PRESS STATEMENT

We are totally opposed to the moves and efforts  towards the privatization of legal education, as being proposed by the current Chief Joseph Daudu(SAN) –led Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) through the proposed bill to grant private persons power to run law school to be forwarded before the National Assembly. We see this preemptive move to liberalize legal education as a major threat to access to legal education and incontrovertibly an attack on access to justice.

The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) President, Joseph Daudu (SAN) had stated in a credited report (October 28, 2011) that the Association intends to forward a bill to the National Assembly for a law to allow private persons to own and run law schools. We are vehemently opposed to this attempt to liberalize legal education and see it as part of the numerous attacks of commercialization and privatization of legal education.

COMMERCIALISATION OF LEGAL EDUCATION

Following the opposition against the Obasanjo/Bayo Ojo {the then Attorney General and former NBA Chairman} to push through the privatization of the Nigerian law School, the Council of Legal Education has been undertaking a systematic commercialiasation of legal education at their level. Payable fees into the Nigerian Law School have been increased at over 200{two-thousand} percent to the present N250, 000.00.

The major argument that the Council of Legal Education has been pushing for such obnoxious fee increases is the underfunding of the Law School by the government. It has therefore resolved to offload the cost of legal education on helpless students and their parents. With the pace of the increase, it is very possible that the fees will be increased by hundred percent to N500, 000.00!

With that, many intelligent and resourceful law students who come from humble background will be denied access to legal education. We see this as a brazen attempt to make legal practice an entirely elite profession for the few.

This is added with the denial of access to justice by ordinary people as the cost of legal representation will increase at the pace of the increase in the cost of legal education. It is an open secret that the cost of judicial process is not affordable for the majority of the ordinary masses.

Moreover, the ongoing commercialization of education in many universities has severe effects on legal education at that level. A major case is that of Lagos State University where law students under the new fee regime are or will be made to pay N248, 000.00. This is just a signal to the council of Legal Education to jerk up the payable   fees into the Nigerian Law School.

We join other masses organizations in the workers and students’ movement to reject commercialiasation of education and call for increased   funding of education up  to 26 percent as recommended by UNESCO. Equally, we demand for increased funding of the Nigerian Law School. We call on law students, graduates, lawyers and other masses organizations to join in the fight against the fee regime in the Nigerian law school and the attempt to privatize clinical legal education.

LIBERALISATION OF LEGAL EDUCATION IS ILLEGAL

Whereas the Nigeria Bar Association is a professional organization which should seek out to protect the interests of legal practice and promotion of the welfare of its members, however, it is failing in this respect by being the prime mover of liberalization of legal education which will limit access to legal education.

Private persons fundamentally seek out to increase their fortunes in any venture whatsoever. The push of the NBA to allow private persons to run Law School will only yield legal education to private sharks who want to milk law students dry.

We hold that with the widespread unemployment of lawyers, the NBA should be seeking to eliminate this scourge by opening up access to justice. We hold that liberalization of legal education will limit access to justice and canvass that contrary to promoting privatization, the NBA should push for creation of Legal Aid Councils in local government areas to employ every able lawyer to provide legal representation to communities and to be paid decent wages.

We hold that the NBA aims through promotion of privatization of legal education to limit the number of lawyers and make the legal profession an entirely elite one. We consider this disproportionate to the socio-economic realities of lack of access of justice in a neo-colonial economy like Nigeria.

 We submit that the NBA should abandon its current privatization mission and seek the promotion of access to justice for all. We call on ordinary Nigerians, members of the legal practice community, the judiciary, students and youth organization, trade unions and parents to prevail on the NBA in this regard and call on the Federal Government to increase the funding of legal education, with democratic control.     

AYO ADEMILUYI                                                 KENT OLUWASEUN

National Coordinator                                             National Secretary