By Carl Umegboro
NIGERIA’s most populous tertiary institution, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) with a population of over 500,000 active students has become a brand in providing quality education to the populace. By the unique global initiative, government is strategically bringing education to the doorsteps of the citizenry, thus, drastically reducing the hitherto wide gap between the educated and non-educated population.
No doubt, the university’s newly approved postgraduate law programme; Master of Laws (LLM) and Master of International Law and Diplomacy (MILD) under the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) and other faculties’programmes are positive developments. Expectingly, their counterpart, the Council of Legal Education (CLE) should follow suit to urgently remove the oppressed NOUN law graduates from the streets since 2013 the first set graduated.
However, such advanced law programme when the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree which is the prerequisite for admission into the Nigerian Law School is yet to secure admission for vocational training, is more or less a Greek gift as far as those trapped NOUN Law graduates are concerned knowing that the Postgraduate degrees cannot solve the problems on ground. Not even a doctorate degree in Law can competently replace call-to-bar certificate.
For instance, Postgraduate programme in law; be it LLM or MILD or even PhD (Law) is merely for specialization and not a requirement for admission into the law school. And there are numerous senior lawyers that possibly rose to their peak position; Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) without going for LLM degree. Thus, it’s merely for advancement in the career and doesn’t affect admission into the law school or enhance call-to-bar.
In the Faculty of Law, vocational training for call-to-bar is the most important programme after LLB degree as it enables law graduates to be called to bar for practice of which without it, the efforts to obtain the LLB degree becomes a futile exercise except the graduate succeeded in getting employment in unrelated field against the aspiration or dream.
So far, the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu has put incommendable efforts towards resolving the crisis in many instances and his counterpart, the Honourable Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Federation, Abubarka Malami (SAN) should follow suit as evidences glaringly showed that all the delays in resolving the crisis stem from his ministry.
President Muhammadu Buhari has a duty of protection by ensuring that under national security, the helplessly trapped innocent citizens do not under any circumstances remain in the dilemma; to be precise, shouldn’t be excluded in the forthcoming batch of intake in the Nigerian Law School, as citizens that completed their law programme in an accredited institution cannot continue to roam the streets for no just course.
It is worthy of note that on 7 December, 2019 precisely, it will be a complete one year since President Buhari selflessly gave assent to NOUN Amendment Act as intervention remedy. Regrettably, the dilemma remains unabated. The unending drama is condemnable.
Mr. President Sir, these citizens must not be pushed into mass actions before the needful is done!
The recent memo from the Federal Ministry of Education dated 23 September, 2019 to her counterpart; Federal Ministry of Justice for urgent stakeholders meeting on the protracted crisis following the directives from the Presidency, which unfortunately is still not treated one month after, attests to Mallam Adamu’s value for equity.
With a distinctive workforce led by former NUC Executive Secretary, Professor Peter Okebukola; a renowned education icon as the chairman of NOUN Governing Council, and Vice Chancellor, Professor Adamu Uba Abdalla, NOUN is indisputably, strategically positioned as an interventionist citadel of learning for quality, flexible and affordable education in line with the United Nations Policy on Education for the millennium.
By its cliché, ‘work and learn’, the institution as an outlet has provided education to people of diverse status including Nigeria’s former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who recently completed his career under strict invigilation and bagged a doctorate degree in Theology. Without mincing words, NOUN has become a generic model of excellence.
Other prominent figures that had or still undergoing one course of study or another in the institution are too numerous to mention. However, a unique feature of NOUN that puts it ahead of other universities is the template that separates lecturers/facilitators from examiners and students thereby tactically blocked avenues for examination malpractices, cultism, sexual overtures or lecturers’ harassments for scores that thrive in other universities; hence, it is either to fervently study or end up as a dropout.
The unending cases of sexual harassments and other vices in many universities in the recent times including University of Lagos is a clarion call to overhaul the academic system in the country as the present system has to a large extent continued to be counter-productive.
To sum, the newly approved Postgraduate programme in law is not a bad idea as NOUN is suitably proficient for the gesture, however it cannot remedy the crisis on ground, hence let the needful be done. Incontrovertibly, NOUN quota for admission is long overdue and the innocent law graduates shouldn’t continue to roam the streets. I conclude with a quote by Bill Gates, “Discrimination has a lot of layers that make it tough for minorities to get a leg up”.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United-Kingdom). 08023184542 –SMS only. Https:carlumegboro.com