A breaking news on December 07, 2018, had it that President Buhari of Nigeria had approved NYSC, Law School for graduates of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). The news report which appeared on the Daily Trust Newspapers then continued:
“President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the National Open University Amendment Act, to allow the institution to operate as all other universities in the country. Daily Trust reports that with the assent, the graduates of the NOUN can now participate in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Nigerian Law School.” (See https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/buhari-approves-nysc-law-school-for-noun-graduates.html).
On December 08, 2018, regarding the practical, legal implications of the 2018 amendment of the NOUN Act, the following friendly exchange occurred between two learned, bosom friends, Abu Yekini and Sylvester Udemezue on Law and Society Forum (LSF).
Sir, if this [NOUN (Amendment) Act, 2018] stands, [is there] any basis to stop universities from offering part time law?
I do not think many people understand the real import of the new NOUN (Amdmt) Act. One, it is not an automatic license for NOUN graduates to get admitted into the Nigerian Law School because the amendment of the NOUN Act does not affect nor amend the Legal Education Consolidation Act, which governs admission to Law School. Besides, I do not think any one of NOUN’s current law graduates is qualified to be admitted into the Law School as at today because the Act cannot apply retroactively. What I think the new 2018 amendment has done is to authorize NOUN to establish a FORMAL (full-time) law faculty, libraries and to put necessary structure in place in order to start training law students in a proper manner, so that its graduates could be considered for an admission into the Nigerian Law School (NLS). The Act has not said that NLS must admit the already part-time graduated NOUN law Students. So, in the final analysis, NOUN. graduates could start coming to Law School if the following conditions are met, I think:
(1). If NOUN takes steps (as now authorized by the new Act) to establish a formal law faculty and to put relevant manpower and facilities in place as we have in the universities whose graduates are currently being admitted to law school.
(2). If NOUN begins formal full-time training of lawyers as is done in the other universities;
(3). If The Council of Legal Education is satisfied with the proposed full-time NOUN law faculty and the facilities in place and then (the CLE) decides to grant formal ACCREDITATION to the NOUN Law Faculty, NOUN having met relevant requirements of the Council (CLE).
Until these three conditions are met, NOUN law graduates are not qualified for admission into Law School. I will study the new Act in more detail with a view to doing a fuller paper on its implications, to represent my opinion and clear the air, lest people misunderstand or misinterpret the new Act, because (as I said), the Act has not amended nor repealed the Legal Education (Consolidation) Act or the legal Practitioners Act, nor has it adversely affected any of the extant powers of the Council of Legal Education (CLE). We must understand that the new NOUN (Amendment) Act is just a LOCAL legislation — a bye law. That’s what some people do not understand. A statute that is not intended to apply uniformly to the community but is directed at a specific portion or aspect within it.
(see https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Local+legislation). What I think the Act has done is to alter the status of NOUN from a Part-time University, by authorizing noun to put machinery and facilities in place to enable it operate as a full-time school so that its students could be qualified to be considered for NYSC and LAW SCHOOL ADMISSION. Such consideration of NOUN students for admission into Law School would begin but not until NOUN, pursuant to the new Act, shows it has done the needful as I have explained above. Thank you.
But it becomes hard to deny them [an admission] if the law recognises their law degree
The Law recognized NOUN Law degrees from the first-day NOUN was set up except you’re saying there’s no law establishing the institution. There was even a time the CLE/NLS suspended OAU Law Faculty’s Accreditation for the faculty’s failure to meet certain conditions. It has happened to others too. MADONNA (Okija, Anambra State) is on suspension while Lead City (Ibadan, Oyo State) is yet to get accreditation. These are formal, fulltime schools. And so on. Now, I ask you, Does that mean that the Law did not recognize OAU Law Faculty? Has the OAU Act been repealed? No is the answer to both questions. The truth is, establishment of a University or a law faculty is one thing, recognition (accreditation) by the Council of Legal Education (CLE) is an entirely different thing. CLE is a professional sector regulator, like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), etc. You can’t say because your company is duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), then the company must go ahead and begin to undertake the banking businesses at a time the new company is not yet licensed, registered or recognized by the banking sector regulator— CBN. Similarly, can a Company duly registered with the CAC undertake the business of telecommunication without due approval by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)? If a university that is established by an Act of the National Assembly and approved by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) decides to establish and operate a Law Faculty in Nigerian without first seeking and getting relevant approval (accreditation) from the relevant Legal Education Professional Regulator in Nigeria (the CLE), do you think the University is not operating such law faculty to its own detriment? Is the mere fact that you’re recognized by an Act of the National Assembly or that your University has NUC’s accreditation a good argument to support your failure to seek and obtain the approval of [your law faculty] by the professional legal education regulator in Nigeria, the CLE? This is the case with NOUN. I think what the new Act has done is to authorize NOUN to establish proper (full time) law faculty (they have none at the moment) after which the CLE would inspect the faculty and if CLE approves the faculty (ie., accreditation), Nigerian Law School (NLS) would start admitting NOUN Law graduates/students. That’s the point. So, to answer direct to your comment, with due respect, I think it is very easy and legally justifiable for NLS to deny NOUN law graduates an admission if NOUN has yet to meet the mandatory requirements for CLE accreditation. So easy, in the best interest of the legal profession in Nigeria.
All in all, whether NOUN law graduates would start coming to Law School would depend on how fast NOUN acts Tiwa implementing the provisions of the amended Act. The ball is entirely in NOUN’s court. Let no one blame the CLE or the NLS.
My point is, the grounds of suspension can no longer be because it is a part-time programme [since the 2018 amendment has now granted it a full-time status].
With due respect, Sir, I think you do not yet appreciate how this works in practice. But this comment of yours has brought you closer to full appreciation of the fact in issue. So, let me say it the way it is, in order to try to win your full appreciation, which I earnest seek. NOUN is currently a part-time degree-awarding tertiary institution, with NO formal Law Faculty, No formal Law Library, No formal (its own) paid full-time law teachers, NO moot courts, and No anything. The current NOUN law faculty exists only on paper. NOUN Students currently operate as Students preparing for external GCE; they have no lecturers of their own; the students themselves scamper around looking for people to come and organize evening or weekend tutorials for them after which they sit for exams organized by NOUN.
Most of their tutorial teachers (not all though) are current students of conventional universities. You get it now? These form the major reasons they’re denied CLE accreditation and therefore an admission into the NLS. What the amended NOUN Act 2018 has now done, I think, is to authorize NOUN to establish a formal faculty with
a formal Law library
Etc as are obtainable in formal law faculties.
In my opinion, if NOUN implements the amended Act, its law faculty might cease to be seen as a part-time faculty, because it would then begin to operate as full time, and this is what would upgrade it to the full time status and thereafter it would be qualified:
(a) to seek and get CLE accreditation; and
(b) to have its law graduates seek and secure law school admission.
In practical terms, the amended Act has admonished NOUN thus —- Go ye and do what other universities are doing and ensure you do it the way they’re doing it, so that your law graduates would start getting NLS admission as other universities are getting. If NOUN heeds this counsel by implementing the provisions of the Act, NOUN law graduates would start becoming law school Students, and would start being celebrants during Call to Bar ceremonies. That’s the point I have been trying so hard to put across to you for your kind appreciation. I don’t know whether I have now succeeded. Meanwhile, please read my humble thoughts below, published over two years ago, in 2016, on why NOUN graduates are denied admission to the NLS and would so continue until the rights things are done.