By Yakubu Abolaji Isowo
Precisely, on 6 December, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari revived the hopes of the law graduates of the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN through his assent to the NOUN (Amendment) Act 2018 after it was passed by the National Assembly. It must be noted that these innocent trapped students did not beg federal government to establish the Faculty of Law in the university. Government at will did and advertised for admission openly to the general public.
When they were undergoing the programme, nobody raised objection and sadly, they were taught by qualified law lecturers from other accredited universities in the country including Professor Itse Sagay (SAN) who developed NOUN’s Constitutional Law 1 & 2 Course material. Other highly respected lecturers include Professor Abiodun Amuda-Kannike (SAN) who is presently Dean, Faculty of Law at Kwara State University, KWASU, among others. Again, NOUN and all universities in the country use the same course outlines approved by the National Universities Commission, NUC. Is it then possible that these lectures taught NOUN law graduates in a different way; a question begging for answers.
When President Buhari intervened, the entire nation rejoiced and hailed the intervention hoping that the crisis which held these law students of the federal government-owned and accredited Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institution to ransom since 2013 the first set of the Faculty of Law graduated has come to final end. But the plotters and schemers are resolute and vow to frustrate these students until they go into their graves.
The amendment by the Senate under the leadership of Dr. Bukola Saraki after a public-hearing was to remedy the controversial clause “Correspondence” in the hitherto NOUN Act and changed it to “Full-time” which the Council of Legal Education (CLE) and Body of Benchers (BOB) capitalized on to deny the graduates of the university admission quota into the Nigerian Law School for their vocational training like their counterparts from other universities in and outside the country.
Prior to the legislative review process, the CLE which was represented by the Director-General of the Nigerian Law School told the Senate at the public hearing that the Act must be amended to remove the term, ‘Correspondence’ as a mode of learning of the institution and acknowledged that the institution doesn’t study by ‘Correspondence’ but found wanting by the clause. This made the Senate to put the machinery in motion for the amendment to enable innocent citizens that are trapped to be set free.
Nobody knew that the demand for the amendment of the clause was a delay tactics to keep prolonging the matter. Eventually, after going through the rigorous legislative processes, the clause was reviewed as demanded to ‘Full-time programme’ to be on the same pedestrian with other university in Nigeria. From record, these same bullied students defeated their counterparts in just one opportunity offered to them in a national competition when allowed to participate, and in the remarks of the panel of judges, may continue to win on account of a good margin in their performance. It is therefore believed that the concealed grievance is that NOUN law graduates broke the record and emerged star-prize winner just in its first participation which was unprecedented, hence disqualified from further contests out of malice. Suffice to say that some persons are merely witch-hunting the institution over excellence? What a hostility!
But two years counting after President Buhari’s assent, nothing has changed. Could a Presidential assent be thrown into the waste-bin so simple? By this time last year, 2019 when the presidential assent was approaching one year, to douse tension that almost led to uproar, some gimmicks were played during the Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Meeting which looked as if the admission of these law graduates was among the agendas. From reports in the media, all manner of gimmicks from secret meetings to suggesting a strange Bar Part 1 for students that studied in a home university and duly accredited by the National Universities Commission, NUC were stage-managed and displayed.
The most disgusting part is that the arrowheads are mostly appointees of President Buhari that gave assent to the NOUN Act. For example, the Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Professor Isa Hayatu Chiroma (SAN); Chairman, Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN), and the Minister of Justice/ Attorney general of the Federation, Abubakar Malami are all appointed by President Buhari. Yet, their principal and the government they are part and parcel of is being subjected to scorn.
Could it be said the government is inept and doesn’t have capacity on administration and leadership? Ridiculously, this is a government with the legislature and executive arms headed by the same political party, APC. Could the National Assembly; Senate and House of Representatives claim that these intimidations being meted on innocent helpless students have not come to their ears and notice? Or does the government want these students to resort to lawlessness or roaming the streets with Bachelor of Laws degree they worked hard to earn?
President Buhari and the National Assembly must resist such bullying, discriminations and intimidations against these law students of NOUN. Education cannot be subjected to such partisanship and hostility. The endless and innumerable flimsy excuses from these government bodies cannot continue. This issue on NOUN law graduates and admission into the law school has overlingered, and must be resolved forthwith before things get out of hand.
The Nigerian Law school is a facility of the federal government and doesn’t belong to any persons. It is therefore instructive that the authorities intervene to resolve the matter without further delay before the second anniversary of the presidential assent; December 6, 2020 to prevent chaos in the society. These students cannot continue to be waiting in futility or roaming the streets for no wrongdoing other than that some persons are hostile against NOUN. A stitch in time saves nine. Let the gimmicks stop!
Isowo, a public affairs analyst writes from Ilorin, Kwara State.