IF students who enrolled for the law programme at the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, had known that upon graduation from the institution they would not be allowed to attend the Nigerian Law School, they would not have opted for the law programme of the institution.
This is because though they are graduates of law, unfortunately, they cannot be addressed as lawyers, because they have not attended law school or been called to the bar. Of what use is a law degree from a prestigious university if the certificate acquired is not recognised by the Nigerian Law School, queried NOUN students as they decry being denied entrance into law school, year in year out. NOUN admission strength soars: Considering the admission strength of NOUN since take-off in 2001 where about 32,400 students gained admission, the intake rose in 2011 to 57,759. The school has 63 study centres even as it claims to offer over 50 programmes and 750 courses. Incidentally, limitations of NOUN graduates go beyond being banned from law school. Graduates of the institution are also not called to serve in the National Youth Service Corps scheme.
NOUN delivers courses by correspondence: According to Vanguard’s findings, the major reason NOUN graduates are not allowed into the national service and law school is the Act establishing the university which states that the institution should deliver courses by correspondence. The Council for Legal Education, the agency responsible for managing law schools, in interpreting this Act and in particular the word ‘correspondence,’ considers NOUN as a correspondence and part-time institution. It, therefore, ruled that graduates from the law department would not be accepted into law schools.
As published on the website of Law Repository Nigeria, the Council has prescribed conditions which a university faculty must comply with before its products are eligible for admission into law school. It also prescribed good conduct as a condition for admission to the law school and eventual call to the Bar. NOUN’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Abdalla Adamu in his response debunked the claims, saying NOUN is not a correspondence school and also not part-time institution as referred to by people. He said, “It is Open and Distance Learning (ODL),” and explained that students in the school interface with lecturers. Adamu said, “In order to meet with the requirements of the Council for Legal Education, we made it mandatory for our study centres to have classrooms where Law lecturers teach students. We have mock courts in our study centres where students simulate a court situation.” To him, the problem was more of policy and understanding, adding, “we are moving towards solving it as the National Assembly has stepped into the problem and we are hoping that it would be sorted out this year.” The vice-chancellor also posited that there is a link between the problem of the law programme and the NYSC. Part-time students can’t serve: According to him, statutorily, the NYSC doesn’t call people to serve if they are doing courses that are considered to be part-time. Do you see the link? Regrettably, he lamented that the NYSC is also hanging on that belief, and therefore, sees NOUN students as part-time students.
“However, a bill is before the National Assembly, in which we requested the lawmakers to expunge the word correspondence and replace it with ODL. The bill has passed through the first and second readings and is waiting for the third reading,” he added. Reacting to the denial of NOUN law graduates from the Nigerian Law School, the Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Professor Olanrewaju Onadeko (SAN), said: “I cannot speak on the matter because it is in public hearing before the National Assembly.” Law school has strict requirement: In his reaction, Professor Itse Sagay said that the law school represent the professional education side and they have very strict entry requirement, adding that it has some minimum standard that has to be met. He said, “In accrediting a university for law school, the Nigerian Legal Council sends names of their top professors and all members of staff to the institution to check their programmes, course, facilities and how they are taught. “Therefore, passing through to a law faculty does not entitle a university graduate automatic ticket to law school. Universities must meet their criteria. So, I don’t know whether NOUN has met these classified criteria. NOUN should ask the authorities of Law School what they really need to do to qualify their graduates for law school.” Speaking in the same vein, Dr. Kayode Babatunde Oyende, a law lecturer at the Lagos State University, Ojo, said that the main issue why Nigerian Legal Council would not approve the National Open University, law programme was basically for two reasons.
He pointed out that the inability of NOUN to run a full-time programme and the absence of physical contact between students and lecturers were causative agents. Lecturers, students interaction missing: He said, “The issue is that NOUN programme is run on correspondence. And lecturers and students’ physical interactions rarely exist. It is stated that law programmes in universities should be on full- time basis and that the lecturers should have a personal contact with their students. Mind you, the purpose of the NOUN is to provide a platform to those who are working to acquire certificates to improve their upward mobility. They should stick to that.” On the way out, he added that NOUN should stick to only offering of LL.B programmes rather than training of lawyers. “What I will advise NOUN to do is to stick to the LL.B programme and leave the training of lawyers to the Nigerian Law School. They should state this clearly in the prospectus that admission to the programme does not mean admittance for Law School training,” he said. Oyende, however posited that nothing stops NOUN law students from doing the mandatory National Youths Service Corps, provided they meet the requirements.