“A lawyer can only be as good as the system of legal education that produced him,” a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Professor Fabian Ajogwu reminded his audience with those words of Justice M.O. Olanaja while speaking at a dinner organised in honour of Chief Emeka Ngige, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), as the new chairman of Council of Legal Education, recently.
Ajogwu said that despite the plethora of issues like corruption, inadequate funding, maladministration, incessant strike, understaffing often cited to have crippled the legal educational system and in turn affected the quality of lawyers churned out, a key challenge which has distorted the growth of the legal educational system remains the “Legal Pedagogy” which he explained to mean the methodology of knowledge and content transfer.
While delivering his lecture titled: ‘’Rethinking legal education in Nigeria to meet the needs of the 21st Century’’, Ajogwu said that sound education is a prerequisite for honouring the trust lawyers hold as legal practitioners.
“The world is a global village and our economy, as well as its needs, are ever-changing. Legal practitioners play an important role in ensuring the sanctity of the world; hence, they must be trained to meet global economic complexities as they arise. Nigeria’s legal education must be revamped to reflect these 21st-century complexities.”
He recalled that the Nigerian legal educational system has tried to evolve over the years to respond to social dynamics without losing sight of the local peculiarities of a pluralistic secular society. He said, “Albeit these efforts, the rest of the legal world seems to be moving too swiftly while we stand by. The inevitable question that then comes to mind is What have we not done? What steps have we not taken?
“The Nigerian legal educational system is premised on a rather rigid structure largely owing to our inheritance from the British colonial masters who portrayed the art of legal education as intensely conservative. Holding onto this premise, the educational system has since then threaded and improved along this line. Towing along this line has no doubt churned out seasoned members of the legal profession who have performed exceptionally in their time”.
He warned that with the unpreced“At the law school level, the educational system though structured to place greater emphasis on the practical aspects of the law still ends up demonstrating professional expertise in infusing aspirants with theoretical procedures and churning out a set of fine gentlemen knowledgeable in the mastery of theoretical procedures.”
Ajogwu said Nigeria has been incessantly allocated meager sums as budgetary allocation to the educational sector. “In 2018, only 7.04% of the N8.6 trillion budget was allocated to the sector. The total sum allocated to the sector was N605.8 billion. While in 2019, the budget which was N14.7 billion higher than in 2018 was allotted. These allocations which are grossly below standard, fall short of the minimum 26 percent budgetary allocation standard set by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation.”
He noted that as a result of the poor investment, skeletal funding of learning institutions which provokes a mediocre learning standard becomes the order of the day. “The Nigerian legal educational system may safely still be described as an anti- 21st-century learning platform,” he said.
On how to improve legal education in Nigeria, he cited Lord Denning’s famous quote in the case of Parker v. Parker “If we never do anything which has not been done before, we shall never get anywhere.” He also said that law teachers are important in producing sound lawyers. They must contribute an immense quota. Many law teachers join the law schools after completing their postgraduate degrees, yet a significant number of them are rarely exposed to the practical aspects of law and the courts.
He concluded that legal educa“Rethinking Legal education in Nigeria to meet the emerging needs of law and society in the 21st century is not about bemoaning the deplorable state of our current legal system or looking back to the ‘good old days’ that would never come back. It is about forward-thinking – a passionate exercise involving identification of the existing problems, realistically creating solutions to solve them, and of course, anticipating how the present line of action will affect the future.
Ajogwu said it is important that the Nigerian Law School leverages on the strength of its Alumni, by tapping into the Alumni to provide knowledge and funding support for the school.