Revisiting Ban Of NOUN’s Law Degree By CLE
Following the ban on part-time study of law in Nigerian Universities by the Council of Legal Education (CLE), and Body of Benchers, the controversy over the recognition of the law degree awarded by the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) for the purpose of admitting its graduates for vocational studies at the Nigerian Law School, Ogunyiriofo Okoroh in this rejoinder, interrogates involved in this decision and action. He appealed to President Mohammadu Buhari to look into the discrimination meted out to NOUN law graduates by the CLE and Body of Benchers with a view to making it possible for NOUN law graduates to attend the Nigerian Law School.
In the public notice published in the Guardian of Tuesday, April 7, 2015 Council of Legal Education and Body of Benchers informed the general public that “the Council of Legal Education again announces for the benefit of the general public, that the LLB. Hons. Degree Programme offered by the National Open University of Nigeria is not approved”. p.34. The position of the statutory bodies – the Council of Legal Education and the Body of Benchers is as follows:
• The study of law must be undertaken on full time basis, in recognised institutions for the provision of undergraduate studies”
• The regulatory bodies have long proscribed the study of law through Part-time, Distance Learning, or Correspondence Studies and it was in consequence of this, that the Part-time LL B. programme run by the Faculties of Law of accredited Universities were abrogated”
• That every aspirant for the Legal Profession must undertake an undergraduate study on full time basis, in a recognised Faculty of Law. This is because the study of law transcends knowledge acquisition alone, as it involves the molding of future entrants to the Bar in learning, character and attitude.
In another advert in the same paper on the same date, titled: application for Bar part 1 course, Council of Legal Education announced among other things, the admission requirement – “The programme is open to law graduates of approved oversees Universities or Law Schools whose law courses have been approved by the Council of Legal Education. Degrees obtained through long distance learning or study as an external student are not recognized for the admission to this programme”
In an interview on ‘why Council of Legal Education may not admit Open University graduates to Law School’ granted to Joseph Onyekwere, by the Chairman, Council of Legal Education Chief O. C. J. Okocha, published in The Guardian, Tuesday, 31 December 31, 2013, he gave some reasons why law graduates of National Open University may not be admitted to the Law School. This interview is of interest to the public.
It is the intention of this writer to analyse the issues raised by Council of Legal Education, CLE and Body of Benchers, BB and critically react to them. But before going to these, we may have some brief ideas about NOUN, CLE and BB.
Brief on NOUN
NOUN is a Federal University established by Statute during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It has Study Centres in all the states. The Faculty of Law admits professionals, degree holders, higher degree holders and qualified none degree holders. Each admitted student must have the basic requirement for admission to any Law Faculty in any University and must study for a minimum of five years to pass the legal compulsory and elective courses of not less than 200 credits to graduate. The University is accredited by the National University Commission (NUC).
Council of Legal Education, CLE
Nigerian Legal Education Act was established in 1962 to regulate the General Council. CLE is a supervisory body established by statute and responsible for the accreditation, control and management of legal education in Nigeria. It runsthe Nigerian Law School, a vocational institution responsible for the training of prospective legal practitioners in Nigeria. It has a Chairman.
Body of Benchers
Body of Benchers was established by the Legal Practitioners Act. The Body regulates the activities and conduct of members of the legal profession. It does this with the General Council of the Bar. We shall analyse and critically react to the issues raised by CLE and BB.
Study of law on full time
On the issue that the study of law must be undertaken on full time basis, the pertinent question is – why this policy? This same question has been raise by journalists, newspaper columnists, some editorial, even some University law teachers without any response from CLE and BB. The Law School is statutorily established in the interest of Nigerians and the management derives its statutory authority from the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, Section 14 1, as amended, states “the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice”. 2 “It is hereby, accordingly declared that a sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority”. Given the above constitutional provisions, one would think that the people of Nigeria, some of whose children are admitted to NOUN Faculty of Law, deserve to know why their children should not be admitted to the Law School after spending huge sums of money on their education and after the children have successfully passed their L.L.B law degree. It is difficult to appraise the policy objectively without CLE and BB telling the Nation the reason for the decision, in a democratic nation.
Proscription of study of law through part-time, Distance Learning, or Correspondence Studies
As a matter of fact, NOUN law students are given scheduled law lectures by some law lecturers from University Faculty of Law close to the State Center. Some practicing lawyers also lecture NOUN law students. Hence, the issue of part-time, distance learning or correspondence studies does not strictly arise.
Even then, what is wrong with studying law by part-time, distance learning or correspondence studies? Only a self disciplined, intelligent student can study by any of these options and pass creditably. The reason is that under any of these programmes there is no “sorting,” “miracle center,” “advance,” or “greasing of palm,” to pass any of the examinations. The law student at NOUN does not know the marker of examination scripts, can not ask the computer for any favour during elective course examination. Examinations are taken under very strict supervision, with even law enforcement agents monitoring the environment of the examination center. Any individual caught cheating faces serious disciplinary measures.
Nevertheless, it is, indeed, very sad to reflect on the fact that Nigeria where history has little or no meaning. History is no long taught to Nigerian children in school. In very few tertiary institutions where it is taught, it is given a disguised name to attract students, who are usually very few in number. The advanced nations do not gamble with their history. The Voice of America has a daily programme – “Today in history”. History not only reveals the past, it guides the future. It creates legends which the children model or emulate. It prepares the future for new generation.
Even though history has little or no meaning in Nigeria, it does not appear that the distinguished members of CLE and BB have forgotten too soon that many of the prominent lawyers whose names ring bell presently in Nigeria and beyond, and did the same in the past, both at the Bar and Bench, either studied by part-time, distance learning or correspondence course. A good number of them passed their O’Level, A’Level, University of London degrees, including L.L.B law degrees by these programmes. What is part-time programme?
Part-time: World over, Part-time study has provided relief to indigent students who have to work and study. A person who consciously studies on his own, straining to pay the school fees, purchase materials that should assist him in acquiring the relevant knowledge, does not merely read to pass the requisite examination, but to acquired the relevant knowledge, skill and understanding for personal development, material and intellectual uplift in life. Part-time study involves utmost sacrifice and personal commitment to succeed in life struggle. It demands unalloyed discipline, which is self control from frivolities and external distractions. The Full-time counterpart enjoys the luxury of teaching, in some cases may be persuaded, distracted or tempted by the option of “sorting,” spying for “miracle centers,” colluding with some unscrupulous clerical staff to obtain examination questions, in an institution where there is laxity. Some students may cram or memorise, without understanding, to satisfy the teacher who may demand – “give me back what I give you”. “Pinging,” “partying,” “chatting,” “discussing past questions” for the purpose of passing examinations may constitute some distractions to some class-room students who are not serious with their study. The Part-time student has limited time – he has to work, study, take care of his welfare and pay for all these. He therefore has to deny himself so many things to succeed. Many have indeed succeeded by Part-time and have gained enviable positions in society, world-wide. Let us respectfully consider some eminent Nigerians who have succeeded by part-time studies.
One of the prominent Nigerians who has gone through the rigours of Part-time study, emerged in flying colours and has occupied the position of a legal star is the constitutional lawyer, Barrister-at-law, Inner Temple, London, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Commander of Order of the Niger, Nigerian National Order of Merit, former Minister of Education and Youth Development, fellow of many Tertiary Institutions; Chairman, The Patriots, Doctor of Law, the second since the death of Dr T. O. Elias; the only Nigerian and African holder of a Higher Doctorate Degreein Law of the University of London by published works – the three ‘isms’ – Constitutionalism, Presidentialism and Judicialism, translated into many European languages, is no other person than Professor Obi Nwabueze. By Part-time study, Obi Nwabueze passed four subjects in G.C.E Advanced level while working as a clerk in government establishment. With this qualification he gained admission to study Law in University of London.
There are so many all over the world who have passed their O’Level, A’Level, degrees, even degrees in Law, by Part-time. There was another honourable who was a Minister at the Temple of Justice – Justice Joseph Jeremiah Umoren. “When he arrived England as a self funded student, he had to work and go to school”. While in London he attended the famous University of London between 1964 and 1967 by Part-time. He passed creditably and was called to the English Bar and later Nigerian Bar. Umeren: Exit of a Consumate Jurist. The Guardian Tuesday April 29, 2014 p. 80. What of those who studied as external students?
External Student: Another Icon was Honourable Justice Abdul Fatayi Demola Kuti, retired Judge of Abuja High Court, who was considered one of the known incorruptible judges Nigeria has produced. He was an external student of University of London in 1958after which he did his L.L.B.Law examination and passed with honours. He was called to Bar both in London and later in Nigeria. He served the nation diligently and responsibly.
Due respect must equally be accorded to Justice Michael Adeyinka Odesanya whose taste for knowledge was so high that he was among four Nigerian students who passed intermediate Bachelor of Art Degree in Law as external students during the Second World War, 1939-1945. Later, he became the second General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association in Lagos Branch
Another, among the four was revered T. O. Elias. He had five degrees before he was called to Bar. In addition he had two Doctorate Degrees. He later became a Professor of Law, Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Justice of Nigeria, the first African and black man to head the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
The third in the count was Dr. G. B. A. Coker who retired as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The fourth, but by no means the least, was Chief N. N. A. Okafor who was the pioneer General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association at its inception in 1959.
Again, regards must be accorded to Justice Emmanuel Ayoola (JSC) rtd who served at the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. He studied as external student of the University of London between 1953 and 1957. He distinguished himself by passing his L.L.B. Law degree and his English Bar final the same year. He was admitted to the English Bar at Lincoln’ Inn on November 25 1958. He later enrolled as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Friday September 1959. He was appointed Justice of Court of Appeal of Gambia and later Chief Justice of Gambia. On leaving Gambia, he was, the same year, made Justice of Seychelles Court of Appeal. He was later elevated the President of the Court. While on foreign service, Justice Ayoola performed as Justice of Nigerian Court of Appeal. He was later promoted to the Supreme Court of Justice. He was given other prominent assignments. Abiodun Fanore and Joseph Onyekwere The Guardian Tuesday September 6, 2011. What of the prominent lawyers who made great leaps to stardom by Correspondence Course?
Correspondence Course: Due honour must be accorded Chief Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) , referred to as “the Grand Commander of the Legal Profession”. He was debarred from attending secondary school because of fund. As epitome of brilliance, he wrote and passed the then Lokoja-Ondo Diocesan examination for secondary education. He was overall second best pupil. By his excellent performance, he was offered admission to commence studies from form 3 at Christ School, Ado-Ekiti. But he could not make it because of wherewithal. But he made up his mind to succeed in life through education. He therefore enrolled for correspondence studies. He was successful. He obtained Cambridge School Certificate, G.C.E. Ordinary and Advanced Level Certificates of London University, B. Sc Economics of London University and L.L.B. Law with Honours of London University, all by Correspondence or Private Study.
He was called to the Bar in England in 1963 as member of the Lincoln Inn, London, and became a registered member of the Bar of England and Wales. He is considered the most outstanding member of the Nigerian Bar Association, Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He holds the honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Commander of the Order of the Niger. He is a Fellow of many Instituions; former Pro-Chancellor of University of Lagos. His distinguished achievements in that institution are yet to be rivaled. He was awarded the Best Pro-Chancellor in Nigeria. He has to his credit many works, articles and lectures. He was awarded “Queen Victoria Commemorative Medal” in Oxford, United Kingdon. He was declared “the African Man of the Year” by All African Students Union. His achievements are too numerous to list, a legal luminary of outstanding brilliance. The Guardian, Tuesday January 24, 2012 p.84.
We shall not fail to list late distinguished Justice Chukwudifu Oputa (JSC) , who at Apex Court was addressed by his colleagues as Socrates and Lord Denning of Nigeria, because of his erudition. He was a man of impeccable character and ingenuity. By Correspondence and Home Study, he worked hard to obtain his B.A. Degree in History from University of London and worked as Assistant District Officer before proceeding to read Law. His first Degree was B.Sc. Degree in Economics from the famous Achimota College in the then Gold Coast, now Ghana. He later studied Law, and was called to Bar and became the first Chief Judge of Imo State. This late Icon later became Supreme Court Justice. He was chairman of the Human Rights Violation Investigation Committee, known as Oputa Panel.
Let us imagine that the English Bar at Lincolns Inn refused to admit the above Nigerians who studied by Part-Time, as External Candidates or by Correspondence Course, and the then Nigerian Law School refused to admit them for Vocational Training, because of their mode of studying, and no other Law School in the world did; the landmark, distinguished contributions these men have made to the nation could have been extinguished for ever.
It may not be foolhardy to speculate that there are many Nwabuezes, Ayoolas, Kutis, Odesanyas, Eliases, Cokers, Okafors, Babalolas, Oputas etc who are presently law students of NOUN or who have graduated from NOUN, currently stretching out their hands from the pit of proscription, crying to be liberated from the clutches of relegation; pleading in tears to CLE and BB to admit them into Nigerian Law School to enable them apply their potentials to model their Seniors or even excel them. The prayer of most African elders is that their children should be greater than they are.
However, some people may argue that the legal luminaries that stretch from the 1950s to late 1970s can not be compared with the present generation in terms of having basic educational foundation, commitment and dedication to private reading, self control, high aspiration etc. Hence, they may not feel concerned about NOUN law students. Well, this may be a case of hasty generalization, an imaginative fantasy. It is not unusual for an old generation to underrate the preceding generation. But the pricking question is whether the previous generation provides the new generation some of the opportunities they were provided. For instance, do the current elders who presently occupy position of power and authority in education and beyond accord the respect, dignity, welfare benefits they received during their own time to the preceding generation?
This nation accorded the current top policy makers in government – Governors, some former presidents, and their Vice, Pro-Chancellors, Vice Chancellors of Universities, Rectors of Polytechnics, Provosts of Colleges of Education, the Military brass of overseas trainees, so much lavish welfare benefits, luxurious accommodation, scholarships, bursaries, loans, free tuitions etc while they were studying. Most of them interested in public jobs got them while they were rounding off their studies in the tertiary institutions. What have they and the past governments provided the youths of these days – nothing rather than sufferings due to stinking corruption. If NOUN had been established in the 1960s would the graduates have been proscribed from attending Law School? Of course, NO; they could have been pampered.
However, despite the institutionalized hardship meted to our children by the elders in position of power and authority, there are still children who are naturally brilliant; who, despite odds want to excel, despite the poor family background of a good number of them. In fact there is no community in the world without some talented naturally brilliant children in every generation, who, with small educational opportunity want to catapult themselves to become stars. But would the elders, the elites in position of power and authority agree to test them to prove their worth? This is the crucial question.
We may consider one case, that of Rufus Orimoloye, who on his own initiative went to the library of Yaba Technical Institute and came across a book on how to fly an a plane. He read it with enthusiasm and loved it. Within a few weeks of reading the book he saw an advertisement of the Federal Government of Nigeria asking interested young secondary school certificate holders interested in flying to apply for scholarship to study piloting, Aviation Engineering or Air Traffic Control. Rufus boasted to his friends – “if they wanted two, I will be one of them”. Yinka Fabowole, Interview Captain Rufus Orimoloye: The sad song of an old pilot. Sunday Sun August 17 2014 p.31
At the scholarship interview Rufus gave very accurate narration of how a plane was flown. He had neither got close to a plane, nor entered one. He so astonished and impressed the white Pilot who interviewed him that he was the only candidate chosen. On completing his training he became one of the first set of indigenous Nigerian pilots that took over from all white personnel pilots. He rendered selfless commendable service to the Nation as a pilot.
Let us imagine that there is such advert currently, because of the overwhelming number that may apply, the most likely people that may be considered first are those whose parents are in top government positions and the political big wigs in Nigeria. Next to be considered may be those with recommendations from the Senators and House of Representatives, Governors, State Legislators etc. If a person like Rufus were to attend the interview today without a‘god Father,’ and no “big shot” to recommend him, what he read in the library would havehad no meaning. Nigeria would have lost a diligent pilot. There are many Rufuses in Nigeria today who neither have the opportunity to be seen nor heard. Incidentally, our ancient elders frown at those who cross the bridge and allow the bridge to collapse. We may now give some consideration to the proscription of the study of law through Part-time by CLE and BB.
Proscription of the Study of Law through Part-time
That the Part-time, Distance learning or Correspondence Course run by Faculty of Law of accredited Universities were abrogated is no cogent reason to abrogate the NOUN programme, which, strictly speaking is quite unique. In the first instance, CLE and BB have not given any cogent reason for abrogating the programmes run by accredited Law Faculties.
It has to be remembered that Part-time Legal Education was first introduced in Nigeria by the first indigenous Nigerian University, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. It was popular among the working people. Many graduated before it was proscribed. There has been no known adverse report about the legal performance of those who were admitted to the Law School on graduation. Many Nigerians have continued to ask why CLE and BB cancelled the programme. A renowned law teacher and senior member of the Bar, Professor Uche U. Uche in an interview with Joseph Onyekwere on the cancellation of Part-time law degree programme stated “I don’t see anything wrong with that part-time, provided they are going to comply with those requirements of law in terms of its strictness, its accuracy, and total independence”. Joseph Onyekwere The Guardian, Tuesday, June 19 2012 p.81.
In another interview with Bertram Nwannekama, on Part-time Law Studies, Olisakwe Amadi stated: “the part-time law programme was not cancelled by the Law Faculties of Universities. It was cancelled by Council of Legal Education, for whatever reason, I do not know. But personally, I support the programme. The part-time legal education was really very beneficial to Nigerians, especially for those who were working and wanted to have knowledge of the law. Apart from that, I will like everybody to have knowledge of the law, because if we have more people that have knowledge of the law, there will be less cheating in our society. It will afford people the opportunity of knowing their rights and privileges in our society”. Bertram Nwannekanma A Vote for Part-Time Law Studies The Guardian Tuesday May 5 p.70. The question continues to be asked – why the fiat that the study of law must be on full time basis?
Undergraduate Study of law on full time basis
The fiat on the study of law on full time basis, according to CLE and BB is that “the study of law transcends knowledge acquisition alone as it involves the moulding the future entrants to the Bar in learning, character and attitude”. Why must the fiat be peculiar to Nigeria?
It is a known fact that most Common Law countries of the world have established Open University System that has functioning Faculties of Law. A good number of them have established Universities that encourage part-time learning in many faculties including law. The advent of computer and internet facilities enhance wider range of educational opportunities for their citizens. Is Nigeria more advanced that these nations? The answer is NO; the illiteracy level in Nigeria is still shamefully very high.
In the interview Professor Peter Crisp of BPP University London granted to Joseph Onyekwere, he said there is Open University in United Kingdom that runs law degree programme for 3 years, after which the student does qualifying law degree which warrants the student on success, to do vocational programme at law school to become a solicitor or barrister, depending on one’s choice. Though, according to him, the distinction is being blurred. Joseph Onyekwere, the Distinction between Barristers and Solicitors Getting blurred in United Kingdom, says Scholar Crisp The Guardian Tuesday, March 3 2015 p.49. But what are the implications of the fiat?
One implication is that those who study law in Council accredited Nigerian Universities must sit in class and be taught by teachers. This position shuts off the use of modern advanced technology for distance learning of law. It also shuts off indigent students who are brilliant but their parents can not afford the resources for them to study law as full time students. If first class Universities in the world, where the level of legal consciousness and literacy are high, allow this programme why should CLE and BB ban it in Nigeria? This requires answer.
Another implication could be that CLE and BB may, perhaps, consider the current Nigerian students in NOUN so daft that they think that after passing the L.L.B Law they may not be able to scale through the vocational training at the Law School. But this supposed position is unilateral, underrating, unscientific without any formal test at the Law School for substantive evidence. Again, that supposed position appears to be a mystification of the Law School. There are records of those who were taught law in class and many could not scale through the Law School examination. A top officer of the Law School complained that the reason for the large number of failure was because the candidates concerned themselves with past questions instead of reading their books.
Yet another implication could be that the law elites may intend to shield law for the rich who can afford full time study of law in the Universities. In Daily Sun Editorial of Wednesday, May 6, 2015 on ‘Non-recognition of Open University’s Law Programme,’ states among other things – “while we appreciate the resolve of regulators of the law profession to enforce the best standards possible, we caution that such initiatives must be tempered with a human face. The legal profession should not also be made Exclusive Club from which certain categories of persons are restricted, even when they are able to meet up with its academic requirements”.
The most likely outstanding implication is that the CLE and BB want to castrate the Law Faculty of NOUN. By this they may want to make the L.L.B. graduates of NOUN to be bats that are neither on the ground nor in space, but hanging aimlessly and hopelessly. Unlike the United Kingdom where the solicitor and advocate, each has a distinct role to play in society, though the distinction is presently “being blurred”. In Nigeria, a lawyer barred from Law School is a frustrated human being. It is only by attending Law School that a lawyer becomes a solicitor and advocate. Where Nigeria turns out thousands of law graduates, spread across the nation, who know the law but are frustrated from practicing it by denying them admission to Law School as provided by law, the nation is danger. It was the belief of Nigerian pioneer legal practitioners that “a lawyer lives for the direction of his country,” but where there is elitist frustration along the line of becoming a fulfilled barrister, the outcome thereafter may be unpredictable. When a lawyer is successfully enrolled as solicitor and advocate he becomes ethically accountable to the Nigerian Bar Association and the nation. When he is unaccountable because he is not properly enrolled, anything goes, to survive. A humane nation does not gamble with the educational career and prospects of its citizens because education is the most fundamental method of survival open to the poor and the rich. If it is denied the poor chaos is cultured. There is this wise saying that if you train a group of people as welders and they do not have jobs, they may use their skills to aid the breaking of Banks.
But what do the CLE and BB mean by declaring that “the study of law transcends knowledge alone, as it involves the moulding of future entrants to the Bar in learning, character and attitude”?
Study of Law Transcends Knowledge alone
In relation to NOUN, would this imply that NOUN law students only acquire mere knowledge, and not legal knowledge, and does not go beyond this? Fundamentally, every law student is expected to have knowledge of substantive laws and their application to classified facts. He should know the legal and judicial procedures and other requirements. The nation has to be convinced by CLE and BB that there is deficiency in NOUN legal curriculum to warrant proscription. So far, these Bodies have neither publicly criticized the legal curriculum of NOUN nor the standard of examination questions set, or its method of administration. The criticism has been on CORRESPONDENC, CORRESPONDENCE AND CORRESPONDENCE alone; nothing more.
Concerning the idea of moulding future entrants to the Bar in learning, character and attitude, it has to be stated that “moulding” supposes a fixed pattern – in the same image and structure; just as when cement is mixed with sand and water, the mould produces a fixed structure and pattern of block.It has to be acknowledged that no educational system moulds learners in the same pattern. Education disposed the learner to acquire knowledge, skill, understanding etc, according to each learner’s ability and intellectual potential. This is why in academic evaluation or examination assessment, there is standard deviation – a few examinees are likely to fail, majority are likely to have the middle percentage score, while a few would score the highest percentage. This is true of law and any other discipline. If CLE and BB were to mould future entrants to the Bar in learning, character and attitude, the outcome would be the same. In reality, there are very intelligent lawyers who argue their cases in court such that the judge is so highly impressed that he may call them privately at the chamber to congratulate them. There are those who shun the court and live by rent collection. There are those who dare the court, and in their legal procedure and arguments embarrass the judge. If eventually these characterizations hold, where does the mould function? Who mixes and moulds?
Thus, no educational institution, faculty, profession or discipline can in reality mould its future entrants in learning, character and attitude. No matter what form of teaching is adopted in a class, some of the learner may, by discovery method, through wide reading or experimentation, learn more than others and therefore excel. Others may be lazy, depend on notes and earn bare pass, some may fail outright.
Teaching may influence or stimulate character and attitude formation according to individual reception, but not in absolute mould pattern, otherwise, the principle of individual difference in life and education would be erased from human nature. The learner who reads on his own and succeeds has already exerted self control on himself. As a practicing lawyer, he is very likely to devote enough time and concentration to research in order to prepare his case and present a solid argument in court. This is a case of ‘transfer of learning’.
Learning is indicated by change in behavior. Whether one exposed to knowledge, skill, understanding etc has truly learnt, is indicated by change in behavior which can be verified by quantifiable aptitude, oral, written, practical or any other test. A good number of Nigerians have appealed to CLE and BB to allow NOUN L.L.B. law graduates to attend Law School where they can be evaluated as having learned or otherwise. In advanced nations verification is a scientific method of testing belief, for acceptance or rejection. Nigeria should be part of the world globalization in science and technology.
It is also note-worthy that a good number of the professionals who passed out of NOUN Faculty of Law were degree holders before studying law. During their convocation before studying law, the Vice-Chancellor of their Alma Mata declared them to be worthy in learning and character. Vice-Chancellor of NOUN in their convocation also declared the successful law student worthy in learning and character. Character has to do with human qualities. One wonders whether CLE and BB designed courses in law that teach character which transcends knowledge. The Advanced Learners Dictionary 5th Edition p.186 defines character as “all mental or moral qualities that make a person, group, nation etc different from others”. A person’s character formation begins with experiences from home, extends to the school, tertiary institution and interaction with general public. Families and educational institutions can not be the same and therefore can not promote same character.
Among professionals, the mental orientations which qualify members of the profession is acquired by the knowledge exposure in the discipline. The professional, through knowledge content is disposed to ‘knowing that’ and ‘knowing how’. ‘Knowing that’ in law has to do with theoretical knowledge suchas knowledge of substantive laws, jurisprudence and legal theory etc; ‘knowing how’ in lawrefers, for instance, skillful application of the content of law in problem solving, such as legal drafting, judicial procedure, conveyance, alternative dispute resolution etc. In the process of acquiring the knowledge of law the conscious learner has the disposition to some attitude of the profession such as integrity, incorruptibility, transparency, inspirational confidence, taking judicial and legal assignments seriously, respect for due process, upholding justice, rule of law etc. These are demonstrated in moot court proceeding in which moot cases are tried. In this respect, a professional lawyer is the surrogate judge. The CLE and BB have to prove to the nation that students of NOUN are not disposed to these.
The fact there is no Faculty of Law of a University that does not inculcate professional character among its students. At convocation the Vice-Chancellor usually declares those to be awarded degrees to have been found worthy in learning, character and training. Why would it be supposed that NOUN law students are exceptions to these virtues? In the case of the University of Ilorin student v University of Ilorin 2014the defendant was not satisfied with the trial court and Court of Appeal , and proceeded to the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, stating among other things that “the Appellant in other words gave with the right hand and took back with the left, a visitation on a student which ought not to be associated with the University or Ivory Tower as colloquially called or citadel of learning and character formation”. Law Report: Court will not usurp functions of a University Senate, but where it errs, judiciary can intervene. Guardian Tuesday, September 23, 2014 p.63. Thus there is no University that is not concerned with the character formation of the admitted learners.
Again, what attitude has CLE and BB found in accredited Faculties of Law of Nigerian Universities that is lacking in NOUN Faculty of Law? What is attitude? The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, Fifth Edition, defines attitude as a way of thinking about something or somebody or behaving towards somebody or something p.66. For instance, some people have favourable attitude to eating rice as the best food. Some people have negative attitude to some ethnic groups because of some stories heard about them.
When it come to education, every professional discipline has the disposition of stimulating its students to certain ways of thinking and perceiving in the processes of acquiring knowledge, skill and understanding, from which the students learn. For instance, in the process of scientific inquiry, science exposes its students to the attitude of formulating hypothesis as the foundation of scientific inquiry, experimentation, quantification, verification etc. by the process of induction – from particular to general, ie theorizing.
On the other hand, philosophy as a discipline stimulates its learners to acquire the attitude of intellectual pursuit, critical thinking, reasonable doubt, argument, questioning, generalistion by deduction, from general to particular. Importantly, it cultivates the attitude of humility and submission to rule of law as exemplified by Socrates, the Greek philosopher.
Of course, law stimulates its learners to form the attitude of attentive listening,commitment in recording instruction as given, questioning, cordiality with client, firmness, analysis, classification, research, reporting, following legal procedure etc. Importantly, would be lawyers are drilled on the attitude of radiating affluence, pomposity; in certain circumstances intimidating and some unique extrinsic arrogance as the only learned personality in the universe. NOUN law students are not excluded.
If each discipline inculcates certain peculiar character and attitude among its learners, NOUN law students can not be exception, except it is proved that the students do not study law, but mere knowledge of what of what the public has to be told. In Professor J.A. Adeyanju v University of Ilorin and anor, Justice Chima Centus Nweze stated “Universities popularly referred to as “Ivory towers” are famous as citadel of learning: as centers of robust, open and engaging academic and scholastic disputations: unbridled disputations that shape and mould policies; that interrogate otiose and moribund assumptions; that generate hypotheses which almost always engender paradigm in attitudes, tendencies and social goals”. Okeke Chris: Justice Centus Nweze: A round peg in a round hole. The Guardian, Tuesday December p.47 If the generalization is true of Universities, and NOUN is a University then the generalization of Justice Nweze is true of NOUN. It may not be out of place to highlight some aspects of discrimination meted out to NOUN law graduates, one aspect of whichis reflected in the application for 2015 Bar Part 1 Course.
Application for 2015 Bar Part 1 Course – Glaring Discrimination
In the advert, for the application for 2015 Bar Part 1 Course, ‘Part-time’ is excluded in the advert for overseas law candidates; ie. it is not included as a condition for denying admission to overseas candidates for Law School. The reason is very clear – a significant number of African students, particularly those from poor homes acquire their degrees, including law, by part-time studies overseas. This is not a secret, but a fact. In the advanced countries what matters is that a candidate for any course should meet the admission requirement, study diligently, pass the required examination and remain disciplined during the duration of the course of study. The advanced nations are more interested in performance whether intellectual or practical. Hence the advanced nations have high population of literacy and performance oriented citizens compared to Nigeria.
The CLE and BB proscribe part-time study of law in Nigeria but by the advert aresilent on overseas law candidates. This acquiescence is not unusual. Many Nigerians are disdainful of what is their own, but have favourable preference from what comes from “ovas”, ‘foreign’. The spurious belief is that what is foreign is the best, what is local is inferior.
We may recall that when NECO was introduced in Nigeria, it was rejected by Nigerian Universities for the purpose of admission. WAEC was preferred. NECO had to be forced down the throat of Universities by the government. Today, Nigerian youths who passed NECO at five credit level have gained admission and have successfully graduated in honours. Many well placed elites and their rich counterparts send their children overseas for courses that are available in Nigerian Universities, available even in the institutions some of these elites teach or work. They pay comfortably through their nose to sponsor their children, since the money is readily available to them. They consider Nigerian Universities inferior. The former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi, reported that Nigerians spend 62 to 65 billion Naira in Ghana for paying school fees. Some of them boast openly on how much they spend overseas on education. It was also declared recently that Nigeria tops the population of international students in United States.
Thus, it is not unusual for the average Nigerian to reject what is his own in preference for what is foreign. NOUN L.L.B students study the same courses that are studied in accredited Faculty of Law of Nigerian Universities. They take and pass standard law examination questions comparable to the standard set in any other part of the world, yet they are proscribed. This amounts to discrimination. Section 42 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended grants Nigerian citizens Right to Freedom from discrimination. The Nigerian constitution is the grundnorm from which other statutes, laws, by laws, regulations and rules take their root including the statutes establishing NOUN, CLE and BB.
Again, Rule of Law is a universal concept in democratic countries world over. It states that all people stand equal before the law, no one should expect to receive special treatment. Speaking at the NBA – SBL conference, the SBL’s chairman, Gbenga Oyebode objected to “a situation where we still have people going to school for almost two years, especially foreign graduates to be admitted to Nigeria’legal profession is not nice” Bertram Nwannekanma, at NBA-SBL conference, Continuous Legal Education, rule of law. The Guardian Tuesday, July 2, 2013 p.73. It is very unfortunate that a Nigerian NOUN student who studies L.L.B for a minimum of five years and passes creditably, is ostracized from Nigerian Law School as if he is L.L.B leprosy graduate, while an overseas candidate who spends “almost two years” is admitted because he arrived from “overs”. Surprising enough, the overseas countries from which Nigeria copied the Open University system permit part-time, external programme or correspondence course. They admit their successful law graduates for vocational training, while CLE and BB proscribe Nigerian NOUN L.L.B students. Our ancient elders sighed at those who quench the glowing fire retrieved from the spirit world by a traditional legend, instead of blowing it to blossom and brighten the earth. One may ask – what is the position of the Chairman of Council of Legal Education, Chief O. C. J. Okocha SAN on some of these issues?
Position of Chairman Council of Legal Education, Chief O. C. J. Okocha SAN
In the interview granted to Joseph Onyekwere by the Chairman Council of Legal Education, Chief O. C. J. Okocha SAN, the distinguished legal luminary stated that NOUN “students can’t be admitted into Law School for now until certain issues are addressed… We do not believe that law is a course that should be learnt by correspondence. You can’t see a lawyer addressing a court by correspondence”. The interview was published in December 2013, one wonders whether the “certain issues” were addressed before the public notice of Tuesday, April 7 2015, declaring non approval of L.L.B degree of NOUN.
Well, the Chairman is free to believe that law is not “a course that should be learnt by correspondence”. We have documented some empirical evidences of distinguished Nigerian lawyers who studied law by Correspondence Course. Universities of many Common Law Countries world over, still offer law by Correspondence Course.
The Chairman said “you can’t see a lawyer addressing a court by correspondence”. Depending on whom the Chairman referred to as “you”. The Chairman knows what ‘correspondence’ means and what ‘correspondence course’ means. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English Fifth Edition p.261.defines correspondence “as a state of being related or similar,” “the letter a person receives;” “act or activity of writing letters. ‘Correspondence course;’ the dictionary explains, is “a course of study often done at home, using books and exercises sent by post”
Legal Drafting is a course in law. It includes how to draft legal letters. Such a letter can be used by a lawyer to address a court as evidence. The Judge can also receive a letter from a lawyer on a pressing issue. There was this case in which a suspect, Tope Alobatele filed an action against a judge of the Lagos High Court Ikeja for allegedly debriefing his counsel, Kabir Akingbolu without his consent. According to the deponent, “on 12 March 2015 when the matter came up before the court, my counsel Akingboluy was not in court but sent a letter for adjournment, informing the court of the demise of his father and mother and that he had travelled to Ekiti for the burial which was scheduled to take place around that time”Joseph Onyekwere Suspect Sues Judge over Substituting Counsel The Guardian Tuesday June 2015p.48.Thus, a lawyer can address a court by correspondence.
Concerning Correspondence Course, it is a fact that University of London, the third University in the hierarchy of top quality Universities in the world has run legal correspondence courses for centuries and the law students who are successful are called to the bar and have been seen addressing the court. World over, some lawyers who studied law by Correspondence Course of a university and called to Bar, have been seen addressing the court on legal matters. Afe Babalola studied law by Correspondence Course of the prestigious University of London; Afe Babalola was called to Bar and has been addressing the court on legal matters.
As stated earlier, NOUN is not strictly speaking, running Correspondence Course since lectures are given to students. Lecture materials from NOUN book store are collected by students on paying for them and not by post. The materials are also accessed through the internet. Even if Correspondence Course is stated as one of the aims of NOUN what is wrong with it, if it is properly supervised and regulated by CLE and BB. If University of London and others have been successful at running Part-time, External or Correspondence Courses, why can’t Nigerian legal elites emulate them, in the interest of the nation? Shall we remain underdeveloped for ever? It is the hand that makes the dry fish bend. Our ancient elders caution that a dog should not be given a bad name to hang it.
In the same interview, Joseph Onyekwere asked the Chairman of Council of Legal Education why NOUN should not be admitted to Law School to see if they can pass the examinations. The Chairman replied “we are already having difficulties in the number we are admitting. Each University has a quota so that facilities of the six campuses can accommodate them. So if we allow a flood gate, everybody comes into the law school where will they sit to receive tuition, where would they sit to participate inmock trials and moot. So things are being rationalized such that we can take in what we can manage”
The above response reveals to Nigerians what may be considered as one of the crux of the matter. The discrimination against NOUN law graduate, its rationalization out of the Law School is not because its curriculum, methodology or examination standards are in doubt. In fact records have not shown any criticism by CLE and BB against them. The discrimination and its rationalization, are because of poor infrastructure and logistics as stated above by the chairman. These are problems that CLE and BB can iron out with the Federal Government. Instead NOUN law graduates are discriminated against without justification. Law graduates of NOUN must suffer for what appears to be poor planning and management of Law School infrastructure and logistics, rationalized by throwing away the child with the bath water.
The interview revealed that in 2013, 5016 Nigerian law graduates from accredited Universities were admitted to the Law School. Nigerians were not told the number of undergraduates admitted by Nigerian Law Faculties of accredited Universities. In the interview granted to Professor Peter Crips of BPP University, London, already mentioned, he revealed that BPP University alone admits 17000 law students, being the largest undergraduate law degree programme in England, and occupies the 5th position in teaching rating. The top most rated Universities that also offer law degrees include Oxford University, Cambridge University; University College London etc. They have their own population of law undergraduates. When United Kingdom, a smaller population, is compared with Nigeria, the most populous black country in the world, it may be realized that the number of law students admitted by Nigerian law Faculties appear insignificant. Thus, one does not need to consult a witch doctor to realise that with adequate facilities and logistic planning, NOUN law graduates can be adequately accommodated in Nigerian Law School. Another important question that requires consideration is this – has NOUN any obligation to its law graduates? Of course, the answer is obviously ‘yes’.
Obligation of NOUN to its Law Graduates
NOUN owes unflinching obligation to NOUN law students and graduates. It has the responsibility to ensure that it has its quota of law graduates at the vocational school. At the annual convocation, NOUN assures Nigerians that the graduates have been found worthy in character and learning and are guaranteed the benefits thereof. This declaration has to be put to fruition as far as law graduates are concerned.
Again, Daily Sun Editorial already mentioned said, among other things “that the best approach in the present circumstance is for the Council of Legal Education to sit down and discuss with NOUN authorities to identify and remedy any deficiencies seen in Open University law programme. The students who have been enrolled in the programme for many years now should be allowed to finish these courses and enrolled in the law school, before a decision is reached onwhether to continue with the programme or not. Daily Sun Editorial, Daily Sun Wednesday May 6, 2015 p.19.
In conclusion it is very important to appeal to the President of Nigeria, and the Commander In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari to look into the discrimination meted out to law graduates of NOUN, their proscription, relegation to the background and denial of vocational training at the Nigerian Law School, by CLE and BB and to rectify the situation.
The President promised Nigerians that his administration would be based on rule of law “in which none shall be so above the law that they are not subject to its dictates, and none shall be so below it that they are not availed of its protection”. The President has promised to run a government, “one that will listen to and embrace all”. The President is hereby appealed to look into the discrimination meted out to NOUN law graduates by CLE and BB and to listen to the cry of the students with the view of protecting them from discrimination, by making it possible for NOUN law graduates to attend Law School.