The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Council of Legal Education CLE, two lawmakers and some stakeholders on Monday in Abuja kicked against the move by the Senate to create new six law schools in addition to the existing seven.
They warned that legal education in the country should not be politicised by the Senate in its new move..
Specifically, they said that the function of establishing law schools is vested in the Council of Legal Education and that such power should not be usurped by the National Assembly.
Stiff opposition against the move for additional law schools in each of the geo-political zones, came to the fore at the public hearing organised on a bill seeking for its establishment and two others by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
The Senate committee, chaired by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), had at the public hearing sought for inputs from critical stakeholders on the legislative proposal titled: “Legal Education (Consolidated etc, Amendment ) Bill 2021” but got unfavorable submissions from them.
First to pick holes in the bill were Senators Ike Ekweremadu (PDP Enugu West) and Seriake Dickson (PDP Bayelsa West) who called on their colleagues to be cautious on the proposal.
Ekweremadu in particular warned against politicising legal education, saying “establishment of new campuses or law schools should be left at the discretion of Council for Legal Education as empowered by the Act that set it up in 1962.”
Also opposing the proposed piece of legislation, the National President of NBA, Olumide Akpata, said the move was unnecessary as the existing six law schools were grossly underfunded before the intervention of Rivers State government with a well equipped campus in Port Harcourt.
“With required infrastructure, the existing law schools across the country are enough to accommodate thousands of law students graduating from the various universities.
“The Council for Legal Education is the institution empowered by law to set up a new campus on the basis of need assessment and not political considerations driving the move for establishment of additional six across the six geo-political zones.
“Besides, resources of the federal government which are wearing out, cannot help in putting in place such campuses let alone sustaining them.
“What is required from the Senate and by extension the National Assembly , is to by way of Appropriation, team up with the executive for adequate funding of the existing law schools,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, chairman of the Council for Legal Education, Emeka Ngige said the council is 100% opposed to it.
The position of the council, he lamented, arose from the deplorable condition of most of the existing ones now due to gross underfunding.
“For instance, the deplorable condition in which students at the Yenagoa law campus are studying, is worse than what prisoners in Ikoyi Prison are experiencing,” he said.
He pointedly told the lawmakers that they will shed tears if they visit some of the existing campuses and see the deplorable conditions in which students and lecturers are living.
“The move by the Senate through this bill is more or less a subtle usurpation of the functions of the Council for Legal Education.
“Any need for establishment of a new law school campus are by law, be routed through the Council for Legal Education as exemplified by the Rivers model,” he stressed.
However, the sponsor of the bill, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC Kogi West), Senator Abiodun Olujimi (PDP Ekiti South), Kashim Shettima (APC Borno Central), Femi Falana, John Bayeshes, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN
argued for establishment of the proposed law schools for accessibility of legal education by concerned knowledge seekers.
Earlier, chairman of the committee explained that the bill seeks to amend the extant Act in order to make provision for increase in the number of the Nigerian Law School campuses from the current six to 12 with one additional campus in each of the geo-political zone.
Senator Bamidele noted that many students struggle to secure admission into the Law School for them to qualify as legal practitioners in the country.
He said the move was to cater for the upsurge in the application for intake into the Law School on yearly basis, adding that “this amendment will also bring about reform in the legal education and encourage conducive learning environment for both the students and teachers at the Nigerian Law School.”