The Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Mr. Olanrewaju Onadeko, has again bemoaned what he described as a continuous fall in the standard of the Nigerian legal education system, regretting that the problems bedevelling the institution were becoming manifold by the day, especially due to the growing population of students.
Onadeko expressed this concern in his homecoming address to the members of the Nigerian Law School class of 1975 who held their 40th reunion dinner at the institution’s Lagos campus on November 28.
Onadeko debunked the claim that the school was deliberately making it difficult for people to qualify as legal practitioners, frowning on a situation where the present-day parents expected the Nigerian Law School to bring its standard down to the level of their children rather than encourage the students to move up.
He said, “Students of today have more access to knowledge than in your own time. Nowadays, whatever new law or progress of jurisprudence anywhere in the world can be accessed at the touch of a button and the consequence of this, we have realised, is that our students are not reading as much as you did because they tend to read only those things that they consider relevant to what they want to do. So, some superficiality goes on now and that is quite worrisome.”
The DG also put a share of the blame on the incursion and proliferation of private universities into the Nigerian tertiary education system, where, according to him, admission criteria were not stringent enough and students were churned out in a garbage-in-garbage-out manner.
He said, “We are hearing some disturbing news about some of them having a policy of ensuring that all those who come in graduate and this is very disturbing because it is not the same in the state and federal universities. But they pay so much in the private universities and again the admission criteria are not as stringent as what you have in the federal and state universities.
“And perhaps the most disturbing is the continuous proliferation of universities in countries bordering Nigeria, purposely set up for Nigerians to train there and obtain degrees, which is most disturbing.
“Last year, a particular university in Benin Republic sent to us 150 graduates. That is the quota given to the Lagos State University, that is the quota of the University of Ilorin, that is the quota of University of Ibadan and this is a university located outside… And in truth these are students who could not get admission into Nigeria universities, but they lower the standard and graduate students in fewer years than we would have done in Nigeria.”
But in spite of all the challenges, Onadeko said there was no doubt that the future of legal education in Nigeria was bright.
He also boasted that the top students of the Nigerian Law School were top students anywhere in the world.
He described the 1975 set as a class of achievers.
A former DG of the institution, Dr. Kole Abayomi (SAN), who gave the pre-dinner speech, charged lawyers in the country to take the lead in public discourse.
“Our country needs leadership and the leadership must come from you lawyers,” Abayomi said.
Before giving a toast to the members of the class, a justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, fumed at what he described as unfounded allegations of corruption against the judiciary saying such was destroying not only the judiciary but the nation at large.
“That is the level to which this country has descended, where the judiciary gets bashed all the time. The kind of things we read on Sahara Reporters and in the papers about giving N20bn to an election tribunal; has anybody stopped to think how that N20bn was carried? Meanwhile the whole country and the institution are being destroyed and maligned,” Rhodes-Vivour fumed.
A member of the 1975 class, Mr. Chidi Ilogu (SAN), identified ability to remain focused and hard work as some of the requirements to achieve success in legal practice.
“People must always remember that Rome was not built in a day. What it takes, if you ask me, is perseverance, determination, focus and hard work. What tends to happen is that many times people are not ready to be focused, they beat about right, left and centre. It is not about making money, it is about being fulfilled in the career path that you have chosen,” he said.
On behalf of the 1975 class, Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN) announced the donation of N2m worth of solar power inverter to one of the hostels in the school to address the problem of poor power.
Among those who graced the occasion were a former Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Ayotunde Phillips (retd.), a former Chief Judge of Ogun State, Justice Charles Jacobs; Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court and many others.