Law News
Much ado about Law School Examination failures

GLANVILLE Williams, the Late Rouse ball Professor of Law at the University of London, in his famous book, “Learning the Law” quoted C. C. Colton thus, “Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared; for the greatest fool may ask more questions than the wisest man can answer.” This quotation quickly jumped into my mind when I learnt from some online publications about the so-called mass failure at the recent Nigerian Law School Bar final examinations and my sympathy immediately went out to the students who had failed.

In addition to the online publications, the rumour mills had it that over 50% of the students failed the examinations. Some said that the pass mark was mischievously increased from 40% to 50%. Others said that only lecturers from Abuja and Lagos campuses were competent, hence the failure from the other campuses. Yet others alleged that the Director General Mr. Olarenwaju Adesola Onadeko ordered lecturers to mark them down! The above information sounded incredible especially for those of us who passed through that system more than twenty years ago. We decided to keep our fingers crossed until more facts emerged.

However, not long after, more authentic information emerged to show that most of the things initially put out for public consumption were not only false but an orchestrated propaganda by some of the students who had failed the examinations using the social media platform. In the first place, it has been established that the high rate of failure was among the re-sit candidates and not the candidates who were taking the examination for the first time. For those who were taking the examination for the first time, 57.01% passed. The problem was really located with the re-sit candidates where a substantial number of the students failed.

The above true position was confirmed by no less a person than the Secretary to the Council of Legal Education and Director of Administration of the Nigerian Law School, E. O. Max – Uba. She further added that most of the students protesting the poor results were the ones who, “sat for the exanimation four times without success because they refused to participate in revision classes organized for them prior to the examinations.”

On the issue of the school raising the bench mark for pass from 40% to 50%, O.C.J. Okocha (SAN) former President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and the immediate past chairman of Council of Legal Education categorically stated in a recent interview that the allegation was a big lie. The passmark still remains 40%, which is globally acceptable.

On the allegation that students were “marked down”, by lecturers on the orders of the Director General, the propagandists showed a poor knowledge of how the law school operates. In the first place, it is not the some lecturers that set the examinations that mark it. Secondly on this point, the Director General has no power whatsoever to order any lecturer to mark down students.

The Law School lecturers are so independent minded that even if he gave such orders, nobody would listen to him. The Examination Board further reviews the examination result before it is released. Finally on the allegation against Mr. Onadeko, nothing can be more ridiculous. Mr. Onadeko for anybody that knows him is not only a competent administrator but an intelligent and sound lecturer who had contributed immensely to the success of thousands students over the years and to legal education in Nigeria as a whole. He is indeed a shining light in the Legal Profession in Nigeria.

It was after I had interviewed two law students who graduated from Enugu and Abuja campuses respectively that I came to understand the real issues involved. First they told me that many of the students come to the Law School with their secondary school and university mind-set where there was hardly any discipline. Secondly they told me that a lot of students were usually distracted by their telephones, i-pads, internet and social media chats. I had thought that O.C.J Okocha (SAN) was crying wolf when he made those same allegations in the earlier quoted interview he granted a newspaper until these two graduates gave credence to it.

The fact that many websites and social media platforms were hurriedly set up to mount false propaganda against the Law School to some extent is a confirmation that some of these failed students were more of experts in Information Communication Technology (ICT) than in law which ought to be their primary area of expertise. Thirdly, they informed me that most of the students that failed were treating the Law School as a part time program without giving their studies the needed attention required.

Moving forward, I recall vividly that sometime this year, the Council of Legal Education in utter frustration, put out a full page advert in a national daily, warning parents not to enroll their children in a particular law faculty of a private university in Anambra State for breaching admission procedures and faculty standards. This scenario of poor standards can be seen in many of the universities. It is against this background that Professor Epiphany Azinge (SAN), the former Director General of Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (N.I.A.L.S) has advocated for qualifying examinations to the Law School to weed off the wheat from the chaff.

Even though I do not share this view based on our experience with Post-JAMB qualifying examinations, the point to take away from his views is that most of the rot the students bring to the Law School starts from the Universities where for pecuniary considerations, students are not admitted on merit. Therefore, standards, discipline and the zeal to study becomes scandalously lowered. So when the half-baked students get to the Law School, they are perplexed by the discipline and high standards, which the Law School exerts.

In conclusion, we must commend Mr. Onadeko and all the Law School staff, both academic and non-academic for refusing to compromise on standards despite huge pressure from some parents and students. Law is a serious course that requires the student to put his best foot forward. This is buttressed by the literary grandmaster William Shakespeare when he said in his work, King Henry The Sixth, Part I, II, IV, “But in these nice sharp quillets of the Law, Good Faith, I am no wiser than a daw.”

Njoku, an author and a legal practitioner writes from Lagos.

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