By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Acting Chairman, Council of Legal Education and President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) has tasked the new Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof. Isa Chimora on improving the standard of lawyers that are churned out of the institution.
Mahmoud said it had become imperative for the Council to raise the minimum entry requirement into the Nigerian Law School so as to bring it at par with Bar institutions in Europe.
The NBA President gave the suggestion on Friday at the handing over ceremony between the outgoing Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Dr. Olanrewaju Onadeko (SAN) and the incoming DG, Prof. Chiroma at Bwari in Abuja.
Lamenting the poor standard of Nigeria’s legal education, Mahmoud made a sharp comparison between the minimum standards of legal education in the United Kingdom and America.
He said: “We need to raise the standard of legal education in Nigeria. The standard is too poor.
“In the United States of America, the cut-off point for the Bar Examination is between 60 and 70 per cent. In the United Kingdom, we were told that the Law Schools there do not admit students with less that 2nd Class Upper Division Law degree. But here, we admit students with pass and 3rd Class Law degrees.
“The cut-off point of the Nigerian Law School which is 40 per cent is too low. We want to make it at par to what is obtainable in other Bars across the world,” Mahmoud declard.
He informed the new Law School boss that the Council would prioritise structure of Bar Examination and the cut-off point for passing.
“I challenge the council to up the minimum standard in accordance with what is obtainable in other jurisdictions. I think we need to raise the quality of legal education in this country.
“The standard is too poor and too weak, and we see it in the quality of lawyers that come to our chambers. So, this is one of the tasks I am giving the incoming Director-General. There are a lot of areas we need to see improvement.”
Turning to Dr. Onadeko in his remarks, Mahmoud showered encomiums on him for what he termed “his immense sacrifice of service,” adding that, “during Onadeko’s tenure, the institution witnessed tremendous development.”
In his tribute, Mahmoud said although Onadeko had exited the helm of affairs at Law School, his wealth of experience would continue to be tapped for the development of the Nigerian legal profession.
Obviously elated by the glowing tributes that were paid to him, Onadeko disclosed that his sojourn in the Law School was long and exciting; recalling his secondment to The Gambia as Director of Public Prosecution in the 1980s and the early nineties.
Onadeko recalled his unique privilege of serving as Secretary of Council of Legal Education and Director-General of the law school, revealing that with a new policy now in place, no Secretary of Council would be allowed to serve as DG anymore at the law school.
He urged the new DG to carry on with the task of developing the institution with a view to bringing it at par with other Bar institutions across the globe. Onadeko expressed confidence in Prof. Chiroma to deal with the challenge of admission quota violation by faculties of law in Nigerian varsities.
It would be recalled that in his last call-to-bar ceremony as DG last year, Onadeko drew the attention of legal body to the persistent challenge of violation of admission quotas by some Faculties of Law in the country.
He had said: “The allocated figures are a product of empirical evaluation of available facilities in the Faculties.
“Consequently, failure to keep to these numbers impacts negatively on the quality of the products. The extent of violation has been profound in some cases”.
Onadeko had appealed to varsity authorities that “due heed should be paid to the decision of the Council of Legal Education and the National Universities Commission in this regard.”
Speaking on the imperative of good character, Onadeko had pointed out that the essence of the insistence on good character for eligibility for admission, was to shiled it from those with propensity to act at variance with the “interest of their clients, the profession itself and the justice.
While congratulating the newest set of lawyers in the country, the law teacher, reminded them of the challenge of bench marking on minimum international best practices and advised them to aim at the top level in their all endeavours.
In a related development, Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Bandele Aiku (SAN), had told the new lawyers that success at the Bar demands more than distinction in law examinations, “it demands of correct behaviours, of true and proper professional spirit and of proper understanding and wise use of the tools of the craft.”
Before resuming his seat at the hand-over ceremony, Onadeko thanked his amiable wife who accompanied him to the event for her support over the years. Similarly, he thanked the institution’s staff for their supports, and solicited same for his successor.
On his part, the new NLS’ boss, Prof. Chiroma, promised to build on the legacy of his predecessors, by improving infrastructure and the entire management of the school.
It would be recalled that Onadeko was appointed the substantive DG of the school on December 10, 2013.