudd, Hon. Justice Olakunle Orojo (rtd), Mr. Babatunde Ibironke SAN, Chief JK Jegede and Dr. Kole Abayomi. Permit me to specially acknowledge the immense effort of my immediate predecessor, Dr. Tahir Maman who devoted a considerable portion of his tenure to driving the review of the NLS curriculum. I wish him all the best in his future endeavours.  I pledge my commitment to the continuous improvement of our training curriculum as well as human capital development in line with global best practices in legal education.

 

Re-introduction of Professional Ethics and Skills as aDistinct Module:

I have spent a considerable part of my time in office responding to enquiries from foreign institutions on why there is no professional ethics as a distinct module at the NLS. Whilst it is correct that the curriculum review of the past few years has infused ethics into all the academic modules, I opine strongly that professional ethics remain the fulcrum of the legal profession and must therefore not be left to perfunctory mention or conjecture in an amorphous course module.

One of the main outcomes of the maiden academic roundtable at TINAPA, Calabar, is the urgent need to reinstate and strengthen the course as a distinct module. A substantive Professional Ethics and Skills Department has also been established within the academic unit across the campuses to ensure that aspirants to the Nigerian Bar are groomed in tandem with the extant rules of professional ethics and international best practices in legal education.

 

Expanding the Frontiers for Quality Assurance

In addition to the standing committee of the CLE on quality assurance, the management of the NLS have been proactive to plug loopholes through in-built peer review mechanismsto help us trouble shoot and proffer solutions to our curricula needssuch as:

• periodic academic roundtable retreat of  senior academics from all campuses of the NLS;

• annual academic staff retreat from all campuses of the NLS;

• feedback from distinguished members of the Bar and the Bench through our externship field supervisors confidential report on externs have been very useful in the continuous reinvention of  our placement criteria;

• Standing externship placement committee

 

Re-Engaging the NUC to Combat the Perennial Challenge of Over-Admission by Nigerian Law Faculties:

One of the major challenges that the CLE and the NLS have confronted over the years is the violation of admission quota by Law Faculties of Nigerian Universities with impunity. This has stretched our human and infrastructural facilities over the years. In view of the extant legal and regulatory framework for training undergraduates towards the LL.B degree programme, which is the prerequisite for admission into the NLS, we realize that the CLE and NLS must have the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) on its side to make headway in enforcing admission quota.  Consequently, we have engaged the NUC at top management level. The Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, has been particularly helpful in this regard. This symbiotic relationship has yielded the following positive result:

• Adoption of CLE approved quota for Faculties of Law in Nigerian Universities by NUC and communication of same to JAMB as directive from the 2014/2015 admission exercise;

• Setting up of a standing joint committee for the implementation of CLE and NUC policies and decisions for the regulation Faculties of Law in Nigeria; and

• Joint NUC/CLE Committee on the Census of Law Faculties in Nigeria.

 

Review of Bar Part 1 Admission Policy:

Akin to the foregoing problem of over admission by some Nigerian Law Faculties is the growing number of applicants to the Bar Part 1 programme. It was originally designed to aid foreign-trained Nigerians who desire to be called to the Nigerian Bar to be exposed to the peculiarities of the Nigerian legal system before proceeding to the final stage of the vocational legal training at the NLS. The last two to three years have witnessed an explosion from 200 to over 500. This has unwittingly compounded the challenge of student population explosion at the NLS.

The situation becomes unacceptable when considered against the background that some of these so-called law faculties from Benin Republic, Ghana, Cameroun, Sao-Tome and Principe have no basic training infrastructure prescribed by the CLE. The irony of it all is that most of these institutions have 70 to 80% of their entire students’ population as Nigerians. It is gratifying to report that the CLE has risen to the challenge by directing the NLS to admit only a prescribed number from foreign law faculties whose programme currently enjoys CLE’s recognition. There is a moratorium on recognition of programmes of new foreign faculties in place.

 

Security Infrastructure Deployed in Our Campuses especially Kano and Yola:

Since assumption of office, I have been inundated with calls for us to close down our Kano and Yola Campuses because of the security challenges posed by insurgents in those parts of the country. I wish to report that, God has been gracious and so far, there has been no incident that justifies the fear expressed about those campuses. However, we have embarked upon the immediate fencing of our Yola and Kano Campuses to forestall their apparent vulnerability. Although capital intensive, we are left with no option as a responsive and responsible management.

We have also secured the support of the Inspector General of Police, Chief of Defence Staff and the State Securities Service for the deployment of plain clothed officers and men to the precincts of all our Campuses. Within our modest means, we have also acquired and deployed modern security gadgets to all campuses. We also have in place CCTV Camera at strategic locations on the advice of our security experts to aid the operation of our security personnel.

 

 Forging Partnership with Ethics and Advocacy Africa for Capacity Building:

One of the cardinal statutory responsibilities of the NLS is to collaborate with the NBA for the provision of the mandatory continuous legal education for legal practitioners in Nigeria. In the days ahead, NLS with the support of the CLE shall engage the new leadership of the NBA to work out the modalities.

Currently, NLS with the approval of the CLE has commenced a working relationship with Ethics and Advocacy Africa, a United States based non-profit organization, whose mission is to assist in building capacity of qualified lawyers for better service delivery. The body hopes to make the NLS the hub for its capacity building programmes in the West African sub region. Two of our academic faculties have just returned from one of such capacity building workshop that held in Uganda.

 

 Infrastructural renewal and Completion of On-going Projects

We have concentrated on completing ongoing projects. Examples of such include:

• Headquarters – Conference and Recreation Centre, now Bar Part 1 hostel; replacement of the roof of the main auditorium;

• Kano Campus – Completion of the hostel and staff residential accommodation; perimeter fencing;

• Yola – Completion of the Lecture Auditorium and Admin block;

• Lagos – Completion the student hostel accommodation and repair of the Sir Adetokunbo Ademola Dining Hall

• Yenegoa – Completion of the new lecture hall and admin block, renovation of the staff residential quarters donated by the Adamawa state government

• Augustine Nnamani Campus, Enugu – completion of the students’ hostel and staff quarters.

 

Establishment of the Alumni Development Office:

In view of the inadequate funding by the government, we have decided to seek ways of augmenting government subvention with donations and support from the alumni of the NLS. Consequently, we now charge a token as a one-off alumni levy from anyone who requests the school to send transcripts, references, etc. We are at the concluding stage of opening an Alumni Development Office to solicit and coordinate alumni intervention projects across our Campuses.

 

50th Anniversary Pledges:

I wish to acknowledge the various pledges made during the Golden jubilee anniversary of the NLS. It is gladdening to report that the Katsina State Government has commenced the construction of a 250 bed Bar Part 1 hostel at the Headquarters. The 1986 Class is also in the process of commencing the construction of a Moot Court Complex at the Headquarters. May I request through this esteemed body that the pledges be redeemed timeously to help ameliorate the infrastructural challenges of the NLS across our campuses.

 

NLS Lecture Series

The NLS have continued to engage distinguished members of the Bar as adjunct faculties to provide that rich blend in their interface with our faculties. The CLE and NLS is deeply indebted in this regard to some Learned Silk, who have not only responded each time we have invited them to deliver lectures but have also taken it upon themselves to identify and persuade their brother silks to come on board as adjunct faculties at the NLS. Prominent among these eminent individuals are: D.D. Dodo, SAN; Mia Essien, SAN; Chief Gboyega Awomolo, SAN; Chief Chris Uche, SAN, to mention  a few.

 

Strict Adherence to Ethics and Discipline:

In line with the vision of the founding fathers of our noble profession, it is our firm believe that aspirants to the Nigerian Bar must epitomize and exhibit the best culture of learning, character and discipline. We have had to enforce the code of conduct for NLS students in the course of this academic session, consequent upon which some students are currently serving varying terms of suspension as punishment for their misdemeanors. Since we have no other profession, we must do all we can to groom the ‘would-be-ministers’ in the temple of justice in the best tradition of the ethics and ethos of the noble legal profession.

 

Source : Independent

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