Students fret over suspension of Law programme in NOUN

…Faculty not shut down, varsity insists

By Romanus Okoye

THE recent suspension of admission into the Law programme of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), stirred a hornets’ nest of academic fear. Law students of the school are worried over their future. They blame the Federal government for not addressing the plight of students that have graduated from the Law programme, as well as others already enrolled before the clamp down by the regulatory body.
Trouble started for thousands of Law students of the university when the Council of Legal Education, (CLE), stated that the LL.B degree programme offered in the university was not recognized. The Council maintained that NOUN law graduates would henceforth not be admitted to complete their programme in the Nigerian Law School.
The regulatory body emphatically stated that anyone who desires to join the legal profession must undertake an undergraduate study on full-time basis, in a recognised Faculty of Law unlike NOUN that operates Open and Distance Learning It emphasized that the study of law transcends knowledge acquisition, as it involves the grooming of future lawyers.
In the publication, the Council of Legal Education stated that NOUN is not within the ambit of institutions envisaged by the regulatory bodies-Body of Benchers, Nigeria Bar Association and the Council of Legal Education to offer a Law degree programme; adding that NOUN has always been informed of this position. But in defiance, NOUN commenced with the programme.
But officials of NOUN insist that Open and Distance learning was different from part-time or correspondence, both in the manner the course materials were prepared and the mode of learning.
Students in various Lagos study centres reacted to the news with anger. Although most of them were scared of commenting on the issue for the media, they told Campus Sun that the management was punishing them. Some of the students who pleaded anonymity, wondered how a university established by Act No. 6, 1983 of the National Assembly and revived in 2002 with about 150,000 students (as at 2011) could be running an illegal programme all these years.
One of the NOUN law graduates awaiting admission to the law school told the reporter that “it was frustrating to see lawyers not better than you, in terms of the knowledge of the law, practising as qualified solicitors and advocates, but you simply could do nothing because you have not attended the Law School.”
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Abdallah Adamu, while announcing the suspension of admission in the NOUN School of Law, explained that it was as a result of the exclusion of NOUN graduates from completing their law studies in the Nigeria Law School. He said the university had to heed the advice of the National Universities Commission (NUC) stopping the students from undertaking the course, pending the resolution of the impasse with the Council of Legal Education.
The Director, Media and Publicity of the university, Ibrahim Sheme, gave further clarification in an interview with Campus Sun. He maintained that contrary to speculation by some individuals, the NOUN Faculty of Law has not been shut down.
“All academic activities, including lectures, are going on seamlessly. The only issue is that admission for new students into the Law degree programme has been stopped for now until the concerns raised by the Council of Legal Education are sorted out,” he said.
Sheme expressed faith in the ongoing discussion to resolve the problem and urged students currently running the programme to continue with their studies without fears.
“Those who wish to apply for admission into this programme are advised to await the outcome of the efforts to resolve the issues with the Council of Legal Education or seek admission elsewhere,” he added.
Despite his reassuring words, some affected students wondered why they should bear the suffering imposed by the Council of Legal Education. A former student of the school, who gave his name as Nelson said the NUC actually accredited the law programme which makes the certificate valid for further studies and employment. He said Law students of NOUN could stand anywhere, especially committed ones who knew why they enrolled for the programme. He noted that many of NOUN students were already graduates in other fields before enrolling for the programme. He, nonetheless, advised NOUN to ensure that they meet at least the minimum requirements for a Law Faculty.
Findings revealed that the requirement for a law faculty in a conventional university include a library with a qualified librarian, preferably a Lawyer as the head with the necessary complement staff that must understand their role and importance in the system. The primary tool of the legal profession is the book. Therefore, the librarians must ensure that adequate books are made available in the library and the students informed about the books.
Other requirements, according to our findings, include the Dean of the Law Faculty, who must be a Professor, and the students to lecturer ration must be one lecturer to 20 students. Also, the eight core subjects must be taught by senior lecturers.
Some students argued that Open Distance Learning (ODL) is not the same as studying on correspondence or part-time, which is the reason Council for Legal Education (CLE) does not allow them into the Nigerian Law School.
While wondering why NOUN Law graduates would not be admitted to Law School, one of the facilitators in NOUN who does not want his name published, pointed out that NOUN teaches all the necessary Law courses. He explained that the common vices associated with conventional universities are not possible in NOUN because of its peculiar structure.

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