In 2013, when the former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Professor Epiphany Azinge (SAN), published a research finding conducted by the institution on the quality of legal education being offered by the law faculties in the various Nigerian universities, not a few could have sworn a la Nigerian way that the finding was rigged in favour of the Law Faculty of the University of Lagos (Unilag), which the research found to be the best in the country.
Why Unilag when of course the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Law Faculty that has an age-old reputation for producing notable members of the legal profession is still there? Some are said to have asked as if a moot point already.Why Unilag when, for example, the famous Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Nigeria, the University of Benin, among others, are strong rivals that can give the institution a run for its money.
Azinge in a statement, however, explained that the research was scientific, dispassionate and meant to be a periodic exercise for which the various universities could compete to occupy the top spot in a virtuous cycle that would ultimately lead to improvement in the quality of legal education in the country.
He said: “Our duty demands that we undertake a project of this nature to promote standardization and for the mutual benefit of the students and institutions.
“Thus, the essence of this ranking is to challenge Nigerian law faculties to improve standards in all aspect.
“This ranking is not interminable as law faculties that were not captured in the top ten rank are encouraged to improve their standards significantly so as to stand a chance in subsequent years.“Whilst those ranked are encouraged also not to rest on their oars but to work tirelessly to maintain already set standard.”
Insisting that the institute’s findings were published after an assiduous research and collation of scientific data, Azinge listed the ten best Law Faculties in the descending order as: University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Jos, University of Benin, Lagos State University, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Nigeria, Babcock University, University of Maiduguri and Igbinedion University.
Four years after the publication of the finding, the management of Unilag’s Law Faculty has hardly rested on its oars. Rather they tend to have heeded Azinge’s admonition to the effect that the top-ranked should “work assiduously to maintain already set standard.”
Hence, barely three weeks ago, the Council for Legal Education of the Nigeria Law School in a statement disclosed that of all the universities in the country, only Unilag runs a law programme fully accredited by it.
Curiously, nonetheless, the Law Faculty of the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, which was ranked fifth among the best 10 in the country by NIALS four years ago, only recently lost its accreditation to run its Law programme, the Council disclosed.
Other universities whose accreditation was similarly suspended are the University of Abuja and Benue State University.
Among the criteria used by NIALS in granting Unilag a sterling rating are: the number of applications per session; the number of admissions; staff strength; staff-student ratio; quality of law library; quality of its post-graduate studies; capacity building – external and internal; publications; international accomplishment; among others.
Besides, students from Unilag’s Law Faculty at the Nigerian Law School are said to often outperform their colleagues in the yearly Bar Finals exams.
An alumnus of the Faculty, Chief Gani Adetola-Kaseem (SAN), who was called to the bar in December 1980, corroborated the point in an interview with INDEPENDENT.