NIGERIA: Law lecturers reject new faculties

Professor Funsho Adaramola, dean of law at Lagos State University, frowns on the establishment of law faculties in newly created public and private universities in Nigeria. Adaramola believes the move breaches legal provisions regulating setting up new law faculties, and other law lecturers have supported him. Meanwhile, there are fears among members of the councils of new universities that the National Universities Commission (NUC) might not accredit their faculties and they are moving to prevent possible closures.

Interviewed recently by a local newspaper, Adaramola said there was a law guiding the establishment of new law faculties: "Any tertiary institution wishing to create a faculty of law must be in existence for a limited number of years. The wisdom behind this provision is to allow the institution to consolidate its existence before it can venture into this field of study."

The Legal Council, the body in charge of legal education in Nigeria, established the law to ensure educational standards did not decline, he added.

Nkenna Uche, a legal practitioner and law teacher, supported Adaramola's view: "Existing law faculties in the older universities do not have adequate teaching staff and facilities. These new law faculties can only survive by poaching lecturers from them; a move aimed at obtaining full recognition and accreditation by NUC."

Some law lecturers are already complaining about a fall in legal education standards. Mohammed Ismaila, a graduate of the University of Dublin and former law lecturer at the University of Maiduguri, highlighted the inability of some young lawyers to express themselves in good English. He regretted that law faculties no longer required a sound knowledge of Latin, which he said was a "major reason" for declining standards.

Ismaila insisted that there was a correlation between his views on Latin and the controversy over the creation of law faculties in new universities. As a member of the Legal Council during the 1970s, Ismaila said he had already noticed a fall in legal education standards and warned colleagues not to create new law faculties unless Latin was an integral component of their curricula. He lost the battle.

"Now members of the Nigerian elite are shedding crocodile tears that there is a free fall in legal education standards. If we create more law faculties, the same disease we noticed in older law faculties will, expectedly, spread to new ones."

Other law lecturers support expansion in the number of law faculties as a way of accommodating demand for legal education. "All things being equal, it will take at least five years before the new law faculties attract experienced and tested law teachers," argued Rosaline Adeleke, a law lecturer.

But Adeleke warned those advocating new faculties of the need to introduce computer literacy into the legal education system - an imperative she believes they may not be able to afford. "The government may, out of necessity, commence the computerisation of old faculties of law. If this takes place, the new faculties will be producing substandard law graduates."

The rejection by law lecturers of new law faculties is spreading and governing councils of new universities are worried about the future of the new law faculties they are building. Their fears are well-founded: new universities have not complied with the law stipulating a number of years of operation before new institutions can create a law faculty.

Officials of the new universities have refused to comment publicly and debate the issue of creating new law faculties, but have privately confessed that they are on thin ice because they have erred. They are using 'quiet diplomacy' to try to persuade the NUC not to act against them, and have been advocating against closure of new faculties in Nigerian political circles.

"We created a new law faculty to provide an avenue for young Nigerians to become lawyers. The old faculties of law are congested," said an official of a new university who did not want to be named. "If our new faculty is closed down, it will spell doom for the young ones. We hope the NUC will not move against us."