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Don harps on importance of improved legal education in Nigeria

By Joseph Onyekwere
10 December 2019   |   4:12 am
Immediate past head of Department, Jurisprudence, Public and International Law, Abia State University, Prof. Ezenwa Ngwakwe has harped on the importance...

Vice president Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) (3rd left); his wife, Dolapo Osinbajo; Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN); Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN) and others during the law school class 89 reunion in Abuja.

Immediate past head of Department, Jurisprudence, Public and International Law, Abia State University, Prof. Ezenwa Ngwakwe has harped on the importance of improved legal education in Nigeria.

The don, who articulated the objectives of legal education and organised training to achieve those objectives, provided historical information on the emergence of formal legal education in Nigeria.

His lecture, titled “Legal Education in the 21st Century,” was delivered during the anniversary dinner and awards ceremony of the Nigerian Law School Alumni Association Class of 1989, which held at the Nigerian Air Force Event Centre, Kado, Abuja recently.

The event also featured the launch of its ground-breaking e-Learning/e-Mentoring/e-Continuing Legal Education (CLE) portal to support quality training and retraining of Nigerian Law School (NLS) students and lawyers, especially young lawyers as well as a health walk for members.

Ngwakwe, who noted the pioneer status of Sapara Williams as the first Nigerian to be trained as a lawyer, explained that all subsequent lawyers up to 1960 were trained abroad until local training started with UNN and the other first generation universities, which established law faculties.

He recalled that the NLS was established in 1964 for practical training of lawyers, as recommended by the Unsworth Committee Report on the Future of Legal Education.

“This report led to the enactment of the two major laws regulating legal education today – The Legal Education Act 1962, and The Legal Practitioners Act 1964. Subsequent universities largely queued into this structure which drove legal training to the eclipse of the 20th century.

“Over time, shortcomings and weaknesses began to manifest in both the content and structure of these training processes and the quality of the products – the new lawyers. The factors, which contributed to the tardiness of the lawyer products included issues of competing teaching methodologies, declining ethical standards, institutional problematics, career focus and specialisation deficits as well as knowledge updating through continuing legal education,” he said.

According to Prof. Ngwakwe, ICT revolution came to the rescue at the dawn of 21st century and changed both the form and substance of legal education through introduction of ICT teaching and learning methods and even the practice methods of the courts.

“These have responded significantly to the problems of legal training that greeted the century at inception. 19 years of the century have given high hopes of paradigm shift for a better legal education, and possibly clues of the direction of the balance 81 years of the century ahead. There are indications that greater heights could be attained, but the threats of institutional problematics like decaying school infrastructures, poor funding, cultism, strike actions, abuse of liberties by administrators and lecturers, would need to be addressed,” he stated.

He ended the anniversary lecture by highlighting the benefits of the e-Learning/e-Mentoring/e-Continuing Legal Education (CLE) portal as a useful tool in improving legal education in Nigeria.

In his speech, Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) commended the Nigerian Law School Class of 89 for creating the portal.

He charged them to continue to be good ambassadors of the profession in any field of endeavor they found themselves.

Osinbajo said: “I must say that only the most altruistic and introspective think in terms of alumni associations because it is about giving back. So I must commend your class for your thoughtfulness and generosity especially for the donation of the much needed e-portal.

“Remember that to who much is given, much is expected. Being a lawyer makes you an elite of sorts and puts you on an elite status without a doubt…because we represent a tiny fraction of the most educated elite of Nigeria. But whether you practice law or not, you have a tremendous responsibility as one of the extremely few people who have been exposed to the discipline of the study of law and justice to impact our world more profoundly.”

According to Mr. Emeka Albert, Chairman of the NLS Class of 1989, the e-platform “is a first in Africa and will transform legal education and legal practice in Nigeria within a short period.”

Mr. Albert called for partnership and collaboration from various stakeholders both within and outside the legal profession and corporate organizations to support the initiative and help to enhance the quality of legal education in Nigeria.

The event attracted many of the class alumni from within and outside the country who reconnected with their mates after so many years. The dinner also witnessed the conferment of coveted awards on some alumni including the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo; Minister of State for Education, Mr. Emeka Nwajiuba as well as Justice Obande Ogbuinya, Justice Biobele Georgewill and Justice Bilkisu Aliyu, all of the Court of Appeal and several other High Court Judges, Senior Advocates of Nigeria and Professors of Law.

Other dignitaries in attendance were Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN); Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adongor, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Delta State, Mr. Peter Mrakpor, and others.