Law School at 50: Decentralization has brought diversity and challenges – Prof. Oyewo:
PRofessor Oyelowo Oyewo, the immediate Past Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, is the Chairman of the 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee of the Council of Legal Education (CLE), a former Member of the Council and the Council of the Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies (NIALS).In this interview, he spoke on the Nigerian Law School at 50 taking a look at its problems , progress and prospect. Excerpts .
AS the Nigerian Law School celebrates its 50th Anniversary, what would you say is the significance of the celebration?
The celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) and the Nigerian Law School (NLS) is first an acknowledgement of their contributions to legal education. Second, to evolve a new paradigm in the relationship between the institutions and their Alumni. Third, to establish platform for endowments in and advancement of the NLS by the different strata of stakeholders in the NLS. Lastly to take time to acknowledge the contributions of various personalities in the establishment, operation, and growth of the institutions, and to honour some of these personalities.
How would you describe the landmark achievements of the institution in the last half a century?
The first noticeable achievement is the sourcing of the legal personnel for a whole arm of government, the judiciary, almost entirely from the products of the NLS. The NBA has more than 90% of its current membership being products of the NLS. Consequently, one can ascribe the vibrancy of the legal industry in Nigeria to the enduring quality of the products of the NLS!
In what ways would you say the NLS has impacted on the polity especially as it is the only institution saddled with training of lawyers?
Clearly, graduates of the NLS have played significant roles in government, especially as Chief Law Officers/Attorneys General of the Federation and the States. Indeed, Governors like Fashola (Lagos), Suswan (Benue), Imoke (Cross River), Shema (Katsina), among others. The Federal Legislature has Speaker Tambuwal, Deputy Senate President Ekweremadu, Senate Majority Leader Ndoma Egba, House Minority Leader Gbajabiamila, to mention a few, as graduates of the NLS. Several Political Leaders passed through the NLS. The polity can therefore be said to have been impacted one way or the other by the Lawyers trained by the NLS.
How has the Law School fared in the last five decades, considering some of the challenges it has faced?
The NLS evolved from a mono – bi-campus into a multi-campus institution, with campuses in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Kano, Yenegoa and Yola. From a three month course Programme, it has transformed into a full year course Programme with reviewed curriculum and teaching methodology to meet the needs of the contemporary legal industry in Nigeria.
Would you say the founding fathers of the Nigerian Law School are happy with the state of the institution?
The vision of the founding fathers to have an institution for the training of Lawyers in Nigeria has not only been long realised but has been surpassed by the current state of development of the NLS, considering that from a single campus in Lagos 5 more campuses have been established in the last 50 years.
Some are of the view that decentralization of the Law School campuses has affected the quality of lawyers being produced; do you agree?
Of course decentralization of the NLS through the establishment of the other Campuses brought some diversity and challenges of quality assurance and control. However, the NLS Administration has risen up to the challenges through reforms and innovations that ensures uniformity and equality of standards in all the 6 Campuses in all ramifications.
Others have advocated a complete review of the institution’s curriculum to meet present day challenges; what is your take on this?
NLS/CLE have embarked on the review of curriculum and reform of teaching methodology in the light of modern technological developments and changing nature of client needs, awareness, and legal practice. Indeed, the National Universities Commission has been constantly revising the curriculum for legal education (BMAS) and the standard of legal education is being constantly reviewed to meet the challenges of the legal industry.
In what ways would you say NLS alumni have contributed to its development in the past 50 years?
In the past, various sets of the Alumni of the NLS have undertaken projects to improve the infrastructures in the various Campuses of NLS. However, with the 40th Anniversary celebration, the Council passed a resolution to formally institute the Alumni Association of the NLS and to establish an Endowment/Development Office to integrate the Alumni into the process of contributing to the provision of infrastructure and other developmental requirements of the institution. This is has already started yielding dividends as the various campuses have had donations and contributions from Alumni in governments and private sectors to the provision of infrastructure in their campuses.
Would you say the institution has been attracting quality hands in terms of academic staff, considering the available facilities and other incentives?
The NLS relationship with the various Universities and the NBA ensures a constant blended stream of qualified, competent, and versatile personnel in the academic and administrative staff of the institution. The terms and conditions of service of personnel is comparable to that obtainable in the various tertiary institutions, the staff are thus well motivated and incentive driven.
What next after the 50th Anniversary celebration?What is the vision for the school in the next 50 years?
The blueprint for the medium and long-term vision of the NLS is the primary concern of the Council for Legal Education (CLE). There are several projects and plans for the future and some of such projects are in the pipeline for execution through endowments, donations, and stakeholders contributions for the development of the NLS for the next 50 years.