‘Primary duty of government is to guarantee security of citizen’s lives’
Professor Adeniyi Olatunbosun attended University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) from 1985 to 1988 and the Nigerian Law School, Lagos 1988 to 1989. After his National Youth Service Scheme at Nigeria Military Police, Kaduna, he joined Ministry of Justice as a state counsel in September 1990 and rose to principal state counsel before he joined the services of OAU as Lecturer 11, department of International law in 1994, promoted lecturer 1 in 1998, senior lecturer in 2004 until May 31, 2013 when he was appointed a professor of law in University of Ibadan.
He served in many capacities as acting head o jurisprudence and private law 2006 to 2012, vice-dean 2008 to 2011 and faculty representative at the Postgraduate college, senate.
In University of Ibadan, he is the head of department of public and international law. He authored three books, edited two and has 75 publications to his credit in learned national and international journals.
Olatunbosun belongs to several academic and professional bodies such as the NBA, Nigerian Association of Law Teachers, European Society of Criminology and Nigerian Society of International Law among others.
Following the recent killing of the daughter of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Mrs. Funke Olakunrin by suspected bandits, the call for the establishment of state Police has been rekindled. In this interview with the head, South West Bureau, MUYIWA ADEYEMI and ROTIMI AGBOLUAJE, the dean, Faculty of law, University of Ibadan, Prof. Adeniyi Olatunbosun advocates establishment of regional police, which he said would be less expensive and affordable. He also spoke about the relevance of the Nigerian Law School and the standard of legal education in Nigeria.
What is your opinion about insecurity in the country?
It is very appalling. It is a source of concerns for everyone. In some of my classes, I tell the students, especially those at the master’s level. When you talk about the issue of criminal justice system, you discover that in the past, kidnapping was not treated in most standard texts in criminal law just about a page because it was not a crime that was rampant then. But now, some people can even write a whole text on it. So, it is because of the economic situation of the country, which also accounted for it. Although to most criminal lawyers they believe that poverty is not the reason for criminality. But from the criminology perspective, it is a factor that must be looked into that is indirectly responsible for the commission of a crime. I think what we need to put in place is that the enabling environment should be improved upon so that people will be able to have huge means of living and then probably crime would reduce. But for now, it’s worrisome. It’s all over the country. I believe government should put a lot into it to ensure that security of lives and property guaranteed. Because that is the essence we have government in place. The primary duty of government is to ensure that security of lives of the citizens are protected and guaranteed under the law.
There is this issue going on about government trying to find land for the herdsmen and the law vests in the land interest on the state governments. Does the Federal Government have any right on the land that belongs to the states?
Except the Act is amended under the Land Use Act, Federal Government has no jurisdiction over any land matter. But what the government usually does from that perspective is just to ensure that they have some diplomatic networking with some states and to see to that. But I believe that what is important is for us to have cattle ranches. That’s what obtains in advanced countries so that we can station the cattle in a considerable number of jurisdiction and boundary. I believe that is better than getting the reservation for Ruga that the government is trying to put across because it will create some kinds of issues, because pastoral farming is there. We also have subsistence farming. A lot of people are agrarian farmers and their produce is being affected on a daily basis. So, there is need for government to actually put in place what obtains in advanced countries. Even in South Africa, which is also of a rating standard with us as a nation. What we need to do is to readjust our priority and ensure we establish cattle ranches so that it will conserve the forest and also protect the products of farmers who have cultivated a large span of land for their produce.
What is your opinion about state police that people talk about now?
I have worked in that area of criminal law and criminal justice and I have said it several times in my papers. I support state police because it will bring security nearer to the people, but the problem I am envisaging is that, will the state be able to finance the expenses of state policemen and women? For now, most states are finding it difficult to pay salaries. If we have state police officers that are not producing anything but just rendering services, it will increase the overhead expenses of the state. And most of our states are not economically viable. The IGR is not as fantastic as we have in about five states of the federation. So, it will be a big challenge except that area of funding is set aside then we can do it. Because of the way and manner things are going, I think apart from state police, we can also have regional police. The Southwest governors can come together and establish a regional police, Southeast, Southsouth, Northwest, Northeast and Northcentral. It obtains in most of states in America. What they just do is that most of the time they are always on the move. They just have some head stations in any of these state and they pool resources together and finance it. Proximity is an advantage that will make it work better. Oyo and Osun states are closely related. Lagos and Ogun are close same as Ondo and Ekiti states.
What is your reaction to the argument that the Nigerian Law School should be proscribed and that the Nigerian law graduates should prepare for the examination of Council of Legal Education on their own like ICAN?
That is the idea of some. I will rather support the position that we keep up with the old tradition, because of the peculiarity of Nigeria as a nation. And in view of the increasing number of Faculties of Law we have in the country, there is a need to have a central body to serve as the clearing house and to ensure uniformity in the standard of performances of the students. If we leave individual universities as obtained in America, there is likelihood that there will be imbalance in the way and manner of assessment for the Law School. More so, the statute, unlike ICAN, which evolved as a result of professionals coming together, establishes the Council of Legal Education. It was integrated as part of professional requirement for legal education in 1962, which was the year that the five federal universities that started law began their law programme. It was meant to ensure a unified platform through which Law graduates from various facilities will come to Law School and there will be an even, a uniform manner of assessing them. For instance, if a person obtains a university degree from a university in Southwest and he made a first-class and another person obtained it from Southeast with a first class. If both of them come to the Law School and they made that first class, there is a confirmation that they are first class materials. But if we leave it to individual schools or faculties to prepare their products for examination, there may be some tendencies that the process may not be as harmonious as we have it now. So, that is why I believe that we should maintain the status quo. The only thing we can do is to strengthen our individual institutional bodies for them to get the required number of lecturers and teaching staff so that the products that will be coming will be tested products that can stand the test of time. Apart from examination, Law School also provides other forms of teaching and trying to moderate the character of students because apart from academic character, there is also the morality and the behavioural pattern. The purpose of the person being called to Bar, apart from academic requirement, you must been seen to be a person who is fit and proper. Fit and proper in that sense does not mean academic performance alone. You look at their comportment, demeanour, character and other kind of information. If it is the university, there is tendency to shield their products from any form of moral crisis, which may affect them from being called to Bar. A lot of graduates from various universities were denied, even when they passed Bar final examination, they were not called on genuine kinds of claims or counter-claims or petitions against them. If the petitions have been investigated and found to be true such person has been denied. Some have been banned for life, some are banned five, and 10 years until the time they can see some element of remorse in the character. So, I believe that we still need to retain Nigerian Law School.
Many people believe that legal education is falling. Do you agree to that? If yes, who is to blame?
As a teacher who has been teaching Law for about 25 years and have about 30 years post-call experience. I wouldn’t say the standard is falling. Like I have said several times in many fora, it is not actually that the standard is falling, it is the proportion of the students we have. For instance, if 500 students write an examination and 10 per cent of them failed, that is just about 50. But if is 5,000, the 10 per cent is 500 students. They won’t look at the percentage, it is the number. Not actually that the standard is falling. For instance, for a considerable number of years, we never had first class honours from many universities until in the recent times. And also, in the Law School, it is just of recent time that we recorded first class. University of Ibadan recorded 12 last year. These people went to law school and were able to have another 12. That is to show that the standard is not actually falling.
Did those who make first-class in Law School make it at UI?
Almost all of them, about eight of them made first class honours and when they got to law school, they made it also. And the manner in which the examination of law school is graded is differed from ours. For you to score a first class in Law School examination, you must score 70 in all the papers. If you have five papers, you must score 70 marks and above in all. If somebody scores 70, 80, 90 and 69 he is going to Second-class upper division just because of one mark. You must score 70 marks in all the papers. Whereas in the university, it is CGP we use. That is why you can build it up even if you are late starter. But by and large, we have been having significant improvement. I believe that the standard is still okay. Many of our products from Ibadan, Ife, Lagos, and ABU have gone abroad for master’s degree and they did well. Even most universities in the United Kingdom (UK) come to Nigeria to source for students because they know we have a large number of graduates especially in Law and even come and organise interactive sessions for them to come over there. Many of them have gone to University of Harvard and University of London and they have performed very well. If they could get that, I don’t believe that the standard is falling. Look at University of Ibadan for instance, the entry requirement is very high and so that is at the law school result of last year we had 99.9 per cent. Out of 135 students presented only one failed and that failure was just a conditional failure. Just to have a resit not outright failure. That particular candidate had some challenges because he had graduated for some years. He couldn’t go because of financial challenge and people rallied round and some alumni also assisted. So, it depends on where you are looking at. It is relative. But I believe that the standard is still okay. The only thing is the proportion in term of number now is increasing and we need to ensure that we maintain standard in that regard.
Why is ethics not taken as course on legal education curriculum?
We have professional ethics as a course at Law School. But we are trying to entrench it in the university curriculum. I recall that the former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) chairman was at the forefront of the call for it to be inculcated, but the problem we are having for now is that in every university we have curriculum committee. You cannot just bring in a course that has not been approved. Most of the time, we review curriculum after every five years. For instance, at the University of Ibadan we reviewed our L.L.B. curriculum last in 2016. So we have to wait till 2021 before we can review it. Hopefully, by that time, we can inculcate it as part of a course to be offered by our students.
Well, this is the period of our conference, the 52nd annual conference of Law Teachers and the theme is: “Legal Education, Research and Innovation” and what we are doing is to see how we can restructure our legal education curriculum to meet the current needs of our students. There is a need for us to move from the old pattern of dictating notes to the students. Our teaching should be towards learning-centered on students. Most of our students now, their level of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is very high. So, teachers need to avail themselves of that. Many of them do not like the monotonous way of passing knowledge to them. When you say anything now, they can Google it on their phone whether it is correct or not. So, we also need to be abreast so as to keep our job and to also be relevant in the system. That’s an aspect we are talking about. I believe we need to come back and see how we can improve our learning pedagogy and all the rest so that the students will be happy with us and we also will be happy that we are imparting knowledge.
Restructuring means different things to different people. What is your perspective on this?
Restructuring is relative within the context of Nigerian nation. Like I said earlier, regional policing is a form of restructuring. But to completely say that let all the states donate their sovereignty or power to the central or to their regional centers may be difficult in that manner. Now we have 36 states, before, when we didn’t have up to that, people had to come to the centre. I believe what is important when we talk about restructuring; there are some key areas of our public administration that requires some elements of readjustment to face the reality of modern time. But there are some areas in which the Federal Government needs to divest itself of the powers because the functions of the central are just too huge. I was involved in the electoral process of recent; one of the challenges we faced about logistics is because INEC is involved in too many aspects of electoral stages. They are the one that go about pre-electoral issue of primaries, they are the one that register political parties, print papers, distribute ballot boxes, recruit staff and conduct the election and others. They don’t need to be involved in too many of these. There could be other forms of commissions or institutions to be set up. Maybe, one could be in charge of printing ballot boxes and materials – One for monitoring of electoral processes. For instance, pre-primary issues, I don’t see any constitutional or democratic values or norms that is required for INEC to be involved in pre-primaries of political parties. That shouldn’t be the concern. It’s never done anywhere.
Still on restructuring, talking about the central too powerful and devolution of powers, how can we make Nigeria work better?
Yes, we can do restructuring if the layers of governance are a little bit harmonised so that the proliferation would be reduced, the red-tapism and bottleneck would be reduced. Then, there will be efficiency in it. I believe that when we talk about restructuring there are some key areas, if you look at the constitutional provisions under the schedule to the Constitution; many powers are left to the centre. Like you talked about getting of land. Land is vested in the governor of the state. Now, the government wants to take over that aspect again. In restructuring I believe there is a need for us to actually look at some areas whereby we should leave it completely for the states and some for local government areas. Because when you talk about restructuring, at times the state also amasses some of the powers and functions of local councils, which ought not to be. Also, I believe that we need to commend the politicians for sustaining democracy in Nigeria. This is 20th anniversary of democracy bearing some challenges here and there. I believe if we can retain it for another 10 years, we will have got to the stage where we say our democracy is in place. There could be some challenges, some shortcomings but what is important is that the spirit of constitutionalism is being upheld. The governors that were voted out have been admitting that and they relinquished power; even at the presidential land state and National Assembly levels. I believe our democracy is on course. There is a pathway to development. I also believe that government needs to put more into ensuring that our lives are secure. The title of my inaugural lecture, which I delivered in 2014, is “Tough on crime, Soft on justice”, we look at this issue of Boko Haram and insurgency, and emphasis has always been on punitive aspect. Government has always trying to put up some kinds of things to show that they want to deal with them without actually looking at de-radicalising those found in that manner. Otherwise someone who has made up his mind to have a kind of self-elimination by suicide mission, what kind of punishment you want to give the person? So, there is a need for us to readjust penal policy to ensure that we bring into the fold some of these alleged criminals and see how we can revamp them to ensure that there is a need for us to dialogue with most of them to come together to maintain peace. I believe that government needs to go outside the traditional concept of maintaining law and order and see better ways to make people to actually see reason why they have to abide by the rule of law in our society.