The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Council for Legal Education, Body of Benchers and some lawmakers on Monday kicked against the move by the Senate to enact a law for the establishment of six new campuses for the Nigerian Law School.
However, arguments for rejecting the move were faulted by some other senators, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana.
The law bodies had explained that they were against the establishment of the new campuses because the existing ones could accommodate all the law graduates being produced yearly by universities if well-funded.
Also, they argued that enacting legislation to establish campuses for NLS would amount to taking over the powers of the Council for Legal Education.
However, those who supportes the new campuses argued that the current ones were overstretched.
The stakeholders bared their minds at a one-day public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, chaired by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.
The proposed legislation is titled, “A bill for an Act to Amend the Legal Education (Consolidation etc.) Act by Establishing Campuses for the Nigerian Law School, and other related matters,” and was sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi.
The bill, seeks for six additional campuses in Kogi, Borno, Kebbi, Anambra, Delta and Ekiti states.
The Council for Legal Education had also obtained approval for the establishment of a campus in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.
Speaking, Senators Ike Ekweremadu (PDP Enugu West) and Seriake Dickson (PDP Bayelsa West) called on their colleagues to be cautious on the proposal.
Ekweremadu said, “The establishment of new campuses or law schools should be left at the discretion of Council for Legal Education as empowered by the Act that set it up in 1962.”
Also, the President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata (SAN), said the move was unnecessary as the existing six campuses were underfunded.
He said the Governor of Rivers State, Nyensom Wike, “at a time, had to intervene and save the Balyesa State campus to the tune of N4 billion.”
Akpata said, “With the required infrastructure, the existing law schools across the country are enough to accommodate thousands of law students graduating from universities.
“The Council for Legal Education is the institution empowered by law to set up a new campus based on need assessment and not political considerations.”
On his part, the Chairman of the Council for Legal Education, Emeka Ngige (SAN), said the condition of most of the existing campuses was deplorable due to gross underfunding.
“The move by the Senate through this bill is a more or less subtle usurpation of the functions of the Council for Legal Education,” he said.
However, commenting on the issue, Falana said, “It is important to clarify certain facts, the Council of Legal Education Act, was enacted in 1962 for the creation of one law school.
“Nowhere in the Act that it was ever thought there that we are going to have a multi-campus institution.
“In 1999, we had six batches of law students who had no place to go, they contacted me and I had to go to court.
“The building of the law school in Lagos was already sold to a businessman who wanted to turn it into a hotel when the school moved to Abuja.
“It was only one campus when I went to court and we got an injunction restraining the government from selling the law school in Lagos.
“When the (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo regime came on board, we said instead of having two campuses; why don’t we make it a multi-campus, so that we won’t create another problem by asking everybody to come to Lagos or go to Abuja and that was how we have a multi-campus law school.
“It was not the idea of the Council of Legal Education. The law has not been amended to empower the Council of Legal Education to create campuses. They have no such power.”
He tasked the lawmakers to address the issue of funding so that the new campuses would not suffer the same fate as those of existing ones.
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