OPINION: Buhari and the embattled NOUN law graduates, By Carl Umegboro


Carl Umegboro

Nigeria’s most populous tertiary institution, National Open University of Nigeria with a population of over 500,000 active students has become a brand in providing quality education to the populace. By the unique global initiative, government is strategically bringing education to the doorsteps of the citizenry, thus, drastically reducing the hitherto wide gap between the educated and non-educated population.

No doubt, the university’s newly approved postgraduate law programmes: Master of Law and Master of International Law and Diplomacy under the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and other faculties’ programmes are positive developments. It is expected that its counterpart, the Council of Legal Education, should follow suit to urgently remove the oppressed NOUN law graduates from the streets since 2013 the first set graduated.

However, such advanced law programme when the Bachelor of Laws degree which is the prerequisite for admission into the Nigerian Law School has yet to secure admission for vocational training, is more or less a Greek gift as far as those trapped NOUN Law graduates are concerned knowing that the postgraduate degrees cannot solve the problems on the ground. Not even a doctorate degree in Law can competently replace a call-to-bar certificate.

For instance, a postgraduate programme in law; be it LLM or MILD or even PhD (Law) is merely for specialisation and not a requirement for admission into the law school. And there are numerous senior lawyers who possibly rose to their peak position of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria without going for the LLM degree. Thus, it’s merely for advancement in the career and doesn’t affect admission into the law school or enhance a call-to-bar.

In the Faculty of Law, vocational training for call-to-bar is the most important programme after the LLB degree as it enables law graduates to be called to bar for practice of which without it, the efforts to obtain the LLB degree become a futile exercise except the graduate succeeds in getting employment in an unrelated field against their aspirations or dream.

So far, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, has put in commendable efforts towards resolving the crisis in many instances and his counterpart, the Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), should follow suit as evidence glaringly show that all the delays in resolving the crisis stem from the latter’s ministry.

President Muhammadu Buhari has a duty of protection by ensuring that under national security, the helplessly trapped innocent citizens do not under any circumstance remain in the dilemma. To be precise, they shouldn’t be excluded in the forthcoming batch of intakes into the Nigerian Law School, as citizens that completed their law programme in an accredited institution cannot continue to roam the streets for no just cause.

It is worthy of note that on December 7, 2019 precisely, it will be a complete one year since President Buhari selflessly gave assent to the NOUN Amendment Act as an intervention remedy. Regrettably, the dilemma remains unabated. The unending drama is condemnable.

These citizens must not be pushed into mass actions before the needful is done!

The recent memo from the Federal Ministry of Education dated September 23, 2019 to the Federal Ministry of Justice for an urgent stakeholders’ meeting on the protracted crisis following the directives from the Presidency, which unfortunately is still not treated one month after, attests to Adamu’s value for equity.

By its cliché, ‘work and learn’, NOUN, as an outlet, has provided education to people of diverse status including Nigeria’s former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who recently completed his studies under strict invigilation and bagged a doctorate degree in Theology. Without mincing words, NOUN has become a generic model of excellence.

Other prominent figures who had or are still undergoing one course of study or another in the institution are too numerous to mention. However, a unique feature of NOUN that puts it ahead of other universities is the template that separates lecturers/facilitators from examiners and students thereby tactically blocking avenues for examination malpractices, cultism, sexual overtures or lecturers’ harassment for scores that thrive in other universities; hence, it is either to fervently study or end up as a dropout.

The unending cases of sexual harassments and other vices in many universities in the recent times including University of Lagos call for an overhaul of the academic system in the country as the present system has to a large extent continued to be counterproductive.

The newly approved postgraduate programme in law is not a bad idea as NOUN is suitably proficient for the gesture. However, it cannot remedy the crisis on the ground, hence, let the needful be done. NOUN’s quota for admission is long overdue and the innocent law graduates shouldn’t continue to roam the streets. I conclude with a quote by Bill Gates, “Discrimination has a lot of layers that make it tough for minorities to get a leg up”.

  • Carl Umegboro, Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom)
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