Body of Benchers approves admission of NOUN graduates to Law School from 2022

AFTER several years of frustration, the law graduates of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) are to be admitted into the Nigerian Law School from 2022.

This is, however, subject to conditional approval by the Body of Benchers, following its resolution on the lingering issue at a meeting held on Thursday.

Sources confirmed that the meeting was held at the Supreme Court Complex presided over by O.C.J. Okocha, SAN.

An online report also said the Chairman of Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, has confirmed the development.

It was gathered that the conditional approval was for the backlog of 1,883 law students who graduated from NOUN to be admitted to Law School BAR PART 1 instead of BAR PART 2.

The incumbent Director-General of Nigerian Law School, Prof. Isa Ciroma had suggested before now that NOUN graduates be admitted into BAR PART 1 instead of BAR PART 2.

According to him, they would have to run the BAR PART 1 for one (1) Full academic calendar year as in place of 3 months which foreign students use for the BAR PART 1.

He added that it is when a student has passed the BAR PART 1 that he or she will be admitted to do the BAR PART 2 and failing the exam, means not doing the Part 2 and will have no second chance of rewriting the BAR PART 1.

Ngige, confirming the development said: “It has been approved subject to conditions and the conditions are that it is restricted to 1,883 students from the Open University and then, secondly, they will be subjected to the 1-year remedial programme at the Law School.”

He explained that the one-year programme was targeted at exposing students to some rudimentary laws where they would undergo another round of teaching on the core Law courses: Law of Evidence, Introduction to Nigerian Law and Land Law, among other courses.

He further stated that any of them that could not pass part one of the Nigerian Law School would go home from there, stressing that “their admission to the Law School does not seem absolutely automatic.”

“If you pass Part One, then you go to Part Two. If you don’t pass Part One, you go home,” he said.

Ngige was quoted to have said that the approval was reluctantly made by the Council of Legal Education because there was this feeling that “undesirable elements” were being brought into the profession but they felt that since the National Universities Commission had given them accreditation without the concurrence of Council of Legal Education, that it would not be fair to punish them for relying on a government Agency’s accreditation, so to say.

The Body of Benchers also resolved that the Council of Legal Education would be liaising with the NUC before accreditation is given to any University.

The Chairman of Council of Legal Education further explained that the approval was not meant to take effect immediately but “until 2022 because of the current set who have been caught by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.”

He said there was a need for the current batch to leave the Law School before the NOUN Law graduates could be admitted.

It would be recalled that the issue as to why NOUN graduates have been refused admission by the Council of Legal Education (CLE) was raised by the President of the NBA, Paul Usoro, SAN, at the December 2019 National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja.

Ngige, said admitting the graduates of NOUN had been an inherent issue, stating that, “ab- initio, the Council being conscious of the standard of education, passed a resolution that part-time, evening law programmes and open law programmes is a no case, and therefore students with such educational background cannot be admitted by the Council Of Legal Education into the Nigerian Law School.”

When contacted, the Director, Media and Publicity, National Open University of Nigeria, Mr Ibrahim Sheme, said he was not aware of the development and that he would get back if confirmation was made.

However, as part of efforts to resolve the rejection of graduates of NOUN, President Buhari had assented to National Open University Amendment Act, which allows the National Open University to operate, like all other universities, having the same power and functions and the same administrative structures.

The Presidential assent has replaced the hitherto ‘correspondence’ in the Act to now ‘Full-Time programme’, which was the basis on which the Council of Legal Education refused to admit law graduates of the university to the Nigerian Law School.

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