By Romanus Okoye
Law students of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) were elated, recently, when the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdalla Adamu, reassured them of the school’s management relentless effort to ensure that they complete their legal education by attending Nigerian Law School.
Adamu gave the re-assurance during Lagos Law students congress held at the former headquarters of NOUN in Victoria Island, Lagos. He advised the students to take their studies seriously as efforts are ongoing to have them attend the law school. The vice chancellor said that the matter was receiving adequate attention at the National Assembly and, sooner than later, all the stakeholders would reach a workable arrangement.
Earlier, he had promised to engage in aggressive advocacy. While reiterating his commitment to take education to the doorstep of every Nigerian, he assured the sustenance of the core values of accessibility, affordability and flexible learning which NOUN is reputed for.
It would be recalled that former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had during a visit by LAWSA national body urged the students particularly the law graduates of NOUN to be patient with the authorities. He said that he had no doubt that all would be well. The former president described NOUN as a novel institution. Adducing the reason it may appear the entire approval process was dragging, he noted that from experience that anything one is doing, that seems to drag will come out successful at the end of the day.
President Obasanjo said the institution since its take-off in 2005 while he was still the president has been a viable alternative to conventional institutions, especially for adults desirous of university education. He said that nobody in Nigeria will say he/she does not have access to higher education with NOUN, except he/she does not want. He said that although he noticed some students complaining about law accreditation in NOUN, he believes that the Law programme has come to stay.
The issue of admitting into Nigerian Law School, Law students from NOUN has been a contentious one for sometime now. This followed the Council of Legal Education (CLE)’s statement that anyone who desires to join the legal profession must undertake an undergraduate study on full-time basis, in a recognized Faculty of Law unlike NOUN that operates Open and Distance Learning.
It emphasized that the study of law transcends knowledge acquisition alone, as it involves the molding of future entrants to the Bar in learning, character and attitudes. But the argument of the authorities of NOUN is that the university operates Open and Distance learning which is very different from part-time or correspondence, both in the manner the course materials are prepared and the mode of learning.
Besides, the former Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, during his handover ceremony confirmed that the Law programme run by NOUN was approved by the NUC, which has the statutory right to do so.
“When the CLE came up with the idea of no part-time law, NOUN did not consider law a part-time programme by their mode. So, they did not stop the programme,” Prof. Adamu said.
In Nigeria, the legal education of an aspiring lawyer is not complete without his attending the Law School and the Council of Legal Education runs the Nigeria Law School. All persons who have obtained a university degree in law and who want to practise as lawyers in Nigeria must attend the Nigeria Law School. The admission is open to persons who studied in approved Nigeria Law faculties as well as persons who have passed the final bar examinations of the English, Scottish or Irish Bar or Solicitors Final Examinations of England, Scotland or Ireland.
As for foreign universities, most of them in the common law countries are accredited by the Council of Legal Education and their graduates are admitted to the Nigerian Law School. However, the admission to the Law School is for two years, unlike their Nigerian counterparts that would be there for one year. The foreign students usually undergo the Bar Part 1 course before proceeding to the next level which is Bar Part 11.
The occasion was used to unite the NOUN Law students association in Lagos under one umbrella. Before now, each study centre had its own association. Explaining the reason for taking the step, the National Students Adviser, Dr. Nelson Chegwe (an associate professor), said that LAWSA was not an ordinary students association, because their activities such as moot courting, law dinner form part of the academic requirements of a law student. He announced the appointment of Oliver Nwaiwu as President, Chris Uzor as Vice president, Asoro Abubakar as General Secretary and John Onuku as Treasurer. Together, they form the Lagos State LAWSA executive.