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Why Only Unilag Is Fully Accredited To Offer Law – Council For Legal Education – Independent Newspapers Limited


Elias, former Dean, Faculty of Law, Unilag

In this piece, STEPHEN UBIMAGO writes on the recent disclosure by the Council For Legal Education of the Nigerian Law School that only the Law Faculty of the University of Lagos has its full accreditation to run the Law programme…

In 2013, when the former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Professor Epiphany Azinge (SAN), published a research finding conducted by the institution on the quality of legal education being offered by the law faculties in the various Nigerian universities, not a few could have sworn a la Nigerian way that the finding was rigged in favour of the Law Faculty of the University of Lagos (Unilag), which the research found to be the best in the country.

Why Unilag when of course the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Law Faculty that has an age-old reputation for producing notable members of the legal profession is still there? Some are said to have asked as if a moot point already.

Why Unilag when, for example, the famous Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Nigeria, the University of Benin, among others, are strong rivals that can give the institution a run for its money.

Azinge in a statement, however, explained that the research was scientific, dispassionate and meant to be a periodic exercise for which the various universities could compete to occupy the top spot in a virtuous cycle that would ultimately lead to improvement in the quality of legal education in the country.

He said: “Our duty demands that we undertake a project of this nature to promote standardization and for the mutual benefit of the students and institutions.

“Thus, the essence of this ranking is to challenge Nigerian law faculties to improve standards in all aspect.

“This ranking is not interminable as law faculties that were not captured in the top ten rank are encouraged to improve their standards significantly so as to stand a chance in subsequent years.

“Whilst those ranked are encouraged also not to rest on their oars but to work tirelessly to maintain already set standard.”

Insisting that the institute’s findings were published after an assiduous research and collation of scientific data, Azinge listed the ten best Law Faculties in the descending order as: University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Jos, University of Benin, Lagos State University, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Nigeria, Babcock University, University of Maiduguri and Igbinedion University.

Four years after the publication of the finding, the management of Unilag’s Law Faculty has hardly rested on its oars. Rather they tend to have heeded Azinge’s admonition to the effect that the top-ranked should “work assiduously to maintain already set standard.”

Hence, barely three weeks ago, the Council for Legal Education of the Nigeria Law School in a statement disclosed that of all the universities in the country, only Unilag runs a law programme fully accredited by it.

Curiously, nonetheless, the Law Faculty of the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, which was ranked fifth among the best 10 in the country by NIALS four years ago, only recently lost its accreditation to run its Law programme, the Council disclosed.

Other universities whose accreditation was similarly suspended are the University of Abuja and Benue State University.

Among the criteria used by NIALS in granting Unilag a sterling rating are: the number of applications per session; the number of admissions; staff strength; staff-student ratio; quality of law library; quality of its post-graduate studies; capacity building – external and internal; publications; international accomplishment; among others.

Besides, students from Unilag’s Law Faculty at the Nigerian Law School are said to often outperform their colleagues in the yearly Bar Finals exams.

An alumnus of the Faculty, Chief Gani Adetola-Kaseem (SAN), who was called to the bar in December 1980, corroborated the point in an interview with INDEPENDENT.

He said, “It was with our set in the Law School that classification of grades began.

“Before our time, you either passed or failed your bar exams; there was nothing like the first or second or third class grading system.

“This classification system started with Law School set of 1980. Out of a class of 540 students, seven of us made second class upper division. I was one of them.

“Incidentally out of those seven that made Upper Second Class, five came from the Faculty of Law of the University of Lagos. I think one came from Ife and the other from Nsukka.

“Mr. Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) from UNILAG law Faculty, who currently practices in Port Harcourt, was then the best all-round student.

“The deceased Chief Judge of Osun State, Fasasi Ogunsola, was also one of them.”

Some have enthused that if the institution could maintain its current form, then it might remain in the lead for a very long time, since it has the advantage of being located in Lagos, the nation’s economic nerve centre, unlike other universities in the country.

As a consequence, it is able attract some of the leading eggheads in the legal profession in Nigeria as members of its faculty, three of whom are Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

They are Professor Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), Professor Imran Olawole Smith (SAN), and Dr. Wale Olawoyin (SAN).

In fact until recently, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) was a member of the Law Faculty of the institution.

The Faculty is also said to have been sired by the finest. Its founding Dean and leading Company Law expert, the revered Professor Laurence Cecil Bartlett Gower (29 December 1913 – 25 December 1997), is said to have laid its foundation between 1962, when he founded it, and 1966, when he left to later become the Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

Professor Gower’s deanship was succeeded by that of the legal genius, Professor Teslim Olawale Elias, Nigeria’s first indigenous Attorney General, later Chief Justice of Nigeria and subsequently President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

Successors to the deanship of this iconoclastic duo are in the order: Professor A. B. Kasunmu (SAN), former Attorney -General of Lagos State; Prof M. I. Jegede (SAN); Prof C. O. Olawoye; Prof M. A.Ajomo, former NIALS’ DG; Prof A. A. Adeogun, former Unilag DVC; Prof Jelili. A. Omotola (SAN), former Unilag VC; and Prof A. O. Obilade.

The rest are Prof O Agbede; Prof E. O. Akanki; Prof A.A. Adeyemi; Prof (Mrs) C. K. Agomo; Professor O. Oyewo; Prof I. O. Smith (SAN); Prof Akin Ibidapo-Obe; and currently Prof. A. V. Atsenuwa.

Needless to note, the collective contributions of this succession of distinguished deanship helped to lift the institution to a pedestal of excellence, giving it a rich heritage and pedigree.

Established in 1962, the Unilag Law Faculty is one of the foundation teaching units of the university.

Teaching in the Faculty started in October, 1962 with an academic staff strength of five (two Nigerians and three Englishmen); and 26 pioneer full-time students.

According to the Faculty in its website, “The Faculty considers its role to be that of providing a sound university education in law in consonance with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Advisory Commission’s Report on the establishment of the University of Lagos.”

It added, “Since its inception, the Faculty has been going through experimental stages involving several changes in the curriculum.

“In particular, the changes have taken into consideration the growing need to teach law in the light of social, political and economic changes and the need to inculcate the idea of understanding law not for its own sake but with reference to its relevance to society, locally and internationally.

“The Faculty was divided into the four departments with effect from 1st October, 1977. They are: the Department of Commercial and Industrial Law, the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law the Department of Private and Property Law; and the Department of Public Law.

“Each Department is headed by a Professor of Law.

QUOTE:

‘Among the criteria used by NIALS in granting Unilag a sterling rating are: the number of applications per session; the number of admissions; staff strength; staff-student ratio; quality of law library; quality of its post-graduate studies; capacity building – external and internal; publications; international accomplishment; among others’

 



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