Law News
Lawyers seek probe into mass failure in Law School

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The nearly 50 per cent failure rate recorded in the last Bar exam at the Nigerian Law School has been described as scandalous by some senior lawyers in the country.

There have been ceaseless accusations and counter-accusations trailing the results with stakeholders in the legal profession now calling for an investigation into the mass failure.

For anyone who has been listening, complaints of falling standards in the legal profession is trite.

While defending the result, the Nigerian Law School authorities have linked the alarming failure rate to a review of their marking scheme.

They explained that the review was necessary in the face of the rapidly falling standards in the legal education.

According to the Deputy Director-General of the Lagos campus, Mrs. Toun Adebiyi,  the Nigerian Law School has gotten a new Director-General, Mr. Olanrewaju Onadeko, who is poised to raise the standard.

Onadeko, it was said, directed that each script be reviewed at three different stages in order to ensure that the students were actually rated according to their performance.

Debunking the claim by the students that they were deliberately failed, the DDG challenged them to call for a review of their scripts.

She had added that no student will be victimised for making the move.

She had said, “This year, the marking exercise, which lasted for a month, was very rigorous as each script was marked by a senior lecturer and reviewed by a deputy director and subsequently reviewed by a director. So each script was subjected to a very rigorous review.

“The results we released are definitely a reflection of the performance of the students. I have been reading all sorts of materials on the Internet about how we deliberately failed them. That is not true.

“They (the students) can always call for their scripts to be reviewed as from this session unlike in the past. Any student who is aggrieved or who feels that the result is not a true reflection of his or her performance should write to the DG and ask for a review.”

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Emeka Ngige, who took sides with the Law School, posited that the failure of the students was a reflection of the state of the universities which produced them rather than the inadequacies of the Law School.

Ngige, who confirmed that standards in the profession had been on the decline, said the new DG of the Law School should  be lauded  for what he described as the move to rid the system of the rot that was now slowly eating into its fabrics.

“I commend the DG of the Law School for the standard introduced into marking their scripts. The results have shown the rot in our university system where these students graduated from.

“In the past, we used to have 70 per cent pass and this year, it’s barely above 50 per cent. What it shows is that our universities need to look inwards. We need to look into the way our universities are being run.”

The senior advocate,  while noting that standards for the licensing of universities and accreditation of Law faculties have been compromised, put a share of the blame on the government.

“President Olusegun Obasanjo, during his regime, inflicted a very big injury on our educational sector by engaging in gross licensing of universities. We now have mushroom universities all over; and most of them now offer Law courses. You find universities of Science and Technology offering Law courses. Such universities have no business with Law courses.

“That is why you find many young lawyers who cannot draft a simple affidavit. It is because of the rot in the system.”

Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, described the mass failure as regrettable.

Also confirming the declining standards, Keyamo said it was not a bad thing if the Law School decided to save the situation.

He said, “First I think conducting an investigation into what really happened will help everybody. But if the Law School actually raised the standard in order to get the best out of the students, I think it is good for the profession and for all of us because I confirm  that the standard has been falling.

“I have seen some new wigs in court who cannot even construct good sentences. Some of them are totally out of touch with the law.

“I regret that this is happening and it is important that a full scale investigation be conducted into it.”

In their own arguments, the affected students have accused the DG of not giving them the necessary encouragement as expected of an educationist of his class.

They said that rather than encourage them, Onadeko pelted them with insults, telling them that they had no business being in the legal profession.

One of the students, Adekunle Adeyemi, was quoted to have said that Onadeko literally made it a singsong that he was going to increase the pass mark to 50 from the traditional 40.

Adeyemi lamented, “Rather than encourage us in our chosen field of endeavour, the DG would pelt us with insults that many of us have no business to be lawyers and that some of us should take to other professions – such as fashion designing and trading.

“That kind of statement is not expected from an education administrator. I do not know the rationale behind such a statement but the outcome is now evident and everyone can see the devastating blow he has dealt with our career.”

It is equally puzzling that among those who failed the exams were about a hundred who had obtained their first degrees from foreign universities.

The list reportedly includes a United Kingdom-based legal practitioner, Idowu Akinlade, who was called to the English Bar over 10 years ago.

For Mr. Kunle Ogunba, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, failure of the students on such an alarming scale cannot be viewed from any other angle than the failing of the Law School as an educational institution.

Ogunba, while not denying the falling standards, maintained that the Law School rather than the universities should look inwards.

Ogunba said, “It is a reflection of the decline in the standard of education, but I think the big question mark is on the lecturers at the Law School.

“If you say there is a rot in the system, it cannot be peculiar to this set alone. The same lecturers who taught this set at the universities are the same who taught the previous sets that have done well. So I think, it’s a big question mark on the Law School as against the students because I cannot imagine a system of tutelage that produces more than 50 per cent rate of failure.”

Insisting that something was fundamentally wrong, Ogunba called for investigations into the mass failure.

“The yoke is on the school and I think it’s a reflection of the failure of so many things. It reflects a failure of relationship, a failure of tutorial; it’s a reflection of so many things that should be looked into,” Ogunba added.

In the view of Mr. Monday Ubani, a former Chairman of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, the failure of the students derived from a combination of several factors.

Ubani who exonerated neither the Law School nor the students from the blame, added that there are no motivational factors for the students to excel.

He said, “This is very scandalous. For them to record such a high rate of failure of over 40 per cent, it shows that something is fundamentally wrong. And I think it is a combination of many factors – the falling standard in the universities, the teaching mechanism in Law School and lack of enthusiasm on the part of the students.

“Also I think that there is no driving force for the students to learn because many are called to the Bar and there are no jobs for them. The enthusiasm to study is not there, knowing for sure that there is nothing out there. Lawyers are being paid N30,000; N40,000 so the situation out there is not encouraging the students to put in their best.”

He added, “Also, the lecturers in the Law School need to be examined and monitored to know what they are teaching. We need to know how they are teaching and grading the students. There must be a review of what they are doing there.”

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