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NOUN Law Graduates Still Agonise Over Future

The NOUN law programme has become so controversial that many Nigerians have become disappointed and disturbed about the development. Titus Eleweke writes on the issue

Graduates and Students of Faculty of Law, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) have continued to expressed disappointments, frustration and pains over their inability to proceed to law school to become lawyers. Their inabilities to proceed to law school have generated so much tension, apprehensions and worries among stakeholders in the nation’s education sector.

Apparently, NOUN law Students now, appeared to be more disturbed and pessimistic about their fates, despite continuous assurance from the management of the university that they will to go to the law school to become lawyers. According to The UNION investigation, both the graduates and students of the NOUN law programme, reveals a high level of pains and frustrations.

The finding also shows that both students and graduates of the university are in confused state, wallowing in darkness given the contradicting statements coming from the Council of Legal Education (CLE) and management of the university. With the recent statement credited to CLE, further declining recognition of the Law programme of the institution, both graduates and students of NOUN had become more confused as they are expressing loose of faith and confidence in the assurance by the management that they will advance to law school to become lawyers. But, while the confusion rages on amongst NOUN, CLE and NUC over accreditation and advancing to law school, the fate of thousands of graduates of the programme that look forward to practicing Law as a profession stands at akimbo. However, some stakeholders said that it is important the bodies in the whole process reconcile their differences and take a stand on the programme quickly than keep students in confusion.

For the umpteenth time, graduates from the Law Department of the University have been denied admission into the Nigerian Law School. This denial follows a repetitive directive from the Council of Legal Education declining recognition for the Law programme of the institution.

The UNION also discovered that, two sets of Law students have graduated from the controversial law proramme of NOUN and they were not allowed to advance to Law school to realize their dreams of becoming lawyers. Even after the graduation of two sets of students at NOUN law programme , there is still no hope for these aspiring lawyers to advance to the Nigerian Law School, (NLS).

The Law graduates of the university have been kept in an indeterminate state, with no hope  of receiving the NLS tutorials and exposure preparatory to becoming fullfledged practising lawyers. The NLS is the final vocational training ground for would-be barristers in the country. The concern of the Council of Legal Education is that the university operates a correspondence law programme. The denial of recognition of the law programme of the NOUN might not change soon, against the aspiration and hopes of the students.

In a recent publication from the Council of Legal Education, the Council stated that the LL.B degree programme offered by University was not approved and the body will not accept any law graduates from the institution into law school. According to the statement by CLE, the NOUN management is running the law programme in defiance of the CLE’s repeated directive, stressing that any person offering law at the university does so at his /her own risk. The statement reads in parts , “the policy of the statutory bodies responsible for the training and admission of aspirants to the Nigerian Bar, i.e. the Council of Legal Education and the Body of Benchers, is that the study of Law must be undertaken on a full time basis, in recognized institutions for the provision of undergraduate studies.

This is also the position of the professional body of lawyers in Nigeria – The Nigerian Bar Association. “Consequently, the regulatory bodies have long proscribed the study of Law through part time, distance learning or correspondence studies and it was in consequence of this that part time LL.B programmes run by the faculties of Law of accredited universities were abrogated. The position of the bodies has been that every aspirant to the legal profession must undertake an undergraduate study on a full time basis, in a recognised faculty of Law. This is because the study of Law transcends knowledge acquisition; it involves the molding of future entrants into the Bar in learning, character and attitudes. “The National Open University of Nigeria is not within the ambit of institutions envisaged by these bodies to offer a Law degree programme. Indeed, the NOUN has always been informed of this position; and its decision to commence and run the Law programme was in defiance of this policy.

“Any person, who undertakes the study of Law at the National Open University of Nigeria is to note that the qualification obtained is unacceptable for admission into the Nigerian Law School for the Bar vocational training” Recall that the Law programme of the NOUN started in 2007 following approval by the National Universities Commission (NUC). Also recall that NOUN is a federal university established by an Act of the National Assembly and has some   of its academic programmes fully accredited by the NUC, Law inclusive. And the law that established it made it a distance and correspondence learning institution. In Nigeria, the open and distance higher education mode had its take-off in 1983 with the establishment of the National Open University, but barely a year after its establishment, it was suspended by the then government.

The reasons for such action are perhaps still unknown. By 2001, the federal government of Nigeria resuscitated the model and this received much applause from conscious citizens who expressed high hopes that qualitative higher education would be democratized in the country through the National Open University of Nigeria. Accordingly, NOUN was initially established as springboard for open and distance learning in Nigeria. However, its resuscitation begun on the 12th of April 2001 by the former President of Nigeria, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo. One of the students who graduated two years ago and never wanted his name on print for fear of victimization said that over the years the management of the university has been telling them that they are discussing with Council of Legal Education to enable them go to law school on graduation and it appears that nothing is coming out of the discussion .

“We believe on what the management has been telling us and since NOUN is federal government institution, we have no cause to doubt them. We are hopeful of proceeding to Law school on graduation but with the recent development, it seems we are hopeless” he said. According to him, “I am highly disturbed and worried about the way things are going, especially with the recent statement by CLE declining recognition of the NOUN law programme”. He also said that since the university has graduated two sets and none has been able to go to law school, he was afraid that graduates of NOUN law may never be lawyers.

“I am afraid, if I had not wasted my time studying law at NOUN” he added. According to him, ‘if NOUN management had known that we cannot go to law school at end, why are they deceiving us that we will go to law school to become lawyers” “What is the essence of reading law when one cannot become a lawyer?” There is no need for one studying law when he cannot go to law school and become a lawyer” he said. Also another NOUN law graduate, Mr. Dayo Adegbite told The UNION, that he just wasted his time studying law at the NOUN, when he had the opportunity of studying law at the conventional institution.

“Seeking admission to study law at NOUN remains one of the greatest mistakes I had made in the recent time. I had all the requirements to go to Convention University, so why do I need to waste my time studying law in an institution that holds no future for me .My dream of becoming lawyer is gradually becoming an illusion”. “The cost of schooling at NOUN is not cheaper when compare with the conventional universities, I was paying over N100,000 every year, apart from books, instructional materials and others things, while in conventional universities school fees is not up to N50,000”he added.

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