From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Senate has acknowledged the approval by the Council of Legal Education for the establishment of the Nabo Graham Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, said they would visit the Port Harcourt campus of the Nigerian Law School to assess ongoing construction work.
Bamidele stated this in his opening remark at a public hearing on Legal Education (Consolidation, Etc) Act L.10, LFN 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2021 (SB 820) at the Senate, Monday.
He said the intent and purpose of the bill is to enhance the justice sector to be on time with trends and practice as obtainable in other jurisdictions.
‘It is instructive to note that during debate on the general principles of the bill at various sittings of the Senate, divergent views were canvassed by distinguished senators, thereafter myriad of reaction was stimulated from relevant stakeholders and member of the public on the rationale of enacting the bills as an act of the National Assembly.
‘Consequently, the committee resolved to adopt the legislative mechanism of conducting this public hearing in order to gauge and aggregate the viewpoint and opinion of relevant stakeholders in our bid to further strengthen and enrich the legislative process.’
Senator Smart Adeyemi, who sponsored the bill that is intended to create at least two campuses of the Nigerian Law School in each geopolitical zone, said the Port Harcourt campus will not be affected by the amendment.
‘There is already an approval for a Law School in Port Harcourt and that will be accommodated,’ he said.
The Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in a memorandum submitted to the committee, urged the National Assembly to reject the Bill 2021 as presently constituted because it is oppressive and discriminatory against the government and people of the state.
He recalled that during the flag-off ceremony for the construction of modern facilities at the Yenagoa Campus of the Nigerian Law School by Rivers State government, Governor Nyesom Wike had offered to build, furnish and hand over a brand new campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt if given the approval.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had consented to the request and work has reached an advanced stage.
Adangor said ‘in any event, a law is not required to establish new campuses of the Nigerian Law School as that exercise is purely administrative and the Council of Legal Education has already exercised that power with respect to the establishment of the Port Harcourt Campus of the Nigerian Law School.’
Speaking on the proposed establishment of the bill, Senator Kashim Shettima said Governor Wike has further demonstrated that he believes in the Nigerian project by investing in the construction of a brand new campus of Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt.
‘If someone can singularly build a Law School, he who comes to equity as you lawyers say must come with not only clean hands, but the ability to add value and he (Wike) has added value by giving a Law School, and justice and equity demand Law School should be established in Port Harcourt.’
The chairman of the Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, observed that there was an erroneous conception that by creating the Port Harcourt campus, the council had created a new Law School.
He explained that Governor Wike during a visit to the Yenagoa Campus with the Director General of the Law School had been appalled by the decrepit infrastructure on the campus, and offered to build two hostels and one auditorium, valued at N5 billion.
Ngige said during the flag off of the two hostels and auditorium at the Yenagoa campus, Governor Wike had offered to build a brand new campus in Port Harcourt if the Council of Legal Education gives approval.
‘We didn’t agree there. We had to follow due process. We went back to our supervising ministry, the Ministry of Justice to table the offer by His Excellency, the governor. The Minister in turn took it to Mr President (Muhammadu Buhari) and Mr President gave his approval. That was how Port Harcourt campus came.’
He declared that the establishment of the Port Harcourt campus was devoid of sentiment or politics.
According to him, the Rivers State government is presently constructing two hotels that would accommodate 1,500 people, an administrative block, a medical centre, lecturers’ quarters among others.
Impressed by the infrastructure being provided by the Rivers State government, he said the Council now has a guideline, tagged the ‘Rivers’ model’, that would be used as a yardstick to accept or reject any proposal for the establishment of any additional campus.
Former Nigerian Bar Association President, Onueze CJ Okocha, said extant law empowers only the Council of Legal Education to establish campuses of the Law School.
According to him, approval for the Port Harcourt followed through all the mechanisms set for such approval.