Today, the next batch of lawyers will be called to the Nigerian Bar. The Nigerian Law School itself will be celebrating its golden jubilee.
Set up by the federal government through the instrument of the Legal Education Act of 1962, the Nigerian Law School commenced operation on Igbosere Road, Lagos Island, in 1963. In the successive years, it has spread its tentacles - first to Victoria Island and later Abuja as headquarters – and moved on to Kano, Enugu, Yenagoa and Yola. As a last-stop institution for would-be lawyers – solicitors and advocates, notaries, public, and legal draughts-men and women -- the Law School harmonises training and curriculum for all graduates of Law from Nigerian institutions and for Nigerians trained abroad.
While the Council of Legal Education is the approving authority of its programmes, the administrative machinery of the school has always been steered by a director-general. Over the years, the school has grappled with concomitant challenges to fulfil its mandate of providing the knowledge gap in law practice as a gatekeeper and guide to the web of law and its practitioners. Successive directors-general have trudged through these challenges to ensure that the standard of legal training and enrolment for practice is not compromised.
Many of these challenges, however, emanate from the background of the students: often, they graduated from universities bedevilled by strikes, poor funding, workers’ poor attitude to work, collapse in ethical values and inadequate infrastructure.
The issue of school fees also challenges the students, parents and prospective students. The just-concluded session cost each student N245, 000 - exclusive of other ancillary financial requirements for application forms, administrative charges, books, call-to-bar and practice costumes and charges. Incoming students are likely to pay more. The multi-campus system indeed has its advantages, peculiarities and challenges. It tasks the school management in terms of harmonisation of curriculum, infrastructure and standards across the board. For now, however, it seems to be the workable formula for satisfying the multitudinous graduates being churned out by the universities.
We felicitate with the school and its current director-general, Dr Tahir Mamman, on this Golden Jubilee. There is now a need to revisit certain issues such as increasing the number of years spent in Law School to give room for proper grooming and immersion to the noble but conservative profession. There is also the need to continue to broaden and sustain the newly introduced curriculum for legal education. The present reality suggests that the knowledge of law, practice of law and the business of law should be learned and taught. The Council of Legal Education should be transparent in its assessment of law facilities across the country’s universities and the ranking of their intakes into the school.
This elite school has trained almost 90,000 lawyers so far, despite all the challenges. Indeed, the authorities of the Law School have acquitted themselves. This day calls for celebration.