Following the invitation by the Department of State Security (DSS), also known as State Security Service (SSS) to the chairman of Law Graduates Forum (LGF) of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) to its Asokoro office in Abuja, over the notice of protest issued to the federal government and its agencies on the law school tussle between the Council of Legal Education (CLE) and National Universities Commission (NUC) alongside NOUN, the law graduates chairman, Hon Carl Umegboro accompanied by Comrade Usman Tanze Danjuma (Convocation Representative in the NOUN Board of Governing Council) reported as scheduled on Thursday 20th April, 2017.
The DSS official, Mohammed Bashiru who anchored the meeting which lasted for about three hours in the Conference Room, according to the guests displayed high level of maturity and professionalism in handling the matter particularly sympathizing with the law graduates over their plight and assured that the federal government, by issuing the invitation through DSS will inevitably address the issues without delay especially on account of the security threats in pose to the nation.
The graduates chairman, Carl Umegboro who presented their positions; twenty in number informed the official that their helpless resolve to a protest was on account of the political gimmicks deployed by the CLE and its associated bodies on the matter especially the court’s refusal to deliver a judgment on the suit instituted by the law graduates, to challenge CLE’s positions on admission into the Nigerian Law School (NLS) at the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt since 2015 which was, after sundry delay-tactics eventually heard by Hon Justice B. O. Quadri on December 07, 2016 and fixed for judgment on January 27, 2017. He added that on the scheduled day for judgment, graduates from all geographical zones in the country gathered at the court only to be informed that the trial Judge has been transferred but neither case-file transferred to his successor nor a new date rescheduled for the judgment till date. He attributed that to undue influence and script advantageously played on account of the constitutional provision which vests powers of posting and transfer of judicial officers in the National Judicial Council (NJC) which is the parent body of the first defendant in the case, CLE. In his submission, Umegboro said the displays of the dramatis personae are clearly obnoxious, a mockery to the legal justice system and inhumanity to man.
Comrade Usman Tanze Danjuma who joined by his position as the Convocation Representative of students and alumni in the NOUN Governing Council was embittered that a federal government-owned university established by Act of the National Assembly could be subjected to such politics and appealed to the relevant authorities to resolve the matter urgently as the law graduates have been victimized since four years for no justifiable reasons. He added that in many occasions, the students and graduates had opted to retaliate but were controlled to allow the matter to be resolved amicably until the court showed that justice is no longer for the common man, and therefore cautioned that further delay may create horrible scenes in the country considering NOUN’s gigantic population of 254,000 active students that may be difficult to handle if embark on protests.
While presenting the 20-point and issues for considerations to the official, the LGF chairman unequivocally told him that urgent consideration of the issues articulated by the law graduates is the sine qua non to a lasting peace, though he assured him that the protest slated to hold on 26th and 27thApril, 2017 at designated places will be suspended on account of the assurances that positive developments will be noticed soon in addressing the matter.
The 20-point and issues articulated for consideration are as follows:
1. The students Handbook which spells out the university’s rules of engagement clearly assures that students on successful award of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B)shall be admitted into the Nigerian Law School for vocational training in pursuit of enrolment to the bar for practice.
2. On two occasions, former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed accompanied by other Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria including Justice Mary Peter-Odili and Justice Chima C. Nweze attended Law Week programmes and Inaugural Lecture organized by the NOUN Faculty of Law and convinced the students on the authenticity of the law programme.
3. Our standard and quality as law graduates cannot be questioned, except by persons afflicted by visceral sentiments or sponsored by enemies of the federal university to tarnish its image for reasons known to them. Verifiably, our Lecture Materials are either developed or edited by the best brains in the legal profession, including the highly respected Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), who edited our Constitutional Law I & II.
4. In 2012, NOUN law students emerged the winner in a Moot-Court competition with their University of Benin counterparts and proceeded to represent all Faculty of Law in Nigerian Universities in India. This again is verifiable.
5. In 2013, NOUN law students emerged winners in an Essay Competition organized in commemoration of International Criminal Justice (ICJ) Day, and the essays were marked in Vancouver Canada under the supervision of Canadian government.
6. The former Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie at numerous occasions addressed the issues on media (newspapers & televisions) that NOUN is duly accredited to offer law degrees. In addition, NUC website (www.nuc.edu.ng) which serves the public for authenticity of institutions and courses accredited in Nigeria universities till date indicates that NOUN is accredited to offer law degree.
7. The UMTE/JAMB brochure with gazette by the Federal Ministry of Education clearly indicates that NOUN is authorized and accredited to offer Bachelor of laws degree.
8. The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) has at different meetings assured the students/graduates that their admission to the Nigerian Law School is a right no persons or bodies can trample upon since the university is duly accredited by NUC.
9. Assuming, without conceding, that NOUN Law programme is Correspondence-based, we have evidence to tender, if necessary, that Nigerian Law School (NLS) freely admits Correspondence-mode foreign law students for vocational training. See Daily SUN edition of December 22, 2015 captioned “Law student rejects alleged doctored result, petitioned ICPC, PCC”.
10. The Council of Legal Education (CLE) released its ‘Public Notice’ in 2015 through various newspapers against NOUN Faculty of Law that admitted first set in 2004 and graduated in 2013 with many students in various levels, to wit:
Ø Guardian Newspapers of Tuesday 7th April, 2015 at page 34;
Ø Daily Trust Newspapers of Tuesday April, 7th 2015 at page 46, and
Ø Punch Newspapers of 14th April, 2015 at page 42.
11. Emphatically, NOUN law students are lectured by seasoned legal luminaries that are lecturers in conventional universities. For brevity, few in the list include Prof Abiodun Amuda-Kannike (SAN), Prof Justus Shokefun, Chief Theophilus Dada (University of Lagos), Dr. Ubanyionwu (Head of International Law & Jurisprudence, Anambra State University), Professor Carol Umeobi (DVC Admin, Unizik), Prof Rufai Muftau (Dan Fodio University, Sokoto), Prof Suleiman Oji (Dan Fodio University, Sokoto), Prof Ogugua Ikpeze (Unizik), Dr. Sylvia Ifemeje (Unizik), Prof Felicia Elemo (DVC, UNEC), and Dr. Emmanuel Oluwafemi Olowononi; a lecturer at Nigerian Law School, among others.
12. NOUN has, at the moment, graduated 4 sets with LL.B degrees that have been rendered idle and roaming around the street since law degree cannot easily fit into other field of endeavours, hence, we demand unconditional admission into Nigerian Law School for vocational training.
13. The law suit helplessly instituted by graduates of NOUN at Federal High Court (FHC) sitting in Port Harcourt for redress as learned people and as obtainable in a civilized society was tactfully halted indefinitely after hearing and fixing of judgment date. Thus, indirectly compelling the helpless graduates to opt for self-helps.
14. Accreditation of courses is the sole duty of National Universities Commission (NUC). No laws any where divided the duty of accreditation between NUC and professional bodies, instead, where a professional body has issues on universities noncompliance to rules and ethics, it can only put the principal regulatory body; NUC on notice for investigations and necessary actions.
15. Most students of NOUN Faculty of Law already earned their first and even second degrees from various universities prior to enrolling into NOUN for a law degree. A good number are already professionals in various fields; Chartered accountants, engineers, surveyors, bankers, legislators, lecturers etc.
16. The course materials produced by NOUN serves virtually all universities in Nigeria to an extent that it is rare to find a lecturer in Nigeria without a course material developed by NOUN for its students. Hence, allegations of sub-standard lectures and unqualified lecturers are unfounded.
17. If, for any reasons, the Council of Legal Education (CLE) is uncomfortable with the modus operandi of NOUN as Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institute, the appropriate action is to liaise with NUC for modification or review of the programme while those already graduated are admitted for vocational training in the NLS as conventionally done, and even witnessed on Evening law/Part-time programme in the past.
18. We can no longer continue to be idle for no substantial reasons but extreme hate of Council of Legal Education; an agency of the federal government that solely conceived and established the university, and invited applications from the general public. At the moment, our mates from conventional universities are about 4 years post-call to the bar while we are baselessly being ridiculed by CLE.
19. The tactical delay and trauma we have been subjected to without any legal impediments are not only act of wickedness but aberration and mockery to the legal justice system, and therefore must henceforth be resisted even with the last blood in us.
20. With the above thrilling records, we therefore, wonder at the raw deal of discrimination being meted out to us by the Council of Legal Education (CLE) contrary to Section 40 of 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria instead of complementing the good policy of the federal government on education in pursuit of United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Thus, we view the intransigence of CLE in this matter as well as the voices, devices and schemes of its seemingly rented pseudo-intellectuals as a less than brilliant flash of academic politics, with grave consequences for the federal government’s efforts at enhancing education for a better Nigerian society.